About Universal Credit
Universal Credit was introduced in Northern Ireland from September 2017 to December 2018.
It is a payment for people over 18 (16-17 in certain circumstances) but under State Pension age who are on a low income or out of work. It includes support for the cost of housing, children and childcare, and financial support for people with disabilities, carers and people too ill to work.
If a tenant is entitled to Universal Credit, they could get an amount for housing. The housing costs amount is paid to their landlord monthly as the default option for rented properties. Some claimants can have the housing costs paid to them, if they meet certain criteria.
In Northern Ireland, Universal Credit will be paid to claimants twice monthly by default. Claimants will be able to opt out and request a monthly payment if they wish.
Couples living in the same household will get a joint payment twice a month, which can be paid into a joint account or a single account in either person’s name.
Universal Credit claimants will have an online Universal Credit account to manage their claim. They will use their account to report changes, send messages to their work coach and find support.
Helping tenants prepare for Universal Credit
Landlords can help tenants to get ready for Universal Credit by encouraging them to:
- go online
- open a bank account to receive payments
Universal Credit is designed to be claimed online. If claimants don’t have access to the internet or are not confident using a computer, the local office can tell them about local services that can help.
Universal Credit will usually be paid twice a month in arrears into a single account, so setting up a direct debit or standing order may help them to do this. Claimants can also use the Universal Credit Personal Planner which checks what changes they may need to make to get ready for Universal Credit.
People already receiving a benefit being replaced by Universal Credit
If a claimant’s circumstances change they may move to Universal Credit at that time and their existing benefits will stop.
If a claimant moves to Universal Credit from any of the following benefits they will continue to be paid for 2 weeks after they claim Universal Credit:
- Jobseeker’ Allowance (income-based)
- Employment and Support Allowance (income-related)
- Income Support
- Housing Benefit (rental)
If a claimant’s circumstances do not change, the Department for Communities will contact them when it is time to move to Universal Credit.
When someone claims Universal Credit, any benefits or tax credits it replaces will stop. People, considering a move to Universal Credit from another benefit, can check their eligibility. They should also seek independent advice before making a claim for Universal Credit.
People can also use a benefit calculator to check how much they may get.
First Universal Credit payment
Universal Credit is assessed monthly and paid to claimants twice a month, in arrears. The first payment will usually be received 5 weeks after they submit their claim. The amount for housing costs is paid monthly in arrears.
Universal Credit claimants who are in financial need or are having difficulty paying housing costs may be able to get help. Claimants can find information about budgeting support and other financial help at www.nidirect.gov.uk/universal-credit and www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/extra-financial-support
Universal Credit payments are made up of different amounts depending on the claimant’s individual circumstances.
The Universal Credit amount for housing costs, helps tenants with their eligible rent and service charge costs. Regulations state that claimants must satisfy three conditions – payment, liability and occupation – to qualify for help with their housing costs.
In Northern Ireland, the housing cost amounts of Universal Credit will be paid directly to landlords as the default option for rented properties. Claimants will be able to opt out and have the housing cost amount paid to them if they meet certain criteria.
What Universal Credit means for landlords
For more detailed information on Universal Credit and what this means for landlords see:
How DfC will pay rent arrears deductions to the landlord
If approved, rent arrears deductions will be paid under the third party deduction scheme.
Once payments are set up on the third party payments system, you will normally receive payment every 28 days and these will be 28 days in arrears.
The payment will appear as a single transaction on your bank statement along with a reference number (settlement number). You will then receive a third party deductions schedule with a breakdown of all the individual transactions which make up that payment and their associated references.
The first payment is normally received within 6 weeks from the date deductions commence.
For private rented sector landlords, a Bank Automated Clearing System (BACS) payment will be paid in to the bank account nominated by the landlord.
Further information can be found in the Third Party Payments Creditor/Supplier Handbook.