Moving house, benefits and Universal Credit

This information applies to England and Wales.

Changing where you live and who you live with can affect your benefits.

For example, you might receive less if you:

  • start living together with a partner
  • start living with someone over 18, even if they are your parent or child
  • move from social housing into a home rented by a private landlord

If you are receiving older ‘legacy’ benefits including disability premiums, you could move to Universal Credit. Most people are worse off after moving to Universal Credit.

If you are receiving Income-Related ESA, you might lose most or all of it if your partner works 24 hours a week or more.

Personal Independence Payment (PIP) is not means-tested. PIP is not affected by who you live with.

Calculate your benefits (Turn2us)

Help completing benefit claim forms

Who to contact

Always tell the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) if:

  • someone moves in or out of your home
  • you move to a new home

Who you contact depends on the benefits you receive. You may need to contact more than 1 office.

Benefits: report a change in your circumstances (GOV.UK)

Contact the council tax department and find out if you are eligible for Council Tax reduction. If you are moving to a different local authority, contact your new local authority as well.

Help with Council Tax

Who can affect your benefits

Who you live with can reduce your benefits. For example, living with:

  • your partner and making a joint claim
  • other adults who are not on your rental agreement (this includes your children and other relatives if they are over 18)

Living with your partner and joint claims

You must tell the DWP when you start living together.

If you live with your partner, you will need to make a joint claim for some benefits. For example, Universal Credit.

A joint claim is usually less than if you did not live together and made 2 individual claims.

Your partner’s income is included with yours as the combined ‘household income’ for means-tested benefits, like Universal Credit.

Your partner’s income and savings could mean that you lose most or all your Income-Related ESA. If you receive contribution-based ESA, this will not be affected by your partner.

Living with other people (anyone over 18)

If you live with another adult who is over 18, this could reduce your benefits. This includes your children and other relatives if they are over 18.

Your housing benefits may be lower if the person counts as a ‘non-dependent’. This is called a ‘non-dependent deduction’.

Non-dependent rules (EntitledTo)

The rules for living with adults over 18 are the same if they are related to you. For example:

  • a parent
  • your child if they’re over 18

If everyone where you live has their own rental agreement, they should not affect your benefits.

For example:

  • supported living, where you have your own written agreement with the owners
  • a bedsit in a building with a shared bathroom where you have your own rental agreement

If you live in a house share with a joint tenancy, the other people on the tenancy will not count as non-dependents.

Student accommodation

The rules are the same for student accommodation. The DWP does not treat student accommodation as temporary.

Most full-time students are not eligible for Universal Credit. But you can claim Universal Credit as a full-time student if all the following apply:

  • you receive PIP
  • your Work Capability Assessment says you have a 'limited capability for work'
  • you have limited capability for work before you start your studies

Students claiming Universal Credit

Guests staying over

Having guests to stay should not affect your benefits.

There are no set rules about how often or how long someone can stay before the DWP decides that they live with you. Some people think there is a limit of 3 nights a week. This is not true.

But it could affect your benefits if the DWP thinks you have started to live together with someone.

The DWP might ask you to show that you both have your own homes.

Benefits: having someone stay over

Where you live can affect your benefits

This can depend on:

  • if you’re moving to a new local authority
  • the number of bedrooms in your new homes (bedroom tax)
  • if you are in social housing or renting privately

A new local authority usually means moving to Universal Credit

You must make a new claim for Universal Credit because of a change in circumstances if:

  • you move to a new local authority
  • and you need benefits to help you pay your rent

If you are receiving older, legacy benefits, these will stop.

If your new home is in the same local authority as your old home, the DWP does not usually treat this as a change in circumstances.

If you plan to rent from a private landlord, check your local authority’s Local Housing Allowance.

Search for Local Housing Allowance rates by postcode or local authority (GOV.UK)

The number of bedrooms in your home (bedroom tax)

If you are under State Pension age, there are rules about the number of bedrooms you can have.

The rules do not apply if you have separate rental agreements. The rules are for:

  • Housing Benefit or
  • the housing costs element of Universal Credit

Some disabled adults and children are exempt if they need their own bedroom because of their condition.

Your maximum housing benefit should be the same as your rent if everyone has their own separate rental agreement. For example, in supported living.

