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Managing rent payments on universal credit

Money Advice Service

When Universal Credit comes in, you’ll be responsible for paying your rent rather than having it paid directly to your landlord. Even before then, you might have to start managing your own rent payments. Read on to find out how to get to grips with your rent.

Living in Northern Ireland?

Universal Credit works differently in Northern Ireland. Find out more on the nidirect website.

How will the change to Housing Benefit affect you?

Living in Scotland?

You might be offered some choices about how your Universal Credit is paid. Read our guide to Universal Credit in Scotland.

Housing Benefit – and many other benefits – are in the process of being phased out and replaced with Universal Credit.

If you’re getting help with your rent now, and it’s being paid directly to your landlord, this will stop.

Instead your monthly Universal Credit payment will include the money for your rent and you’ll need to arrange to pay it yourself.

Before you’re moved onto Universal Credit, you might be contacted by your housing association or council to let you know that you’ll start receiving your Housing Benefit payment direct rather than having your rent paid for you.

Get personalised help on paying your rent when you’re on Universal Credit with our Money Manager tool.

Watch our video - Worried about paying your rent?

Read a transcript of this video

Draw up a monthly budget – and prioritise your rent

Use our Budget planner to work out your income and outgoings including your rent.

Being responsible for your own rent payments will probably mean you’ll need to make some changes to the way you budget..

Make rent your top priority

Did you know?

It’s your responsibility to pay your rent in full and on time.

Always make your rent the top priority – otherwise you could risk losing your home.

If you’re used to having your rent taken care of, this might take a bit of getting used to.

At the beginning of each month you’ll have more money in your account than you did under the old system.

It’s really important not to let this tempt you into spending money that you can’t afford.

There are a few things you can do to make this easier:

  • Ask your landlord to move the day your rent is due closer to your benefit payment day – and set up a standing order or a Direct Debit for your rent payment. That way as soon as the money comes in, the rent goes straight out again.
  • Open a separate account just for your rent and set up a standing order so that as soon as your Universal Credit payment goes into your main account, your rent goes out to the separate account and sits there until rent day.
  • Look into opening a ‘jam jar’ account – sometimes called a budgeting or rent account – these can make it easier to manage all your bills, including your rent but there is usually a monthly fee. Find out more about jam jar accounts in our guide Choosing a bank account for your benefit payments.
  • Use a prepaid card for your spending money and leave the money for your rent (and other bills) in your bank account. Bear in mind that you’ll be charged fees for using a prepaid card. Find out more in our guide Prepaid cards
  • If you know you’ll be tempted to use your rent money for other things, try to come up with an arrangement where you don’t have access to it, for example by asking someone else to look after it for you.

Make sure you’ve got the right bank account

If you haven’t got a bank account, or you have an account but don’t know if it’s suitable for receiving benefit payments and making rent payments, read our guide Choosing a bank account for your benefit payments.

What if you go into arrears?

Talk to your landlord if you are having trouble paying the rent.

You should:

  • Keep them up to date with your situation.
  • Always open their letters and return their calls.
  • Try to negotiate with them and find a practical solution.

All of these things will show that you’re making an effort to deal with the situation and might even prevent your landlord from taking further action (such as eviction).

It might be possible to come to an agreement with your landlord where you pay off the arrears month by month.

If you do go down this road, then make sure you agree on an amount you can afford.

Be realistic. It’s better to make small regular payments than to agree to larger payments only to miss them because you don’t have the money.

It’s a good idea to keep track of how much you owe in arrears.

Find out more about dealing with rent arrears:

Where to get help

If your situation is getting out of hand or your landlord is threatening you with eviction, you should seek advice.

You can also talk to your Jobcentre Plus - or Jobs and Benefits Office in Northern Ireland - about having your rent paid directly to your landlord for a period of time while you get the support you need to get your money under control.

This article is provided by the Money Advice Service.