Discretionary Housing Payments

Getting extra help with paying your rent

What are Discretionary housing payments?

Discretionary housing payments were introduced in July 2001 and replaced the exceptional hardship and exceptional circumstances payments. They are not payments of housing but separate payments made at the council's discretion in cases where it is considered that extra help with rent is needed.

Payments are made from a set budget that we manage. This means that once the budget has been spent no further awards can be made until the next financial year.

Who can claim?

Anyone who is currently receiving housing benefit and there is a shortfall between the amount of benefit paid and the amount of rent charged, can apply.

You must be in receipt of housing benefit to receive extra help with your rent.

When can Discretionary housing payments not be paid?

We cannot pay a Discretionary housing payment to cover any shortfall where this is due to:

  • service charges being included in the rent that are not eligible for housing benefit
  • your payment of housing has been suspended
  • any sanctions imposed by the Department for Work and Pensions
  • the amount of housing benefit you are entitled to being used to recover an overpayment of benefit.

When would we consider paying a Discretionary housing payment?

All applications will be decided on their own merits, however because payments are made from a limited budget we pay particular attention where the shortfall between the amount of benefit payable and the amount of rent charged has been caused by:

  • restrictions in the maximum amount of benefit payable in accordance with legislation
  • a reduction in the amount of benefit payable due to being a hospital in patient
  • the effect of the tapers used to work out benefit entitlement where there is a real danger of homelessness if the shortfall cannot be met
  • in certain circumstances the effect of non-dependant deductions

Please note that these are only examples. If your personal circumstances are different you should still apply.

How to claim?

Complete the online form.

Awarding a discretionary housing payment?

If we can provide help we will decide who to pay based on the circumstances of each case, this may be:

  • you
  • your partner
  • an appointee or 
  • your landlord

The payments will be included with your normal payment of housing benefit.

How long will it be given for?

This will depend on your circumstances and the funding available. Discretionary housing payments must not be seen as a long term solution to meeting the shortfall that exists. Once the period of the award has ended further payments cannot be guaranteed.

What if your circumstances change?

As with payments of housing benefit, any changes in your circumstances must be reported immediately to the Benefit Service. Further information about Changes in Circumstance is available and you can also use our online form to report a change in circumstances. 

What if you are overpaid?

We will recover any overpaid discretionary housing payments by issuing an invoice. We will notify you in writing of any overpayment and explain your rights to ask for a review. Further information about overpayments is available.

What appeal rights are there?

Discretionary housing payments are not payments of housing benefit and therefore do not carry the same appeal rights. You can however, ask us to review our decision about:

  • not making an award
  • the amount of the award 
  • not backdating the award 
  • an overpayment of benefit

More information about Discretionary Housing Payments (pdf 832kb).

How much have we paid?

Summary of Discretionary Housing Payments.

Contact
Tel: 01785 619478
Fax: 01785 619219
Email: benefits@staffordbc.gov.uk
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