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New Arrivals


Who can get universal credit (UC), housing benefit (HB) and council tax rebate (CTR)?

This page is for new arrivals. If you are a housing adviser please click here for information more relevant to you.

What is universal credit (UC)?

Universal credit is a cash social security benefit for people aged under 66, administered by the DWP. It helps you with living expenses (including rent) if you have a low income. UC replaces all of the following ‘legacy benefits’ with a single monthly payment:

  • child tax credit
  • working tax credit
  • the out-of-work benefits:
    • income support (IS),
    • income-based jobseeker's allowance (JSA(IB)),
    • income-related employment and support allowance (ESA(IR)); and
  • if you are working age, housing benefit.

You can no longer make a claim for, or continue to receive, any of these legacy benefits except if:

  1. you or you and your partner are aged 66 or over; or
  2. you are a couple where only one of you is pension age and the youngest is not entitled due to the rules about migrants/recent arrivals (see below) or for other reasons (e.g. s/he is aged under 18 or is absent from Great Britain etc); or
  3. you live in temporary or supported accommodation provided by a social landlord; or
  4. you had already made a claim for one or more of these benefits on or before 15 May 2019 and have been in continuous receipt of it since.

If (1) above applies, you can claim state pension credit and/or HB; if (2) applies, the older member can claim HB and/or state pension credit as a single person; if (3) applies, you can claim UC for your general living expenses and HB for your rent; and if (4) applies you can continue to receive those benefit(s) you claimed until such time as you are transferred to UC or are no longer entitled to them. See also: claiming HB as a couple.

To qualify for universal credit you must:

  • make a valid claim;
  • sign a ‘claimant commitment’ and comply with any work-related requirements set out in it; and
  • be an eligible person.

The law on universal credit sets the rules about who is eligible according to whether you are British or Irish, a national of an EEA member state, or from outside the EEA.

What is housing benefit (HB)?

Housing benefit is a cash social security benefit to help you pay your rent if you are aged 66 or over and have a low income. If you are a couple both you and your partner must be aged 66 or over. If you are single and under 66, or you are a couple and at least one of you is, you can no longer make a claim for housing benefit unless you meet one of the exceptions above.

If you meet the age condition you must make a valid claim and be an eligible person to qualify for housing benefit. The law on housing benefit sets out the rules about who is eligible according to whether you are British or Irish, a national of an EEA member state or from outside the EEA.

If you have also claimed state pension credit and have been/are awarded the guarantee credit you receive the maximum help with your rent.

What is council tax rebate (CTR)?

All householders (whether an owner or a tenant) pay council tax to their local councils, based on the property value. If you are on a low income, council tax rebate (CTR) reduces the amount of council tax you must pay. The rules about who is eligible for CTR are similar to UC/HB even though they are entirely separate schemes. Any differences to UC/HB are described as they arise.

In the law CTR is called a ‘council tax reduction’ but most councils call it ‘council tax support’. You apply for CTR if you are liable for council tax but the amount you receive (and the way your income is assessed) depends on whether you are under or over pension age.

In England, if you are aged under 66 your local council can set its own rules about how your income is assessed, but in Wales (and for all claims in England and Wales if you and your partner are aged 66 or over) the law sets out how your council must do this. In England and Wales your council can devise alternative rebates (in addition to main CTR) based on your membership of a group (a CTR ‘class’) that is generally financially disadvantaged. For example, it could reduce your council tax by a fixed percentage if you have a disability or you are a young care leaver etc. Your council must publish the rules about each CTR class in its scheme, and most do this online.

In England and Wales CTR law sets out who is eligible according to whether you are British or Irish, a national of an EEA member state, or from outside the EEA. But your council cannot set any further rules that would exclude you other than on financial grounds – such as a local residency qualification.

How much help will you get with your rent or council tax?

The maximum help you can get with your rent from UC/HB is:

  • your ‘eligible rent’, minus
  • any ‘non-dependant deductions’ that apply. These are the assumed contribution that other adults who live you make towards the rent (whether they do or not). In UC they are a flat rate amount. In HB they vary according to the income of the non-dependant person.

But the amount you get may be less than this if your income is above the figure the DWP/ your local council use as your basic living expenses. You automatically get the maximum help for UC if your only income is UC and/or child benefit, or for HB if you receive the guarantee credit element of state pension credit (or, if you are aged under 66, you receive any one of the three out-of-work legacy benefits.)

