Which students can get help towards their rent?
This is the time of year when most courses of education start, and any tenants who are planning to start a course should be also thinking about how they are going to pay their rent while they are studying.
Most full-time students are not able to claim Housing Benefit, and the Universal Credit Regulations are even more restrictive on which students are able to claim. However, it is important to know that some students are eligible to claim.
But remember, even if a student falls into a group that is eligible to claim HB or UC, that does not necessarily mean that they will be entitled – as this will depend on their circumstances and income. Student loans and some grants count as income, but usually only during the academic year.
The easy ones to spot!
Both the HB and the UC Regulations allow the following students to claim:
- Students who have a partner who is not a student.
- Lone parents and single foster parents who have a dependent child or dependent children.
- Couples where both are students who have a dependent child or dependent children.
- Students who are Pension Credit age (they would only be claiming UC if their partner is working age – but remember they could claim Pension Credit and Housing Benefit as an alternative!).
There are other students who are able to claim but the rules are different depending on whether they are claiming HB or UC to support their rent.
If able to claim, would it be HB or UC?
This will depend on whether the student is living in / moving to an area which has the Full/Digital Universal Credit Service and, if so, whether they need to make a new claim.
If the tenant is in a Full/Digital Service area, they already have an ongoing award of Housing Benefit and they have not moved from a different local authority area, becoming a student would be a change of circumstances as far as their HB was concerned, so they would not need to make a claim for UC and they could remain on HB (if they were still eligible as a student).
But if they were not already claiming HB, any new claim for help towards the rent made in a UC Full/Digital Service area would have to be via Universal Credit (unless they have three+ children).
In Live/Gateway Service areas, the 'gateway conditions' prevent students from claiming UC, so in these areas, they could still make a new claim for HB.
If able to claim/stay on HB, which other groups of students could be eligible?
If the student does not have to claim UC instead, they could be eligible for HB if they are:
- Already on a passport benefit ie Income Support, Income-Related Employment and Support Allowance, Income-Based Jobseeker's Allowance, Universal Credit and living in 'specified accommodation', or Guarantee Pension Credit.
- Studying part-time (generally this is less than 16 guided learning hours per week).
- Under 21 and on a full-time course of non-advanced education, OR under 22 and on such a course since before their 21st birthday.
- A disabled student, ie. a full-time student who meets the conditions for the Disability Premium or Severe Disability Premium, or has continuously for 196 days and continues to have (or treated as having) a Limited Capability for Work or qualifies for a disabled student's allowance because they are deaf.
More info here.
Which students can claim UC?
For those needing to claim UC, the rules are stricter regarding which students are eligible. In addition to lone parents, those with a non-student partner etc. as listed at the top of this article, students may be able to get UC if they are:
- Under 21 (or under 22 but were under 21 when their course started), undertaking a full-time course of non-advanced education and are without parental support.
- A student who has taken time out from their course because of illness or caring responsibilities, but the illness / responsibilities have ended, and they are waiting to re-join their course, and they are not eligible for a loan or grant.
- Classed as a 'disabled' student – see below.
Disabled students and UC
Fewer disabled students are able to claim Universal Credit than are able to claim legacy benefits. This is because of a 'catch 22' situation.
The Universal Credit Regulations define a 'disabled student' as someone who is 'entitled to Disability Living Allowance or Personal Independence Payment and has a limited capability for work'. So, whilst it is possible for someone who is already on UC, has already been found to have a Limited Capability for Work and who gets PIP/DLA to become a student and remain on UC, in most situations it is not possible for people who are already students to claim UC! (If they ‘fall under’ the UC service, they cannot make a claim for HB either).
In order to be found to have a limited capability for work, the student must undergo the Work Capability Assessment. The way to get this assessment is by making a claim for benefit. So, the 'catch 22' is: a student cannot be classed as a disabled student without the Work Capability Assessment but they cannot get the Work Capability Assessment due to being ineligible to make a claim for UC as a student who is not classed as a disabled student!
The only exception to this is where the student falls into one of the limited categories of people who can be treated as having a Limited Capability for Work in Schedules 8 and 9 of the Universal Credit Regulations 2013 (eg. undergoing chemotherapy, dialysis, hospital treatment etc).
See here for more details.
What about UC and part-time students?
The UC rules are stricter than HB, because if someone is on a course that is not compatible with their work-related requirements on their Claimant Commitment, and they do not receive any student income in relation to that course, then they will not be eligible for UC.
What happens if it is a non-dependant who is going away to university?
Non-dependants can affect a parents HB or UC award if the parents home is deemed to be the student's 'normal home'. So the question will be – what is the student’s 'normal home'?
If the decision maker agrees that the student’s normal home is their parental home, they will still be allocated a room under the size criteria. If the parent is claiming Housing Benefit, no non-dependant deduction is applied in respect of a student (unless working during the summer holidays), whereas for Universal Credit, if the student is aged 21 or over, a housing cost contribution is deducted.
If the student accommodation is seen to be the student’s normal home, then no bedroom is allocated for them at their family home.
See here for more details on HB and here for UC.