Housing Systems: Combating poverty and sustaining tenancies.

Coronavirus: Universal Credit - Stuck Abroad?
Universal Credit - Stuck Abroad?
Due to the Coronavirus some people are stuck abroad and struggling to get back to the UK.

On Universal Credit
There has been no change to the UC Regulations on being temporarily away from home, and whilst the DWP may have continued to pay UC for a while, they do now seem to be applying the rules and ending UC once the claimant has been out of Great Britain for more than a month.

Anyone in this position needs to contact their landlord to explain the situation, and contact the British Embassy /Consulate in the country where they are staying, to request assistance. Contact details on this gov.uk page.

They should also follow the advice about seeking local support and/or applying for an emergency government loan, as given in the parliamentary answer below; they should also check to see if their travel insurance covers rent payments while away.

Not already on UC, or UC terminated?
If they are not already on UC, we do not think that they will be able to make a new claim for it if they are stuck abroad, even if they have no income for the period they are abroad. However, if claiming UC would be the best option for them (eg they are not currently getting Tax Credits), although we don't hold out a lot of hope (because they are not 'in Great Britain' when they claim), they could try claiming over the phone. 
If they are unable to claim and they need help paying their rent, it is worth checking to see if there is anyone else living in the property who may already be getting UC or could make a new claim for it - they may be able to get help with the rent if the DWP considers it reasonable to treat them as liable for the rent in the tenant's absence.

In a  parliamentary answer in relation to people stranded abroad, on 22nd June 2020, Justin Tomlinson stated:

"FCO consular staff continue to provide advice and support to British nationals who face financial difficulties overseas due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Those in real financial distress whilst stranded overseas can seek advice and support from their local consular team, who will be able to advise on any local support that may be available as well as facilitate contact with friends and families who may be able to help. The FCO are also working with Non-Governmental Organisations to facilitate support to British nationals in need, including accommodation, food and medicine.

If a British national cannot afford travel costs back to the UK or essential living costs while they are waiting to return and have exhausted all other options they may be eligible to apply for an emergency loan from the government. These loans are interest free. This is a last resort option, with repayment required in full. However, the FCO would work with those British nationals’ currently stranded overseas to ensure flexible repayment plans are in place if they cannot afford to repay the loan within six months.

Frequently Asked Questions
We have a tenant who is currently unable to leave New Zealand; he had a job offer but this has fallen through and now he is unable to travel home due to the Coronavirus outbreak. He is planning to return but does not know when this will be. 
He was previously self employed and had no claim for benefits. 
Would he be able to make a new claim for UC to cover his housing costs whilst out of the country due to Coronavirus?

There's nothing to stop him trying to claim from abroad (online or over the phone) but we think he would probably be turned down. 
Under the basic conditions of entitlement to UC he has to be "in Great Britain" - which means physically being in GB as well as passing both parts of the habitual residence test.
And he doesn't even come under the temporary absence rules (Reg 11 of the UC Regs treats someone as being in GB if away and intending to return within a month), because those rules only apply to people who were already on UC when they went away.
He could check if his travel insurance could cover his rent payments while he is stuck abroad.
Or, if someone else was already living in the property when he went away, they might be able to claim - they could be treated as liable to pay the rent while the tenant is away if the DWP considers it reasonable to do so.

He should also follow the government advice about seeking help from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (see parliamentary answer above).