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What happens when a Housing Benefit claimant becomes part of a Universal Credit couple – when does their HB end?

Some claimants could be missing out if the HB Office don't know the full facts!

When a Housing Benefit claimant becomes part of a Universal Credit couple – when does their HB end?

There are different rules for different situations – so the answer is not straightforward, and some claimants could be missing out if their HB award is terminated on the wrong date.

(Note – this Hot Topic assumes that the couple need to claim UC – this is not always needed when a couple come together – use our Mapping Tool or email us on info@housingsystems.co.uk if you are unsure.)

The first thing to check is – who is moving out of their home?

Here we are looking at when the HB claimant is moving out of their home and into the home of their UC claiming partner. For more information on the other situations please see this page of the website.
 

If the HB claimant is moving out of their home into the UC claimant’s home

If the HB claimant is moving out of their property (for which they receive HB) to live with their new partner who is a UC claimant, the UC Transitional Regulations state that their HB should end on the day HB would normally end under the HB Regulations. So, their HB should end the Sunday after they move out (or later if they are awarded HB for the notice period due to unavoidable liability).

(Regulation 7(5)(b) of the UC Transitional Regulations 2014 https://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2014/1230/regulation/7).

However, we have heard of cases where the HB claimant’s award has been terminated from the beginning of the UC Monthly Assessment Period in which they move in with their new partner – being the date that they, the new UC claiming partner - are included in the couple’s UC award. This would be a mistake.

This is explained in HB circular A12/2014 (click here):

HB can be paid according to the HB Regulations, so that the New Claimant Partner will not experience any gap in housing support for the property they are leaving, and no overpayment will be created.

Example:

Jill moves in with her new partner (who is already on UC) on Tuesday 18th January. Jill makes a claim for UC and links it to her new partner’s claim. Her partner’s Monthly Assessment Periods run from 6th of one month to 5thof the next, so Jill becomes a UC claimant from 6th January ie the start of the Assessment Period in which she moved in.

The HB for the property she has moved out of will end from the Sunday after the date of the move – ie Sunday 23rd January.
 

Won’t this create a UC overpayment if HB is awarded for the same period as one of the couple has received UC?

No. Looking at the example above, the HB awarded up to the 23rd January is a correct entitlement. This is because it is for a different property – there is no ‘overlap’ with UC as the couple’s UC award does not include a Housing Costs Element for this property.
 

What about the Transition to UC Housing Payment / Two week HB run-on?

The Regulations state that if a HB claimant becomes the partner of someone who is already on UC then they are not entitled to a 2 week run on of their Housing Benefit. This is because they are joining someone who is already on UC and are not seen as making a new claim for it / needing extra help with their transition to the UC system (click here for more information).
 

What if a HB Claimant and UC Claimant are both moving out of their existing properties into a new tenancy together ?

Our understanding is that, if a HB claimant is moving in with a UC claimant to a new home, then the rule explained above also applies.

The Regulation does not specify that the ‘New Claimant Partner’ is moving into the property that is already covered by UC Housing Costs. Just that they are moving out of the HB property in order to move in with a UC claimant. The wording is as follows:

the New Claimant Partner leaves the accommodation in respect of which Housing Benefit was paid, in order to live with A.” [‘A’ being the Universal Credit claimant]

So in these situations, HB ends the Sunday after the move. It could even continue for longer – if the claimant meets the criteria for HB for the notice period due to unavoidable liability – under the HB regulations.

Example:

Tia claims HB, CTC and IS and is moving into a new tenancy with Ifran, who is already on UC.

Ifran’s Monthly Assessment Period runs from 14th of one month to 13thof the next. He is currently living with his parents. The new tenancy starts on 24th January.

If they both move in on Monday 24th January then Tia will need to be added to Ifran’s UC claim for the Monthly Assessment Period that starts on 14th January and that Assessment Period can include a full month’s Housing Costs Element, based on the new rent.

As Tia has left the HB property to move in with a UC claimant, her HB can continue up until the Sunday after she left the property – 30th January. (She is not entitled to the Transition to UC Housing Payment, 2 week run on – see above).

The HB up to 30th January does not affect their UC – it is disregarded completely.

 

What if a UC Claimant is moving out of their home and into their new partner’s home who is getting HB?

The special rule as explained above does not work for this situation. That rule only applies where the ‘New Claimant Partner’ is leaving the home in respect of which HB was paid. So, in this case HB would end the day before UC entitlement starts (ie no Transitional to UC Housing Payment). If HB has already been paid for a period after this date this will be treated as income when their UC claim is assessed.

The UC Housing Cost Element should take over from the HB from the start of the Monthly Assessment Period in which they start living together.

There could, however, be a gap at the property the UC claimant is moving out of - from the beginning of the Monthly Assessment Period in which the claimant has moved to their tenancy end date. Timing the move is important.  

Example:

Terry gets HB. Chris is moving in with him and is already on UC with a Monthly Assessment Period that runs from 20th to 19th. Chris gives notice at his old property and his tenancy end date is 5th February.

If Chris moves in with Terry on 5th February, and they have no option but to stay on UC, Terry will need to make a claim for UC and join it to Chris’s. Terry will be added to Chris’ UC claim for that Monthly Assessment Period – so the MAP that started on 20th January will include Terry and be based on the rent at Terry’s property.

Terry’s HB should end on 19th January – the day before Terry is a UC claimant, but from 20th, the UC Housing Costs Element should help with the rent instead.

However, there is no help for the rent at Chris’ old property from 20th January. UC only helps with rent on two homes in limited circumstances and this is not one of them. Chris would be liable for the full rent at his only property from 20th January to the tenancy end date on 5th February.

The only way to have avoided this would be if Chris had given in his notice earlier or later – so that his move coincided with a date just after the end of his MAP.

 

How does a Local Authority know which rules to use?

Circular A12/2014 confirms that the DWP should send proforma UC MGP1 (LA) to the HB Office, when they are aware that a HB claimant is becoming a New Claim Partner on a UC Claim. We assume this will contain all the information the HB need to check which rules apply to determine the last date of HB entitlement (we are currently checking this out).