Your ‘eligible rent’ isn’t necessarily the same as the full rent you pay. If your landlord is a local council or a housing association your eligible rent is your full rent less:

  • any charges included in it for ineligible services. Typically, for heating, lighting, and water supplied to your home (other than the common parts). But also charges for meals, leisure items, laundry or personal care or support;
  • if you and your partner are aged under 66, a further reduction of 14% or 25% if the DWP/council say you are under-occupying your home.

If you rent your home from a private landlord your eligible rent is the actual rent you pay or the appropriate 'local housing allowance' figure that applies to you, whichever is the lower of the two.

The maximum help you can receive with your council tax is your full council tax liability. But in England if you are aged under 66 your council may set a lower figure as part of its local scheme rules (e.g. typically a fixed percentage of your full liability).

Other reasons why help with your rent may be reduced

If you are aged under 66 and out of work (unemployed, sick, caring for a child etc) the maximum help you are entitled to with your rent may be reduced if the total of your ‘welfare benefits’ exceeds the ‘benefit cap’.

If you are single (i.e. without children) the amount of the benefit cap is:

  • £296.35 per week (£1284.17 per month) if you live in Greater London;
  • £257.69 per week (£1116.67 per month) if you live elsewhere.

If you are a couple or a lone parent, it is:

  • £442.31 per week (£1916.67 per month) if you live in Greater London;
  • £384.62 per week (£1666.67 per month) if you live elsewhere.

If the total ‘welfare benefits’ you are entitled to exceeds this you receive the capped amount instead. Your ‘welfare benefits’ means your maximum universal credit (including your ‘eligible rent’) plus your child benefit. If you are on housing benefit it includes all of your ‘legacy benefits’ (including your housing benefit) plus your child benefit.  

You can be exempt from the benefit cap if you or a child in your family receive personal independence payment or certain other benefits for disability or for caring. You can also be exempt from the cap for up to nine months if you were previously in work for at least one year immediately before the cap started applying to you.

Your benefit can also be reduced (whether or the cap applies to you) for other reasons: if you gave up work or were dismissed from a job without good reason; if you received an advance of your award from the DWP; if part of your award is being paid to your landlord or energy/water supplier to pay off arrears; if you have been overpaid benefit; and/or if you have been involved in benefit fraud. If any of these apply to you or if your benefit has been capped, you should get advice.

Rules about age

You are entitled to UC if:

  • you (if you are single) or you or your partner (if you are couple) are aged under 66; and
  • you (if you are single) or you and your partner (if you are a couple) are at least aged 18 years.

If you are a couple and only one of you meets these conditions, you may be able to claim UC as a single person. (If you are aged 16 or 17 you can also get UC if you meet certain other conditions, but if you are being looked after by the local authority or have recently left their care you might not get help with your housing costs in your UC.)

There are no upper or lower age-limits for HB or CTR except that:

  • if you are under 66 you must claim UC instead of HB unless you meet one of the limited exceptions above;
  • you aren’t entitled to HB unless you have a legal liability for rent (which doesn’t normally occur until you have reached age 18);
  • you aren’t liable for council tax (therefore CTR) until you have reached age 18.

Claiming UC if you are a member of a couple

If you are a member of a couple you usually claim UC jointly with your partner – and if you do you must both be eligible. But if only one of you is eligible (e.g. if your spouse is British and you have leave with a ‘no public funds’ condition) then that person can claim UC as a single person and if they do it does not affect your immigration status.

Claiming HB/CTR if you are a member of a couple

If you are a member of a couple you can only be excluded from HB/CTR if both you and your partner are ineligible (e.g. if both you and your partner have leave to remain with no recourse to public funds). If only one of you is ineligible, then the other (eligible) member should make the claim. However, this does not mean that it is safe to do so in terms of your immigration status (since your partner’s awards counts as public funds). Your local authority may report you to the Home Office but is not obliged to do so.

If you are a couple and only one of you is 66 or over you are not entitled to HB unless:

  • the elder member reached 66 before 15 May 2019 and s/he has been on HB without any breaks since; or
  • the younger member is not entitled to UC (e.g. because of his/her immigration status). In which case the elder member can claim HB and/or state pension credit as a single person.

In any other case, you must claim UC to get help with your rent.

