We’ve put together these tips from tenants who have already switched over to Universal Credit. Many said they wished they had been able to prepare for it better. A little bit of planning ahead may help you avoid financial difficulty and switch over to the new benefit more smoothly. Use the form below if you need to ask us a question about Universal Credit.
1. Make sure you have money for the wait period
It takes 5 weeks from the date you submit your claim to receive your first payment.
- If you are claiming income-based Jobseekers Allowance, income-based Employment & Support Allowance or Income Support on the day that you claim Universal Credit, you will be paid these benefits for a further 2 weeks.
- If you currently claim Housing Benefit, this will also be paid for a further 2 weeks after the date of your Universal Credit claim.
- If you don’t think you can manage until your first payment, you can ask for a Universal Credit Advance. You can get up to 100% of your estimated award paid to you within 5 days of the start of your claim.
- If you need the money urgently, it is possible to get it paid the same day. You will have to pay this money back over the next 12 months by deductions from your normal monthly payment.
If you are unsure what to do, please contact us or fill in the form below and say “I would like advice on how to manage the Universal Credit wait period”.
2. Set up a payment plan for your rent
If you are moving over to Universal Credit and you previously claimed Housing Benefit, you will have to pay rent yourself from your Universal Credit payment. It is not paid directly by the council like Housing Benefit.
Many tenants struggled during the switch to Universal Credit because they hadn't set up a payment plan for their rent. That's why it's important to contact our rent team and tell them you are moving over to Universal Credit. Your Income Recovery Officer will help you set up a payment plan so that you pay only what you need to.
3. Be prepared for MONTHLY payments
When you're on Universal Credit, you will normally receive only 1 payment per month.
Many tenants told us this change was difficult because they were so used to receiving weekly or fortnightly payments for many years. These tenants found they had often run out of money for the last two weeks of each month, and had to borrow until the next payment.
The tenants who coped best had drawn up a household budget before they moved over to Universal Credit. They knew their exact incomings and outgoings and what they could afford.
Once you've drawn up your budget, make you sure you maintain it so that you don't fall into arrears with your rent.
If you really struggle with managing money, it is possible to get two Universal Credit payments a month, rather than just one.
If need an advice on getting more frequent payments of Universal Credit, please contact us or fill in the form below and say “I would like advice on getting a more frequent payment of Universal Credit”.
4. Have a suitable bank account to receive your Universal Credit payments
You must have a bank account to receive your Universal Credit payments. This means you will need ONE of the following:
- bank or building society current account
- basic bank account
- Credit Union account
- Post Office account
Please note, if you live together as a couple, Universal Credit can only be paid into one account. You will need to discuss between you whose account you want the money paid into, or whether you want to open a joint account to receive it. Couples who didn't plan ahead for this found that they struggled to make essential payments and it was a key source of strain on their relationship.
If you're unsure or would like some advice about your own situation, please call us or fill in the form below and say, “I would like some advice on which bank accounts would be suitable for my benefits”.
5. Make sure you have some online skills
You can only apply for Universal Credit online. Tenants who weren't confident using computers or getting online struggled the most during the switch to Universal Credit.
If you lack digital skills or confidence, our Tenancy Support team offers free digital training sessions. Or we can refer you to local organisations who provide free training.
If you would like to get help for yourself or another tenant, please contact us or fill in the form below and say “I need some help with computers and Universal Credit”.