Discretionary housing payments
Local authorities can award a discretionary housing payment (DHP) to claimants if existing benefits do not cover housing costs.
What is a DHP
A discretionary housing payment (DHP) is a payment from a local authority to provide financial support to help a claimant with rent or housing costs.
A claimant does not need to pay back a DHP.
Awards are discretionary and there is a fixed annual budget that the authority cannot exceed.
DHP guidance for local authorities
The DWP Discretionary Housing Payments guidance manual advises local authorities on the operation of the scheme.
Who is eligible for a DHP
A local authority can award a DHP if the claimant:
is entitled to housing benefit or the housing costs element of universal credit
needs further help with housing costs
A claimant cannot get a DHP before their first universal credit payment.
A DHP can be made where a claimant's universal credit would have included an amount for housing costs but they are in exempt or temporary accommodation.
Where a universal credit claimant's housing costs are paid by a managed payment to their landlord they can still apply for a DHP. Some authorities may require the claimant to remove the managed payment before they accept a DHP claim. If the managed payment is removed, the claimant will need to pay rent directly to their landlord.
Find out more about universal credit.
What a DHP can cover
Authorities can use DHPs to support claimants affected by:
the benefit cap
the bedroom tax
reductions in local housing allowance
Local authorities usually award a DHP where there is a shortfall between the claimant's rent and the housing benefit payable.
Authorities might also award a DHP to pay:
rent in advance or a deposit if the claimant needs to move to another property
A DHP cannot pay for rent arrears if the claimant already received a payment of benefit for that rent.
What a DHP cannot cover
A local authority cannot award a DHP to pay for some elements of rent and shortfalls, including:
increases in rent due to outstanding rent arrears
sanctions, reductions and suspensions of benefit
shortfalls caused by the recovery of an overpayment
the shortfall between council tax support and council tax liability
ineligible service charges
Ineligible service charges are service charges included in rent that are ineligible for housing benefit or the housing element of universal credit. Find out more about service charges and universal credit.
How to apply for a DHP
Each local authority decides how their application process will work.
A claimant should contact their council to apply. Shelter's advice for the public incudes a tool to find details of a local authority's DHP team.
The claimant should tell the authority why they need help and if they are at risk of homelessness. They should give details of what caused the problem, for example the bedroom tax or a rent shortfall.
The claimant must provide information the authority needs to make a decision, including details of income, capital and expenditure.
The claimant might need to provide bank statements to support their application if they have a bank account. Find out more about how to open and manage a bank account.
Income from disability benefits
A local authority must consider the purpose of disability-related benefits and whether the claimant has committed the money to liabilities associated with disability.
How much is a DHP
A claimant can receive a DHP award of up to the amount of housing benefit or housing costs in universal credit they are eligible for. In practice, they are unlikely to receive more than any shortfall and might receive some of what they need.
A local authority can award a one-off lump sum to cover rent in advance or a tenancy deposit, or in other cases where the award is not an ongoing cost.
The authority must deduct the amount of any benefit already paid towards housing costs when calculating the amount of a DHP.
Authorities can backdate awards.
Length of a DHP
A local authority decides the start and end dates of a DHP on a case-by-case basis.
Most DHPs are usually only paid for a limited period. A local authority might pay a DHP weekly, fortnightly or monthly. They might make a one-off payment.
A local authority has the discretion to make an award on a long-term or indefinite basis. For example, when an authority awards a DHP to a disabled claimant living in adapted accommodation.
DHP decisions and challenges
The local authority must inform the claimant of the DHP decision in writing or electronically as soon as practicable.
The decision should include explanations and any reasons for non-payment.
Asking for a review of a decision
A claimant can ask the local authority to review a DHP decision if they think it is unfair.
The authority should have a review process and notify the claimant of the outcome of the review in writing as soon as practicable. The authority should outline the reasons for their decision.
A claimant can challenge a DHP decision by judicial review. The claimant could make a complaint to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman if there is an allegation of maladministration.
A claimant can make another application for a DHP.
They should make the authority aware of any new supporting information, for example updated financial information or medical evidence.
Debt and benefits advice
In most cases, a DHP award is a short term payment to give someone time to make changes. This could include getting budgeting and financial advice. Find out more about where to get debt and money advice.
A specialist benefits adviser can discuss if there any benefits someone is eligible to claim to maximise their income. Find out more about where to get advice about benefits and grants.
Last updated: 20 December 2022