You are entitled to CTR even if only one of you is 66 or over. However, the way your income and capital are assessed (and therefore the amount you get) depends on whether you have a pension age or working age award. The type of CTR you receive (unlike HB) is the same whoever claims it, unless one of you receives an out-of-work legacy benefit in which case your CTR is always working age.

If you have been granted leave following your claim for asylum

If you have been granted refugee status, humanitarian protection or discretionary leave following your claim for asylum, you are entitled to UC/HB/CTR from the date you receive the letter that confirms you have been granted leave (unless, unusually, your leave has a 'no public funds' condition). You do not need to show that you are ‘habitually resident’.

British and Irish citizens and people with settled status

If you are a British Citizen, Irish Citizen, a citizen of a Commonwealth country with ‘right of abode’ in the UK or have been granted indefinite leave to remain (also known as ‘Settled Status’ - see below) you are entitled to:

  • UC/HB/CTR if you have made your home here (you are ‘habitually resident’)
  • UC/HB/CTR if you have been deported, expelled, or removed from another country to the UK
  • HB/CTR if you receive a DWP out-of-work legacy benefit; or
  • HB only, if you receive state pension credit.

You are also entitled to UC/HB if you have been granted EU settled status or (in most cases) pre-settled status as the family member of a ‘person born in Northern Ireland’. If you are a British National (Overseas) and you are at risk of being destitute you can apply for access to public funds and if you are successful you are entitled to UC/HB/CTR provided you are habitually resident.

EEA nationals and EEA family members

On 1 January 2021, the law about UC/HB/CTR entitlement for EU nationals changed when EU free movement rights ended. If you (or the EEA national you accompany as their family member) entered the UK on or after 1 January 2021, your entitlement to UC/HB/CTR is now the same as all other people from outside the EEA.

If you (or the EEA national you accompany as their family member) entered the UK before 1 January 2021, your entitlement to UC/HB/CTR depends on if and when you make an application to the EU Settlement Scheme as follows:

  • if you are granted EU settled status you are entitled to UC/HB/CTR (and you cannot use your EU free movement rights again);
  • if you applied on or before 30 June 2021 (or your late application was accepted), you can continue to use any qualifying right to reside until you get your decision;
  • if you are granted EU pre-settled status you continue to use any qualifying right to reside until you get settled status (which may be up to five years later).

You have a qualifying right to reside for UC/HB/CTR if:

But in the last case you are only entitled to UC/HB/CTR if you are also habitually resident. If you are the family member of an Irish citizen who was born in Northern Ireland see: British and Irish citizens.

All other people from outside the EEA

If you are a citizen of a country outside the EEA, you are not normally entitled to UC/HB unless:

  • you have made your home here (you are ‘habitually resident’); and
  • you have been granted leave from the Home Office and one of the following applies:
    • your leave has no time limit (‘settled status’);
    • your leave is not subject to a ‘no public funds condition’ (or you have successfully applied to have that condition lifted), nor was it granted because of a maintenance undertaking (sponsorship agreement);
    • you are the separated partner of a British citizen or settled person whom you are leaving due to domestic violence and you have successfully applied for access to public funds;
    • you are a national of certain European countries and you are claiming CTR in Wales, or if you are claiming CTR in England you made your claim before 1 April 2023;
    • you are a national of certain European countries and you made a claim for HB before 3 May 2022;
    • you are a national of certain European countries and you made a claim for UC before 1 January 2021;
    • your leave was granted as a result of a sponsorship agreement, but you have lived in the UK for five years;
    • your leave was granted because of a sponsorship agreement but your sponsor (or all of your sponsors if there was more than one) has since died, or
    • for HB only, you or your partner have been awarded an out-of-work legacy benefit or state pension credit.

The first three of these six also apply to CTR, and you are also entitled to CTR if you receive an out-of-work legacy benefit. But you do not have to show you are habitually resident if you were granted leave by the Home Office following your claim for asylum.

What is habitual residence?

