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Dealing with Universal Credit and rent arrears

Michael contacted Landlord Advice as his tenant was getting Universal Credit and a Discretionary Housing Payment but was not paying rent and in arrears.  

2 January 2024
  • Landlord

Discretionary Housing Payment award ending

Michael’s tenant was getting a Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) which covered the shortfall between the Universal Credit housing costs award and the full rent.

Michael was aware the tenant’s DHP had ended. He had also contacted Universal Credit who could not confirm if they were paying housing costs for that rental address.

Our adviser explained that Discretionary Housing Payments are stopped in cases where the award has been in place for over two years.

We advised Michael that he can signpost his tenant to the Housing Rights helpline for advice on potentially challenging the decision to end the DHP award.  

Setting up Universal Credit direct payments

We advised Michael that, under GDPR, Universal Credit is unable to discuss payments with a third party without the tenant’s express consent.

But, if the tenant is in arrears of two months or more, a landlord can request direct payment of Universal Credit without a tenant's consent.

Our adviser explained to Michael how to request direct payment from Universal Credit.

We advised Michael that, Universal Credit will first check if there is a claim at the address the landlord supplies. If there is, Michael will need to provide evidence his tenant owes at least two months' rent.

Universal Credit will then arrange for future housing costs payments to go directly to Michael, rather than to his tenant.  

Dealing with rent arrears

We advised Michael that his tenant remains liable for any unpaid rent.

Even though his tenant received Universal Credit housing costs and did not pass this on to the landlord, Universal Credit will not make a backdated payment to cover these arrears.

We advised Michael on his options around lodging a claim in small claims court and ending the tenancy should he wish to consider this.  

Help and support for landlords

Landlord Advice is a free, confidential service for private landlords and letting agents in Northern Ireland. 

Landlord Advice provides information and advice to:  

  • residential landlords 
  • estate and letting agents 
  • people thinking of becoming a landlord 

Our advisers are available from 9:30am to 2:30pm Monday to Friday.