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When everyone has a home

Housing advice for Northern Ireland

Universal Credit for landlords

Advice for landlords in Northern Ireland

This page is for landlords operating in Northern Ireland.  You can find advice for tenants elsewhere on our website. Private landlords in Northern Ireland can call Landlord Advice on 028 9024 5640 and choose option 5. 

Your tenants may need help to pay their rent. In most cases, this means they will apply for Universal Credit.  

Tenants will only be able to get housing benefit to help with rent if 

  • they are over pension age, or 
  • they were already claiming housing benefit when they moved into your property.  

How do tenants apply for Universal Credit?

Your tenants have to apply for Universal Credit online. An advice agency can help them if they cannot do this by themselves.  

You will need to give your tenants: 

  • your full name and email address 
  • Your bank account details if you want to receive the payments 
  • a tenancy agreement or letter explaining how much rent they have to pay.   

Waiting for a first payment of Universal Credit

A person should get their first payment between 5 and 6 weeks from the date they applied. It can take longer if the person hasn't been able to prove their claim.  

Tenants who are moving from housing benefit to Universal Credit may be able to get a run-on payment. This is an extra two weeks of housing benefit that will help deal with this delay. 

Tenants may be able to get a grant or loan while waiting for their first payment. Your tenants should get advice if they are struggling.  

Universal Credit payment frequency

Universal Credit is paid once a month. The date of payment depends on when your tenant started their Universal Credit claim. A tenant who claims on the 15th of a month, will usually receive their payments on around the 22nd of the next month.  

Universal Credit is paid in arrears. This means a tenant cannot claim until after they have moved into a property.  

Amount Universal Credit will pay towards rent

Universal Credit works in the same way as housing benefit.  

It sets a maximum amount that it will give to a private tenant. This amount is based on 

  • where the property is and 
  • how many people are in the tenant's household.  

Extra help if Universal Credit doesn't cover the full rent

Tenants can apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment if their benefits do not cover the full rent.  

Housing Rights can help tenants to apply for this extra payment.  

Help to pay rates

Universal Credit does not include help with rates. Your tenants have to apply for a rates rebate to get help with rates. You will need to help the tenant to make this claim by setting up your own rates rebate account.  

Rates rebates are credited to the property's rates account. The tenant cannot get a cash payment instead.  

Universal Credit payees

Payments are supposed to go to the landlord or agent. But, this might not happen if 

  • the tenant gave your bank account details too late, or 
  • you haven't given the tenant bank account details, or 
  • staff at Universal Credit forgot to set the payment to your account.  

It is not unusual for tenants to get the money even though they've been told it will go to the landlord.  

Landlord problems with Universal Credit

You should contact Landlord Advice if you have questions about Universal Credit. They can't talk about your individual tenant's claim, but can explain the benefit's rules and processes. 

Setting up a direct payment if tenant is in debt

You can ask Universal Credit to pay the housing part of your tenant's claim to you, instead of the tenant. They can only do this against the tenant's wishes if they owe at least 2 months' rent.  

Use this form to ask for payments to go to your bank account.  

Figuring out whose payment is whose

Some landlords may have lots of tenants who are claiming Universal Credit. It can be hard to know whose payment is whose.   

You have to agree a 16-digit tenancy ID when you set up a direct payment request for each of your tenants. This will be used as the identifier on your BACS payments.   

Tenants who move during their Universal Credit assessment period

A tenant’s housing costs payment is based on their circumstances at the end of an assessment period. This can cause difficulties for a tenant who 

  • moves into a new property before the end of their assessment period, or 
  • ends their tenancy before the end of an assessment period.  

Landlords should not have too many problems with this type of tenancy change as long as the tenant paid the first month’s rent in advance. You should contact Landlord Advice NI if you are worried that your tenant hasn’t paid all they owe.  

Getting help with Universal Credit problems

Universal Credit will normally only speak to the tenant about a problem with their claim.  

Universal Credit can only speak to you about your tenant's claim if 

  • your tenant put a recent note on their claim journal giving them permission to talk to you, and 
  • you have your tenant's date of birth and national insurance number.  

Contact Landlord Advice NI if you have questions about Universal Credit