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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 new cash social security benefit for working-age people. 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
  • income support
  • income-based jobseeker’s allowance
  • income-related employment and support allowance; and
  • if you are working age, housing benefit.

UC is administered by the DWP and (from 1 February 2019) you cannot make a claim for any of these legacy benefits unless:

  • you or you and your partner have reached state pension age (or only one of you has if you claim before 15 May 2019);
  • you live in temporary or supported accommodation provided by a social landlord; or
  • you or you and your partner are severely disabled and meet certain other conditions (or you met those conditions within the previous month).

If the first exception applies you can claim pension credit and/or housing benefit; the second, universal credit for your general living expenses and housing benefit for your rent; and if the third applies you can continue to claim legacy benefits (including housing benefit).

If you were already on legacy benefit before 1 February 2019 you can continue to receive it so long as you meet all the conditions for it. If one of your legacy benefits ends (e.g. if you become fit for work, start full-time work or your youngest child reaches age five) you can only replace your lost income by claiming universal credit – and when you do all your other legacy benefits end. Eventually all existing legacy benefits claims will be gradually transferred to universal credit, but this is not expected to start until January 2020.

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 have a low income. To qualify for housing benefit you must make a valid claim and be an eligible person. 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.

What is council tax rebate (CTR)?

All householders (whether owners or tenants) pay council tax to their local councils, based on the property value. The rules about who is eligible to get help towards paying their council tax through CTR are similar to the rules for UC/HB even though they are entirely separate schemes. Any differences to UC/HB are described as they arise.

In England your local council can set its own scheme rules about how your financial resources (income, capital) and needs are assessed, but in Wales 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) for classes of people who are generally financially disadvantaged, for example, your council tax is reduced by a fixed percentage if you have a severe disability. Your council must publish details of all the rebate classes 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. Any local rules that do this are unlawful and can be challenged in the courts (Winder v Sandwell MBC [2014] EWHC (Admin) 2617).   

Making a claim for UC/HB/CTR

You must make a claim to qualify for UC/HB/CTR. To complete your claim you must provide the DWP (for UC), or local authority (for HB/CTR), with your national insurance number and your partner’s if you are claiming UC/HB/CTR as a couple. If you do not have one you must have applied for one (which you do at the local Jobcentre Plus office) and for HB, provide the local authority with evidence that you have done this.

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 have been granted leave following your application for asylum

If you have been granted refugee status, humanitarian protection or discretionary leave following your application 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).

If you are a British or Irish citizen or you have 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’) 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 if you have been awarded one of the passport benefits: income-based jobseeker’s allowance, income-related employment and support allowance, income support or state pension credit; or
  • CTR in Wales if you have been awarded one of the passport benefits: income-based jobseeker’s allowance, income-related employment and support allowance or income support.

EEA nationals and EEA family members

If you are an EEA national you will be entitled to UC/HB/CTR if:

  • you are in self-employment in the UK (including if you are self-employed but temporarily unable to work due to sickness)
  • you are an EEA worker
  • you are a former EEA worker who is temporarily unable to work (e.g. unemployed or off sick)
  • you are a EEA family member of any of the above
  • you have previously worked in the UK but have since retired; or
  • you are a long-term resident (including those granted settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme) and you are ‘habitually resident’.

You are also entitled to HB/CTR:

  • if you or your partner receive income-related employment and support allowance or income support or state pension credit
  • you or your partner receive income-based jobseeker’s allowance – but only for up to six months immediately following after period of work in the UK (i.e. while you are treated as a former worker).

In any other case you are only entitled to UC/HB/CTR if you are habitually resident and you have some other right to reside (see other EEA nationals and EEA family members for details). 

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 either
    • you are the separated partner of a British citizen or settled person who you are leaving due to domestic violence;
    • you are a national of Macedonia or Turkey; or
    • your leave is not subject to a ‘no public funds condition’ nor was it granted as a result of a maintenance undertaking (sponsorship agreement);
    • it was granted as a result of a sponsorship agreement but you have lived in the UK for five years;
    • or it was granted as a result 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 one of the passport benefits: income-based jobseeker’s allowance, income-related employment and support allowance, income support or state pension credit.

You are also entitled to CTR if you are habitually resident and have been granted leave by the Home Office and either:

  • you are separated from your British/UK settled partner as a result of  domestic violence;
  • you are a Macedonian or Turkish national;
  • your leave was not granted as a result of a sponsorship agreement;
  • your leave was granted without a ‘no public funds’ condition; or
  • in Wales only, you or your partner receive income-based jobseeker’s allowance, income-related employment and support allowance or income support.
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