Discretionary housing payments (DHPs) are for people receiving Housing Benefit, or the housing costs element of Universal Credit, who need more help with their housing costs.

Discretionary housing payments can pay some, or all, of the shortfall between the amount of your rent and the level of benefit you’re already receiving. They can also be awarded to help you pay rent arrears.

There is a limited amount of money available for discretionary housing payments. Once this has been used up we will not be able to give extra payments.

Who can apply for discretionary housing payments?

You can only apply if you are currently entitled to Housing Benefit or the housing costs element of Universal Credit.

There are no set circumstances, but you will need to prove that you are in financial difficulty and in need of further help.

What the payment can cover

  • reductions in Housing Benefit or Universal Credit due to benefit changes, for example the benefit cap or under occupancy of additional bedrooms
  • shortfalls between Housing Benefit or Universal credit and the amount of your rent for other reasons (we’ll look at the circumstances of each case individually)
  • rent arrears

What the payment cannot cover

  • help with Council Tax
  • service charges not covered by Housing Benefit or Universal Credit, for example heating, meals or water charges
  • sanctions that have been applied to your benefit because you have broken the terms of your claim
  • shortfalls in benefit caused by recovery of overpayments

How much could you get and for how long?

We look at each case individually and cannot guarantee that you will definitely receive payment. How much we give you depends on your circumstances. Discretionary housing payments are usually paid on a temporary basis (normally for 13 weeks) to give people the opportunity to resolve their financial difficulties, find employment or seek more affordable housing.

How is it paid?

If you get Housing Benefit your discretionary housing payment will be included with your normal benefit payments. If the discretionary housing payment is to cover rent arrears, a one-off payment will be made to you or your landlord.

If you get Universal Credit your discretionary housing payment will be paid to you every four weeks. If it’s to pay off rent arrears you’ll receive a one-off payment.

How to apply

To apply for a discretionary housing payment you will need to fill in an application form. The form asks you to explain why you think you need extra help. You’ll also need to tell us about the money you have coming in to the household and what you spend it on.

How we decide whether to award a discretionary housing payment

We look at each case and consider the following when we make a decision:

  • the household income
  • any savings the household may have
  • if anyone in the household is ill or disabled
  • if the person claiming has anyone else in the household that could help
  • if the person claiming has tried to help themselves or has a plan for a solution
  • if the household has any debts
  • if the household could budget to afford some or all of the shortfall
  • any other relevant information

We will ask you to provide evidence to support your application and may contact you to discuss your claim in more detail.

We will write to you to tell you our decision and our reasons for it.

If you disagree with our decision

If you disagree with our decision not to give you a discretionary housing payment, the amount we have decided to give you or how long we will give you it for, you can ask us to look at the decision again.

You should write to us within one calendar month of the date on the decision letter, explaining why you don’t agree with our decision. We’ll then look at the decision again.

Discretionary housing payments are not covered by the same law as Housing Benefit or Universal Credit, so you cannot appeal to the Tribunals Service if you disagree with our decision.

If your circumstances change

You must tell us about any changes in your circumstances as soon as they happen.

We will look at your discretionary housing payment again to see if we need to change it. If the change means we have to reduce your discretionary housing payment, you might have to pay back some or all of the payment we have already given you.

Other support available

  • Council Tax Support can help people on a low income to pay Council Tax.
  • The Welfare Support Scheme can provide further financial support to help pay for essential daily living needs, household items or bills.

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