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Discretionary Housing Payments

Discretionary Housing Payments are for people on low incomes who need extra money to help pay rent.

About Discretionary Housing Payments

A Discretionary Housing Payment is similar to a benefit but is more like a grant. These payments are given out by local councils in England, Wales and Scotland, and the Northern Ireland Housing Executive in Northern Ireland. Discretionary means that no one has a right to a payment and there is no set amount or set period that it must be granted for.

Who are Discretionary Housing Payments for?

You may be able to get a Discretionary Housing Payment if you qualify for at least some Housing Benefit and if you seem to them to need extra money to pay your rent.

How much could you get?

The government gives each local council and the Housing Executive in Northern Ireland a limited amount of money each year to pay out as Discretionary Housing Payments. This means that there’s no guarantee you’ll get one or, if you do, how long it will be paid for. If you do get payments over a long period, you should tell the local council or Housing Executive if your circumstances change as this could affect your entitlement to the payment.

How to ask for a Discretionary Housing Payment

Most councils and the Housing Executive have a form that you need to complete to request a Discretionary Housing Payment. If your council doesn’t, write a letter instead. Explain your circumstances in as much detail as you can. For example, if you get a benefit like Personal Independence Payment, you should explain what your disability needs are, otherwise the council or Housing Executive could expect you to spend it on your rent (even if the Housing Benefit rules would normally not take it into account).

If your application is rejected

The Housing Benefit appeals system doesn’t apply to Discretionary Housing Payments, but you have the right to ask the council or Housing Executive to look again at its decision if you’re not happy.  

Also, if you think that your council or the Housing Executive has made its decision unlawfully (in the wrong way), you may be able to challenge it in the High Court, but only if you do so within three months of the decision. This is a complex area of law and can be expensive. If this is something you want to do, it’s a good idea to contact a specialist solicitor for advice as soon as possible. Examples of where a decision is made in the wrong way include where the council has:

  • applied a blanket policy, for example that they only grant lump sums or don’t grant Discretionary Housing Payments for help with a rent deposit
  • taken into account your Disability Living Allowance or Personal Independence Payment when assessing how much money you have to pay your rent
  • refused your application without providing reasons.

Useful links

Housing Rights Service (Northern Ireland)
Turn2us   – discretionary housing payments (England, Wales and Scotland) 

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