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Discretionary Housing Payment

group of monopoly housesAre you on Housing Benefit or Universal Credit and struggling to pay your rent? Or perhaps you need to move due to the Welfare Reform changes but don’t have the money for a deposit for privately rented housing, or for removal costs?

​Every year the government gives local councils a pot of money to make Discretionary Housing Payments to help people who qualify for Housing Benefit (or the housing costs element of Universal Credit) who are having trouble with:
  • paying their rent, or
  • finding enough money to pay for the start-up costs of a tenancy, such as rent deposits and removal costs.

Many people have a shortfall between the Housing Benefit they get and the rent they have to pay. 

If you are struggling to meet this shortfall then you can apply to their local council for a Discretionary Housing Payment. This includes where you have been affected by the Bedroom Tax and Benefit Cap.

You can also ask for a Discretionary Housing Payment if you are on Universal Credit and struggling to pay your rent.

Discretionary Housing Payments are awarded at the discretion of the local council – they are not an entitlement in the way that many other benefits are. And there is not a clear set of rules to help the local council decide whether or not they’ll give a payment - so an application can be refused.

Discretionary Housing Payments that are given to help with your on-going shortfall between your rent and Housing Benefit are usually awarded for a limited amount of time - 13 or 26 weeks - so they are not a long-term answer. But you can re-apply at the end of that period.

If you make a claim for a Discretionary Housing Payment you need to explain your personal circumstances in as much detail as possible explaining why you need the extra help and for how long you are likely to require it. You are more likely to get a payment if you will not need it for very long.

If you make a claim for a Discretionary Housing Payment you must continue to pay the shortfall between your rent and Housing Benefit until you have been told the outcome of your claim - otherwise arrears will build up on your rent account.

If a claim for a Discretionary Housing Payment is refused, that decision is not appealable to an independent Tribunal but you can request an internal review of the decision – write to your local council explaining why you disagree with their decision. 

There is no time limit for making a claim for a Discretionary Housing Payment, so you can ask your local council for a Discretionary Housing Payment that covers a period in the past when you were entitled to some Housing Benefit or Universal Credit – which can help reduce any rent arrears on your rent account.​

  
Accordion Description
  
Discretionary Housing Payments can be paid by your local council if they accept that further financial assistance with housing costs is needed. So you must be entitled to some Housing Benefit.  So you must be getting at least 50p a week Housing Benefit – or, if you are getting Universal Credit, you must be liable for your rent, i.e. have a tenancy.) 

Discretionary Housing Payments are given at the local council’s discretion. The pot of money the local council has is limited and they will not be able to help everyone who applies. Most local councils have a list of the situations they would treat as a higher priority – but even if your situation is similar to one of these there is no guarantee of a payment.

You will have more success if you ask for help completing the Discretionary Housing Payment form from an experienced adviser.  Please contact us.​
  
​Most local councils have a list of the situations they would treat as a higher priority. Extra money has been put in the pot to help those affected by recent Housing Benefit changes such as the Bedroom Tax and Benefit Cap, such as:
  • Disabled people living in significantly adapted properties.
  • People who have to sleep in separate bedrooms because of a disability.
  • People who cannot use a bedroom because it contains bulky equipment related to a disability, that cannot be stored anywhere else.
  • Families who are affected by the Bedroom Tax,  who use their "spare" bedroom for someone who comes to stay overnight regularly to provide care for a child or non-dependant.
  • Families affected by the Bedroom Tax, whose "spare" bedroom is used by a child who cannot share a bedroom – but where this is not because a disabled child would disturb the sleep of another.
  • Families affected by the Bedroom Tax, whose "spare" bedroom is used by a child for whom the parent has shared care / access but who does not get Child Benefit for that child.
  • Those who cannot move immediately for reasons of health, education or child protection.
  • People moving to more appropriate accommodation.
  • People having difficulty finding more appropriate accommodation.
  • Those with kinship care responsibilities.
  • Approved or prospective adoptive parents or foster carers.
  • Those in temporary accommodation.
  • Individuals or families fleeing domestic violence.
  • Pregnant women within 11 weeks of their expected due date, and those with children under 9 months old​.
  
The pot of money the local council has is limited and more people apply for one than they are able to help. They are therefore very careful with the amount they award. 

If you are applying for a Discretionary Housing Payment to help you pay your rent – and the council decide to make you an on-going payment, the most the local council can award you is your eligible rent, however it could be less than this. This award will be for a future period of perhaps 13 or 26 weeks. When this period ends, you can ask for a further Discretionary Housing Payment but there is no guarantee that you will get one.

If you are applying for a Discretionary Housing Payment for the start-up costs of a tenancy, such as rent deposits, and the council decide to make you a payment - then it is up to the local council how much they actually give you based on your circumstances.

NOTE: The amount of Housing Benefit actually in payment may be less than your Housing Benefit award, due to the recovery of an overpayment. The Discretionary Housing Payment rules mean that a local council is not allowed to award a Discretionary Housing Payment to cover this part of the shortfall.

NOTE: There are some things a DHP can’t cover – these include:  
  • Ineligible Service charges (ie those that Housing Benefit or Universal Credit won’t pay for such as personal heating and hot water, support services).
  • A deduction taken off your Housing Benefit or Universal Credit to repay an overpayment.
  • A deduction taken off your Universal Credit to repay a loan or an advance payment or a hardship payment.
  • A deduction taken off your Universal Credit to pay a third party, such as a maintenance payment or fine or gas/ electricity/water bill arrears.
  • A deduction taken off your Universal Credit because you have been “sanctioned”.
  • Extra payments on top of your rent to cover rent arrears.
  • Extra payments on top of your rent to cover rent arrears.​
  
​Expect to fill in a claim form for a Discretionary Housing Payment – find out more and apply on the WBC website.

You may be asked for details of your income and outgoings, and may be asked to provide copies of relevant bills or bank statements. You may even be invited in for an interview.

Provide as much information as you can about what makes it hard for you to manage paying your rent. Tell the council for example, if:
  • you have extra health related expenses or need an extra room because of sickness or disability,
  • you have extra travel costs because you travel to a hospital or you care for a relative or friend,
  • your work-related travel costs have increased because you had to move because of Housing Benefit changes,
  • you are likely to become homeless if a payment is not made.
  
No. Discretionary Housing Payments do not count as income or capital when calculating your entitlement to means-tested benefits or Tax Credits.
  

​Yes, the council still has responsibility for deciding and awarding Discretionary Housing Payments.​

  

​The council should not say that you can use your disability benefits to help pay your rent. This is because Personal Independence Payment (PIP), Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and Attendance Allowance, are specifically to pay for disability related expenses. Contact us for advice on challenging this decision. This is more likely if you had a particular reason why you were struggling, or if you need to clear the arrears in order to move to a smaller property because of the Bedroom Tax or Benefit Cap.​