Are 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.