Skip to content Skip to footer

Get help with debt and rent arrears if you're on Universal Credit

This advice applies to England

There are some steps you can take if you’re getting Universal Credit (or have recently applied) and you’re in debt, rent arrears or struggling with money.

The following options might be available to you if you need help.

If you’ve just applied - get money in advance

It takes at least 5 weeks to get your first Universal Credit payment after you apply.

You can apply for an advance payment, usually up to 21 days after you submit your Universal Credit claim online. The advance payment is a loan - you’ll have to pay it back.

Find out how to get an advance payment and who is eligible.

Arrange your benefits payments to help you get out of debt

There are some Universal Credit payment options that can help you manage your money. These are called ‘alternative payment arrangements’.

You can get:

  • money paid directly to your landlord for rent - this means your rent will automatically get paid each month from your Universal Credit payment
  • payments weekly or fortnightly instead of monthly - this can help prevent you from running out of money if you’re struggling to make your payment last a whole month
  • payments split into 2 bank accounts instead of one (couples only) - this can help you manage your money yourself if you have responsibilities that are different to your partner’s, or if you’ve been a victim of abuse and want to manage your money yourself

Eligibility

You’ll be considered for the alternative payment arrangements if you or your partner:

  • are in rent arrears
  • are in debt
  • live in temporary or supported accommodation
  • have learning difficulties, such as problems with reading, writing or maths
  • are homeless, or have been homeless before
  • have a mental health condition
  • have drug, alcohol or gambling addiction
  • have experienced domestic abuse
  • are young and leaving care
  • are aged 16 or 17
  • don’t have a bank account
  • are a refugee or an asylum seeker
  • have a disability
  • have just left prison
  • have just left hospital
  • have difficulty speaking or understanding English
  • have had a recent bereavement
  • have been in the armed forces

How to arrange the payments

If you’re currently applying for Universal Credit, or about to apply, the best time to ask for an alternative payment arrangement is at the interview you’ll attend as part of your application.

If you’re already getting Universal Credit, you should call the Universal Credit helpline and ask for the alternative payment arrangements you need.

Universal Credit helpline number if you have an online account
Telephone: 0345 600 4272
Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm

Universal Credit helpline number if you don’t have an online account
Telephone: 0345 600 0723
Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm

Calls can cost up to 9p a minute from a landline, or between 3p and 55p a minute from a mobile (your phone supplier can tell you how much you’ll pay). It should be free if you call from your mobile and have landline calls included in your contract. You can call and ask them to call you back.

Using your Universal Credit to pay for rent arrears

If you’re 2 months or more behind on your rent, your landlord can ask for some of your regular payment to cover your rent arrears. Your landlord will have been told that you’re getting Universal Credit when you apply.

Call the Universal Credit helpline if rent arrears deductions mean that you can’t afford your day-to-day expenses like food or bills - they might be able to give your landlord less money for rent arrears. It will help if you tell them what bills you have and for how much, and tell them how much money you need for your day-to-day expenses like food, toiletries, medicine etc.

Universal Credit helpline number if you have an online account
Telephone: 0345 600 4272
Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm

Universal Credit helpline number if you don’t have an online account
Telephone: 0345 600 0723
Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm

Calls can cost up to 9p a minute from a landline, or between 3p and 55p a minute from a mobile (your phone supplier can tell you how much you’ll pay). It should be free if you call from your mobile and have landline calls included in your contract. You can call and ask them to call you back.

Talk to your creditors and landlord

If you’re making debt repayments to creditors or a debt management company, you should contact them to explain the situation. Ring them or write to them to explain that you’ve applied for Universal Credit but won’t get your first payment for at least 5 weeks and ask them to accept a later payment from you. You could also ask them to freeze interest until you get your Universal Credit payment.

If your landlord is asking for rent and your Universal Credit payment is delayed, talk to your landlord to explain the situation. Ask if you can pay your rent late, once the Universal Credit payment comes through. If you’re worried about talking to your landlord, or your landlord isn’t being helpful, you can get housing advice from Citizens Advice or Shelter (if you live in England, Wales or Scotland).

Did this advice help?