When everyone has a home

Housing advice for Northern Ireland

UC housing costs if you're not currently living in your home

It is sometimes possible to get help with the housing costs for a home you aren’t living in, but this depends on your reasons for not staying there and on whether you plan to return to this home.

Away from home

You can continue to get the housing costs element of Universal Credit even if you aren’t currently staying in your home, as long as you aren’t away for longer than six months and you plan on returning to your home.

There are different rules if

  • You are outside Northern Ireland or
  • You are away from your home because you are afraid of violence in your home.

Fear of violence

You can keep getting the housing costs element of Universal Credit for up to 12 months if

  • You have left your normal home and you are living somewhere else and
  • You can’t safely return to your normal home because of a risk of violence in the home or from a former partner towards you or a child or young person, and
  • You intend to return to your normal home.

Away from Northern Ireland

You can only be away from Northern Ireland for a maximum of one month. If you are outside Northern Ireland for longer than this, the housing costs element of your Universal Credit will stop.

This is also true of everyone else living in your home. If, for example, you have a child who is in school in the United Kingdom or in the Republic of Ireland, they will no longer be seen as living with you if they are away for more than one month at a time. This could mean that the amount of help you get with your housing costs will drop, particularly if you are now seen to have more bedrooms than you need. 

Living in another home while your home is being repaired

You can get the housing costs element on a property you are not currently living in, if

  • You have had to leave your normal home because essential repairs are being carried out on it, and
  • You intend to return to your home once the repairs are finished.

There is no time limit in this case, but you will only get help with the housing costs on one property. Speak to an adviser if you are worried about paying costs on two homes while repairs are being carried out.

In prison

If you are receiving Universal Credit when you are taken into custody, you can continue to get help with your housing costs as long as you are not likely to spend more than 6 months in custody.

However, if you weren’t receiving benefits before going into custody, you won’t be able to make a fresh claim for help with your housing costs.