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1. Made a claim for Universal Credit
Someone who has made a claim for Universal Credit and is awaiting the outcome of that claim will not be able to make a claim for HB – unless they live in ‘specified accommodation’ (UC(TP) Reg 6 para 2b). This includes those who have made a claim and received a decision and have requested a mandatory reconsideration or appeal (UC(TP) Reg 6 para 2e).

What if someone has never made a claim for UC but passes all the ‘Gateway Conditions’ ie would be entitled to Universal Credit if they made a claim?

Someone cannot be a Universal Credit claimant unless they have made a claim for it. The Universal Credit Regulations (UC(TP) Reg 6 para 2a) state that claimants ‘entitled to Universal Credit’ will not be able to claim HB (unless living in ‘specified accommodation’).  However, it is generally held that someone cannot be ‘entitled to’ a benefit unless they have made a claim for it (eg to be excluded from the Benefit Cap because entitled to WTC the claimant must have made an application for WTC and received confirmation that they meet the claiming criteria even if the WTC award is ‘nil’ due to income).

So the HB Office cannot refuse to accept a HB claim from someone just because they appear to meet the Universal Credit claiming conditions and ‘gateway conditions’ if they have never actually made a claim for Universal Credit. See Standard Letter UC CP36.

Example:

Shane is 35 and single. He has not been claiming any benefits in the last few years. His work contract as a building site labourer has recently ended so he is looking for another job, but he has no money to live on or to pay his rent. He has no access to the internet and he has never used a computer, so he would like to avoid Universal Credit if he can. He goes to his Council to make a claim for HB. The HB Office should accept his claim – they cannot refuse his claim just because he appears to meet the ‘gateway conditions’ as he is not a Universal Credit claimant. 
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(Shane will also need money to live on; he knows he will not be entitled to contributory JSA because he was a self-employed contractor, but he should be entitled to income-based JSA. If he makes his claim for Jobseeker’s Allowance after making his HB claim but before the HB claim is decided, he does not satisfy the Universal Credit gateway conditions at that time and he should be able to claim JSA instead of Universal Credit.)

What if they have made a claim but Universal Credit is not awarded?

Assuming they are not challenging this decision, then whether or not they can claim Housing Benefit will depend on the reason why Universal Credit is not awarded.

If Universal Credit is not awarded because the claimant’s earnings are too high given their circumstances then they are likely to fall under ‘6 month rule’ as described below.

If Universal Credit is not awarded for another reason then they are not classed as a Universal Credit claimant and can make a new claim for Housing Benefit. 

What if they withdraw their claim for Universal Credit before it is determined?

A Universal Credit claimant can withdraw their claim at any time – if they do this before the claim is assessed/determined then they are usually* not classed as a Universal Credit claimant and can then make a claim for HB. But before someone withdraws their claim they need to seek advice – to make sure that they are not still treated as a Universal Credit claimant anyway and that withdrawing their Universal Credit claim is definitely the best option for them.

*as long as they don’t fall to be a Universal Credit claimant under any other rule.
2. Awarded & still entitled to Universal Credit.
Someone who is currently in receipt of Universal Credit and has an on-going claim will not be able to make a claim for Housing Benefit unless they live in ‘specified accommodation’ (UC (TP) Reg 6 para 2a).

Can someone on UC withdraw their claim and claim ‘legacy’ benefits instead?

A Universal Credit claimant can withdraw their claim at any time – they are not then classed as a Universal Credit claimant and can make a claim for HB. But before someone withdraws their claim they need to seek advice – to make sure that this is the best option for them and at what point in their Monthly Assessment Period (MAP) would be the best time to withdraw it i.e. timing is crucial because withdrawing at the wrong point in a claimants’ MAP could mean a substantial loss in benefit.

What if a UC claimant is moving in with a non-UC claimant as a partner?

They need to seek advice about whether it is better for them if the non-UC claimant joins the Universal Credit claim as a new partner, or if it is better for the Universal Credit claimant to end their claim for Universal Credit before moving in with the non-UC claimant, so that they can join the partner on the legacy benefit claim(s) instead.

Note: Be aware that in the North West and pathfinder areas they will not be able to make a new claim for Income-Based Jobseekers Allowance, unless they fail the UC  ‘gateway conditions’.

If they decide to end the Universal Credit claim and make a couple claim for the legacy benefits then – in terms of HB:
  • If the non-UC claimant is on HB already then all they need to do is report a change in their circumstances.
  • If the non-UC claimant was not on HB as a single person but wishes to claim now they are part of a couple, as long as the Universal Credit claimant has ended their Universal Credit claim prior to them becoming a couple we do not believe the HB Office has grounds to refuse the HB claim. Where the Universal Credit claimant withdraws their claim, timing will be crucial and they must seek advice. The key here is that the Universal Credit claim must be withdrawn by the claimant – and not terminated by the DWP because they have become a couple.

3. Fall under the '6 month rule'.
For a ‘Live’ / Gateway Service area Universal Credit claim the six month rule will apply where either:

  • New claims - the claimant has made a claim for Universal Credit, they meet all the claiming conditions but due to the level of their earnings the assessment produces a ‘nil entitlement’, or
  • On-going claims - a claimant’s entitlement to Universal Credit becomes ‘nil’ purely because of their earnings – this could be as a result of an increase in their earnings or another change (such as a dependent child leaving the household) which now means their entitlement drops to ‘nil’.

During the six months following this change they do not need to make a new claim for Universal Credit as long as they continue to meet the main claiming criteria and the only reason they are not receiving any Universal Credit is because their earnings are too high given their circumstances.

- ie if they inherit over £16,000 or go abroad for over a calendar month etc then this six month rule would no longer apply.

During this six month period they are classed as a Universal Credit claimant and therefore unable to claim Housing Benefit. (UC(TP) Reg 6 para 2ba).

But this ‘six month rule’ only applies where the claimant had/has earnings – if the new claim was refused for a different reason, or the on-going claim was cancelled for another reason – then the ‘six month rule’ will not apply (although if they were part of a couple claim see below).

4. Previously part of a couple claim.
Where someone has been on Universal Credit as part of a couple claim they will be classed as a Universal Credit claimant even if the Universal Credit claim has come to an end. Whilst classed as a Universal Credit claimant they will not be able to make a claim for HB.

Someone will be classed as a Universal Credit claimant where:

  • They were previously on Universal Credit as part of a couple claim and this was ended when they separated and they were the first member of that couple to notify the DWP of the separation.  In this situation they will be considered to be a Universal Credit claimant for one month from the date they notified the DWP of the separation if no decision has been made as to their entitlement to Universal Credit (UC(TP) Reg 6 para 2c),
  • They were previously on Universal Credit as part of a couple claim and this was ended when they separated, and they either failed to notify the DWP of the separation or they were the second member of that couple to notify the DWP of the separation, and no decision has been made as to their entitlement to Universal Credit (UC(TP) Reg 6 para 2ca),
  • They were previously on Universal Credit as a couple claim and this was ended when one partner died, and no decision has been made as to their entitlement to Universal Credit (UC(TP) Reg 6 para 2ca).


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