Discretionary housing payments (DHP)

A discretionary housing payment (DHP) could help top-up your housing benefit if you are facing hardship, including if you have been affected by housing benefit changes.

A discretionary housing payment won't be a long-term answer, but could help you in the short-term.

What are discretionary housing payments (DHP)?

Each local council is given a pot of money each year to help people who qualify for housing benefit (or similar help under universal credit) but are having trouble paying their rent or finding enough money to pay for the start-up costs of a tenancy.

When the money for the year runs out, no more payments can be made. The government has increased the amount of money available to help some people to adjust to cuts to housing benefits in recent years.

The council decides who should be given a discretionary housing payment (DHP), how much and how often the payment is made. It may be paid weekly or can be a lump sum. Payments can also be backdated.

Use Shelter's checker to find out if you're eligible for housing benefit.

What can discretionary housing payments (DHP) cover?

Discretionary housing payments (DHP) may be granted to pay for a shortfall between your housing benefit and rent. This may include when housing benefit has been reduced due to:

You could get a DHP to pay for the start up costs of a tenancy such as a rent deposit, rent in advance or removal costs. Your local council may make a payment to help you avoid becoming homeless. In some situations, payments can be made to help with rent arrears.

It is possible to get DHPs on two homes if you are away from home temporarily, for example due to domestic violence.

A DHP cannot be paid if the reason for shortfall is that your housing benefit has been reduced to recover an overpayment or because your other benefits have been suspended or reduced (for example, because you left your last job voluntarily).

How do you claim?

Expect to fill in a claim form for a discretionary housing payment (DHP) – you can get this from your local council.

You may be asked for details of your income and outgoings. You could send copies of relevant bills or bank statements.

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.

How does the council make a decision?

Discretionary housing payments (DHP) are not an entitlement in the way that many benefits are. There isn't a set of clear rules that tell you whether or not you'll get a payment. It's up to the council to decide, but the council has to be fair and reasonable in its approach.

The council could ask you to look at what you could do yourself to help your situation. You could be expected to make different choices about how you spend your money.

The council may expect you to make some long-term changes such as moving house and may only be willing to fund short-term help to give you time to make alternative arrangements.

Provide as much information as you can to help the council make a decision.

Use Shelter's advice services directory to find a face-to-face adviser near you.

How much can you be paid?

The council can decide how much to pay you towards a shortfall in rent or to help with the costs of setting up a tenancy (tenancy deposits, rent in advance and removal costs). You may get enough to cover all the costs or help towards some of the costs.

Help with the on-going costs of rent is likely to be for a limited period of time, and there is a maximum amount that can be paid each week.

Can you appeal if you don't get a payment?

There is no right of appeal to a tribunal if the council says it will not give you a discretionary housing payment (DHP), but you can ask the council to have another look at its decision.

If that fails, the only way to challenge the decision is in the courts using judicial review. However, this is not always possible – get advice from a local advice centre about this.

Last updated: 1 January 2014