If you need regular care overnight, you may be allowed 1 room for your carer if all the following apply:

  • you receive PIP, DLA or Attendance Allowance at the higher rate
  • your carer does not live with you, also called a non-resident carer or personal assistant

Bedroom tax and housing benefits

Renting from a private landlord

If you are renting from a private landlord, there are extra bedroom tax rules. These rules could mean that your housing benefit is less than your rent.

  • You can only claim for up to 4 bedrooms, even if you meet the eligibility criteria for more.
  • There's a limit on how much Housing Benefit you can get, called the Local Housing Allowance, set by your local authority.

Local housing allowance can mean that your housing benefit is less than your rent.

Search for Local Housing Allowance rates by postcode or local authority (GOV.UK)

Moving to Universal Credit (change in circumstances)

If you are receiving older ‘legacy’ benefits, you might have to move to Universal Credit if you:

  • move to a different local authority
  • or change who you live with

The DWP calls this a ‘change in circumstances’.

All disability premiums are ‘legacy’, as well as:

You must make a new claim

After a change in circumstances, your legacy benefits stop. You must make a new claim for Universal Credit. This does not happen automatically.

What changes in circumstances might trigger a move to Universal Credit (EntitledTo)

It usually takes 5 weeks to start receiving Universal Credit after you apply. But you can apply for an advance payment.

Work Capability Assessment

You will not be reassessed when you move to Universal Credit if:

  • you are transferring from Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
  • and you are already in a support group that means you have ‘limited capability for work’ or ‘limited capability for work-related activity’

If your rent increases

Increases in rent are not usually a change in circumstances. The DWP should not move you to Universal Credit just because your rent increases.

But you do need to declare your rent increase. Who you contact depends on which benefit you receive:

  • DWP if you receive Universal Credit
  • your local authority if you receive Housing Benefit

All disability premiums are ‘legacy’

All 3 disability premiums are part of legacy benefits. To be eligible, you must receive 1 of these older, legacy benefits that have been replaced by Universal Credit:

  • Income Support
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
  • Housing Benefit

The legacy disability premiums are:

  • Disability Premium
  • Enhanced Disability Premium
  • Severe Disability Premium

If you are receiving any of these disability premiums, you will stop receiving them if you start claiming Universal Credit. Most people are worse off receiving Universal Credit.

Disability premiums

Disability Premium and Enhanced Disability Premium

There are no rules about who you can live with and still receive Disability Premium or Enhanced Disability Premium. But your other benefits could still be affected by who you live with.

Severe Disability Premium

There are criteria for who you can live with if you receive Severe Disability Premium.

These rules apply to everyone you live with unless you all have separate rental agreements.

If you start living with someone who does not meet these criteria, you will stop being eligible for Severe Disability Premium.

Transitional Protection

You are only eligible for transitional payments if you are eligible for Severe Disability Premium when you move to Universal Credit. This can happen in 2 ways.

  • If the DWP writes to say they are moving you to Universal Credit in a ‘managed migration’, you could receive Transitional Protection. This is usually enough to make up the difference.
  • If you move to Universal Credit after a change in circumstances, like moving to a new local authority, you could be eligible to receive the transitional element of Universal Credit. This is usually not enough to make up the difference.

Both types of transitional payment reduce slowly as your Universal Credit increases.

Transitional Protection and Universal Credit

Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)

The rules are different depending on the type of ESA. There are 3 types of ESA:

  • ‘New Style’ ESA
  • Contributory ESA (or contribution-based ESA)
  • Income-related ESA

If you already claim ESA, but are unsure which type, check your decision letter.

You can also call Jobcentre Plus on 0800 169 0310.

Warning Income-Related ESA

If you live with your partner, their income and savings could mean that you lose most or all your Income-Related ESA.

You will lose all your Income-Related ESA if your partner works 24 hours a week or more.

Other types of ESA (Contribution-Based and New Style)

Your partner's income, savings and work will not affect either:

  • Contribution-Based ESA
  • or New Style ESA

Help with food, bills and essentials

There are places where you can get free or cheap food.

Free food and food banks

If you need support with energy bills, there is some support available from government and local authorities.

Help with gas and electricity bills

Discount on water bills and help with debt

Cost of Living Payments

Warning Managing your mental health

Looking after your mental health and wellbeing is important. Everyone manages their mental health differently.

Managing your mental health

Last reviewed by Scope on: 21/11/2023

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