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Discretionary Housing Payments

Key information

A Discretionary Housing Payment is a payment you may receive at the discretion of your local authority to provide extra help with housing costs on top of your Housing Benefit.

Applies to: England, Wales and Scotland.

Age rules: There are no age rules that affect Discretionary Housing Payment entitlement. However, you must be old enough to have a legally enforceable liability for rent.

Taxable: No

Administered by: Your local authority



You can read through this information sheet, or go directly to the sections you want to read by clicking on these links:

Who does it help?

A Discretionary Housing Payment is for people in need of extra financial assistance on top of their Housing Benefit.

You must be entitled to Housing Benefit or the Housing Costs element of Universal Credit to apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment.

Your local authority will decide how to treat any income or other resources you have.

The Government has increased the funding given to Local Authorities for Discretionary Housing Payments to help people affected by the Benefit Cap and other Housing Benefit changes. Specifically the following groups of people:

  • Those in temporary accommodation
  • Individuals or families fleeing domestic violence
  • Those with kinship care responsibilities
  • Those who cannot move immediately for reasons of health, education or child protection
  • Households moving to more appropriate accommodation
  • Households having difficulty finding more appropriate accommodation
  • Disabled people living in significantly adapted accommodation
  • Approved or prospective adoptive parents or foster carers.

Once your local authority has spent its budget (provided by the Government) it cannot award any more payments for that financial year. They cannot help everyone so decisions about priority have to be made.

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What help does it provide?

A Discretionary Housing Payment can help towards housing costs. It can be paid if your Housing Benefit does not meet the full rent you must pay, there can be several reasons for this, for example:

  • your Local Housing Allowance is lower than your rent in private rented property
  • your Housing Benefit is reduced because of non-dependant deductions/housing costs contributions
  • your Housing Benefit is reduced because of a decision that you have a spare bedroom/s in social rented property
  • your Housing Benefit is reduced due to the Benefit Cap

A Discretionary Housing Payment could also be paid to help with a rent deposit or rent in advance for a property you haven't moved into yet as long as you are entitled to Housing Benefit for your current home. It could also help with lump sum expenses like removal costs. You can still apply to your current local authority for assistance even if you are moving to a different area.

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What help doesn't it provide?

A Discretionary Housing Payment can not be used to cover an increase in rent due to arrears or to make up the difference if an overpayment is being recovered from your Housing Benefit. It also can't help to cover certain sanctions or reductions in benefit.

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How much does it pay?

Your local authority will decide whether to award a Discretionary Housing Payment, how much to award, and for how long.

The amount you get could cover all or part of your shortfall in rent or the costs of taking up a tenancy.

There is no limit to length of time over which Discretionary Housing Payments can be made. It could be a one-off or an indefinite award.

The payment could be made to you or direct to your landlord.

Discretionary Housing Payments do not count as income or capital when calculating your entitlement to means-tested benefits or Tax Credits.

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How do I make a claim?

A claim for a Discretionary Housing Payment is different to a claim for Housing Benefit. You should ask your local authority how to make a claim. They may accept claims in writing, over the telephone or electronically. You can find the contact details of your local council (link opens in a new window) on the GOV.UK website.

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Can it be backdated?

There are no rules on backdating. It is up to your local authority whether any award will be backdated and for how long.

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Challenging decisions

You can ask your local authority to review its decision and you should receive the new decision and any reasons in writing. There is no right of appeal against a Discretionary Housing Payment decision but occasionally you may be able to apply for a Judicial Review in the High Court; you will need to seek legal advice on this. You could contact the local government ombudsman if you believe there has been maladministration.

Further information on Challenges and complaints.

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Change of circumstance

You are required to notify your local authority of any changes of circumstances which may be relevant to you continuing to receive Discretionary Housing Payments. You will be told about the changes you should report.

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Updated: 28 March 2013



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