It’s basic knowledge that there are 52 weeks in a year. But, if we’re renting and have a weekly tenancy, there is such a thing as a 53-week-year.
As odd as it sounds, the reason for this is most people with weekly tenancies pay rent on a Monday. And every 5 or 6 years, there is one extra Monday per year.
This quirk of the calendar becomes important when we’re receiving Universal Credit, because Universal Credit is paid on a monthly cycle. What this means is that we’ll be left one week short of rent over the course of the year.
This could leave us facing rent arrears of one week, even though we have paid rent for 52 weeks. And, you guessed it, 2019/20 is the first 53-week year since the roll out of Universal Credit.
Will this issue affect me?
The issue will potentially affect anyone receiving Universal credit who is on a weekly, fortnightly or ‘four-weekly’ tenancy. Those on a monthly tenancy will not be affected.
The National Housing Federation has been in discussions with the DWP (Department of Work and Pensions) to try and sort this issue out. They have summarized the issue in a fact sheet here and say: ‘We urgently need a change in the legislation and we will continue pressing Ministers and MPs on this issue.’
The DWP have responded by saying, ‘We are currently considering whether this formulation around weekly rents, and potentially other weekly amounts in the UC calculation, should be amended.’
When does the ‘extra’ week fall?
Universal Credit is worked out over the financial year, running from April to March. So the shortfall will be in the last week of March 2020.
What can I do?
If you think this issue will affect you, the first thing to do is contact your landlord. Ask whether this is an issue they are aware of and if there is any support available.
We can also try and save a small amount each week ourselves, and put it aside to pay for any shortfall. Saving 50p per day from now until the end of March 2020 will result in around £75 tucked away.
This page will be updated as and when the DWP make any further changes to their policy.