Your entitlement to UC/HB/CTR depends on you being ‘habitually resident’ (in addition to the rules about immigration status and/or having a right to reside). But you do not need to show you are habitually resident (and are entitled to UC/HB/CTR immediately) if:

  • you were granted leave following your application for asylum
  • you are a partner/former partner of a British citizen who has been granted temporary leave due to domestic violence
  • you were living in Ukraine before 1 January 2022, left due to the Russian invasion and either you have leave without a ‘no public funds’ condition or you are a British citizen, Irish citizen or Commonwealth citizen with the right of abode
  • you were granted leave without a ‘no public funds’ condition under the scheme for Afghan Locally Employed Staff of the UK armed forces,
  • regardless of your nationality (Afghan, British, other country) you left Afghanistan in connection with the collapse of the Afghan government that took place on 15 August 2021
  • you are an EEA national who entered the UK before 1 January 2021 who is a worker or self-employed person or former worker etc
  • you are a British citizen or person with settled status who has arrived in the UK after being deported, expelled or removed from another country
  • for HB/CTR only you receive a DWP an out-of-work legacy benefit; or
  • for HB only, you receive state pension credit.

In any other case you are disqualified from UC/HB/CTR for up to three months. You cannot be ‘habitually resident’ unless you are actually resident here – your intention to settle is not enough nor is your mere physical presence. There must also be a degree of permanence about your residence that amounts to a settled state in which you are making your home here. There are two elements to this: you must have an ‘intention to settle’ and your residence must be for an ‘appreciable period of time.’

There are no set criteria about as to how this is decided but DWP guidance suggests that the main factors to consider are:

  • the length and continuity of your residence
  • your reasons for coming to the UK
  • your future intentions
  • your employment prospects, and
  • your centre of interest.

Your ‘centre of interest’ is about your ties to this country and your intention to settle. You can give evidence of it by such things as: substantial purchases (e.g. furniture) that indicate a long-term commitment; membership of clubs or societies that reflect your leisure interests; or the presence of close relatives.

The guidance stresses that no single one of these is decisive and which factor turns out to be the most significant will depend on the unique facts in each case. There is no fixed period that amounts an ‘appreciable period’, but case law has established that it usually lies between one to three months. For example, it is likely to be longer if you have entered the UK for the first time than, say, if you are returning to resume your residence here. And if you are a UK or EEA national returning after a period of work in another EEA state, habitual residence resumes immediately when you return.

What you can do if the decision is wrong

The DWP/local authority will notify you of their decision, for HB this is usually done by sending you a letter/written notice, for UC it is usually a message to your online account. You have the right to request a review within one calendar month of the date the letter/message was sent. You make your request in the same way you made your claim (e.g. online, by telephone etc.). If you do this within the time limit the DWP/local authority must reconsider their decision. This is sometimes called an ‘any grounds review’ because you don’t have to give reason why you think the decision is wrong.

You can ask for an ‘anytime review’ (outside the time limit) if the DWP/local authority made an ‘official error’. An ‘official error’ means the DWP/local authority failed to take account of a fact you told them about, used the wrong bit of law to decide your claim, or the right bit of law but misunderstood what it means. For example, if you told them you have EU Settled Status and they overlooked this, or they took it into account, but decided you weren’t entitled. If the new decision doesn’t give you what you asked for you can ask for an ‘any grounds review’ as above.

In either case (any grounds or anytime) if your circumstances have changed since the original decision (e.g. you have been granted leave) you should also make a new claim to make sure you receive your maximum entitlement if your review/appeal fails.

If you are dissatisfied with a DWP/local authority decision, you can appeal to an independent tribunal instead. If your appeal is about a UC decision you must make it directly to HM Courts and Tribunals Service (not the DWP) you can do this online or by letter. If your appeal is about HB, you appeal to the local authority who made the decision (who must forward it to HMCTS if they disagree with any part of it). But in either case your UC/HB appeal is only valid if:

  • you tell the DWP/local authority that you want to ‘appeal to a tribunal’ within one month of the date they sent their notice to you; and
  • your letter sets out:
    • your name and address and those of your representative if you have one
    • the address you want any documents about your appeal to be sent to
    • the decision you want to appeal about and why you think it is wrong; and
  • for UC only, you can only appeal after you have requested a review (either ‘any grounds’ or ‘any time’) and DWP refused to revise the decision in your favour or revised it but did not give you everything you asked for. You must normally appeal within one month of being notified of the outcome otherwise you risk losing your right to some or all of the arrears.

For HB disputes you can go straight to appeal, but it normally takes between three to eight months to get a hearing listed. If your appeal explains clearly why you think the decision is wrong the local authority can revise its decision (and if it is changed and you got everything you asked for your appeal ends).

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