Good afternoon

Under Universal Credit rules, the rate of “housing costs” for someone, single, and under the age of 35, is normally restricted to the Shared Accommodation Rate (SAR) when they are accommodated in Private Rented Sector accommodation. This rule mimics what happens under Housing Benefit. Whereas someone 35+ qualifies for the 1-bedroom rate, even if they share the accommodation, including living room, kitchen, or bathroom with others. This differs from Housing Benefit where the 1 bedroom rate would only apply where the tenant was living in self-contained accommodation or where they have exclusive rights to two bedrooms and share ther parts of the accommodation.

For example, a person 35+ living in an HMO classified property, claiming UC, automatically is entitled to claim the 1 bedroom a rate. Under LHA rules, the same person would only qualify for the SAR. So, to that extent UC is more generous than Local Housing Allowance.

Importantly, Universal Credit, like Housing Benefit, includes some exceptions to the under 35’s rule that apply to single people where they are:

  • In receipt of the Severe Disability Premium because of their entitlement to PIP (Daily Living) or DLA (Care).
  • Require an extra bedroom for the use of a non-resident carer, providing overnight care
  • Care leavers up to the age of 18-21 who were in care at the age of 16.
  • Aged 25-34 who have spent at least three months – which do not need to have been continuous – in a homeless hostel/hostels specialising in rehabilitating and resettling within the community
  • Ex-offenders who present a risk of serious harm to the public and are subject to active multi-agency risk management under the Multi Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA) to be rehabilitated back into the community (those aged 25-34 only in HB and anyone under 35 in UC)..

Furthermore, in response to COVID-19, the Government’s recent ‘Everyone In’ initiative and similar provisions in Scotland and Wales, aim to accommodate homeless people/rough sleepers, in some cases using hotel accommodation as temporary accommodation where necessary.

DWP, not surprisingly, has received several requests from councils, housing association and Charitible organisations’ staff as to whether this accommodation is within the definition of ‘homeless hostel’ for the purposes of the exception which permits the one-bedroom rate to apply.

Its response confirms – “where the above “exceptions” apply, the re-purposed hotels and bed and breakfasts (B&Bs) establishments used for ‘Everyone In’ do satisfy the definition of ‘hostel’. This means that provided the claimant is over 25 and satisfy one or other of the exceptions, including the specific COVID measures, they should be entitled to a one-bedroom LHA rate.”

While the ‘Everyone In’ initiative applies in England only; similar provisions were introduced for housing rough sleepers in Scotland and Wales. Provided the homelessness exemption criteria are satisfied and the hotel or B&B accommodation meets the hostel definition, the exemption will also apply to those rough sleepers housed in Scotland and Wales.

As you know, dealing with DWP with the simplest of cases can often throw up problems. In these cases, the onus is on the claimant to provide supporting evidence. Therefore, where support and accommodation has been arranged through the Local Authority, UC claimants should request a letter of proof of their 3 month+ period of stay in an appropriate specialist hostel (or hostels) as well as confirmation that they had been offered and accepted support, to help them be rehabilitated or resettled in the community. If they do so, DWP should pay the correct 1-bedroom rate. If they refuse, please don’t hesiate to contact me and I’ll assist ona No win, No fee basis.

If you’re unsure about any of this, and members of our website, please email or call me on 07733 080 389.

Bill Irvine

UC Advice & Advocacy Ltd