Good morning

Historically, non-dependant deductions, relating to Housing Benefit, were recognised as one of the most common reasons for rent arrears, and especially difficult to grapple with, where the non-dep was working more than 16 hours per week, attracting deductions that either substantially reduced or wiped out the HB award. Oftentimes, landlords, despite their best efforts, have difficulty persuading the non-dep to increase their contribution and this inevitably leads reluctantly to repossession action.

Under Universal Credit, the Non-dep term is replaced by “housing cost contributions”. Except for the name change, the rules are similar but much less punitive, than their HB equivalent. They apply when someone, other than the claimant’s partner or dependent children, “ordinarily” reside in the tenant’s household, and so are expected to contribute towards the housing costs, effectively reducing the amount the tenant would otherwise have received, in their own award, by currently £77.87 per month, for each person.

Typically, this might involve a son, daughter, mother, father, grandparent. However, the rules also include some exemptions, relieving some Non-deps of having to make a contribution. For example, where the tenant or partner receives DLA (Care) at middle or higher rate or PIP (Daily Living), or the non-dep themself is under 21; a single parent; in receipt of a Carer’s allowance or PIP or DLA (as above) no contribution is expected.

This table sets out, in summary form, the current Housing Cost Contributions and the exemptions that apply in 2022/23.

Unfortunately, neither DWP’s information system nor its frontline staff appear to be aware of the list of exemptions, so often apply the default position of making a £77.87 deduction for all cases. This reduces the award unnecessarily, makes it more difficult for the tenant to meet their rental obligations and contributes to rent arrears.

Experienced staff dealing with arrears will usually pick up on such errors and invariably resolve the situation themselves, thus avoiding the need for recovery action. In other cases, Welfare Rights and Money Advice staff are asked to intervene and help resolve UC’s mistake, sometimes, in the process, securing “revisions” with large, backdated payments to offset any arrears that may have accumulated because of UC’s earlier error.

I’ve also been invited to assist, where problems persist or where they appear to have been resolved, only for the same issue to reappear the following month. This is due to longstanding faults in DWPs IT system, that have been brought to their attention but remain unresolved.

If you encounter any such difficulties, and need some advice or assistance, simply email or phone 07733 080 389


Bill Irvine

UC Advice & Advocacy Ltd