Sunday 16th June 2019
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Discretionary housing payment

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Discretionary housing payment

Under certain circumstances extra help may be available to you if we cannot meet your rent in full or you need help with a rent deposit, rent in advance or removal costs.

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What are discretionary housing payments?

Discretionary housing payments provide extra help to customers who are already getting housing benefit and need further financial assistance with their housing costs. This will usually be because there is a shortfall between the amount of benefit they get and their rent.
 
We receive some money from the government each year to spend on discretionary housing payments but there is a limit on the amount we can spend. This means that not everyone who claims will be awarded this extra help.
 
To qualify for discretionary housing payments, you have to meet certain conditions:
  • you must be receiving some housing benefit or universal credit that includes a housing element towards rental liability
  • there must be a shortfall between the amount of benefit you get and your rent
  • you must be able to show that you need extra help to meet your housing costs

What types of shortfall can discretionary housing payments cover?

You have a shortfall if the amount of housing benefit you receive is less than the rent you have to pay.
 
There may be different reasons why you have a shortfall. Here are a few examples of the types of shortfall discretionary housing payments can help with:
  • when the local housing allowance is less than the rent you have to pay and your landlord will not reduce your rent
  • when your benefit is reduced because of the spare room deduction
  • when your benefit is reduced because you have a non-dependant living with you
  • when your benefit is reduced based on your income
  • when you need to pay a rent deposit or rent in advance to move into another property (but we will normally only consider this if you are moving to a cheaper property because of a shortfall at your current address)

What discretionary housing payments cannot cover

We cannot pay discretionary housing payments to help with the following costs:
  • a shortfall between your council tax and the amount of local council tax support you receive
    services included in your rent which cannot be met by housing benefit (eg heating, meals, water rates, etc)
  • extra payments you are making on top of your normal rent to clear rent arrears
  • reduced income caused by sanctions or reductions in benefit, for example, a reduction applied to your benefit as a result of not attending a work-focused interview or a jobseekers allowance employment sanction

Shortfalls caused by a housing benefit overpayment being recovered from your Housing Benefit or Universal Credit

We will not usually pay you discretionary housing payments if we think you can deal with the shortfall in other ways such as:
  • claiming other benefits you may be entitled to
  • negotiating any debt repayments
  • cutting down on unnecessary and avoidable expenses
If you are living in over large or over expensive accommodation, we will normally expect you to move to smaller, more affordable accommodation.
 
We may pay you a discretionary housing payment for a short time though to give you time to find other accommodation. If there are special reasons why you need to remain in your current home, for example, if your home has been significantly adapted to meet the needs of a disabled person, we will not expect you to move.

How do I claim discretionary housing payments?

It is very important that you fill in all parts of the form and give as much information as possible so we can get a full picture of your circumstances.
 
Some people may find some of the questions intrusive but we only ask for information we need to make a decision about who should get the extra help.
 
As mentioned earlier, there is a limit on how much we can spend on discretionary housing payments so not everyone who claims will be awarded extra help. We try and give the extra help to those most in need so give us as much information as you can.
 
You must also complete the income and expenses pages at the end of the form so we can clearly see how much money you have coming in and what you spend your money on. It is very important that you tell us about everything you spend your money on including any extra expenses related to your health or disabilities.

How long will you pay discretionary housing payments?

Normally, we can only pay discretionary housing payments for a short time, usually to give you time to find other ways of sorting out your financial difficulties.
 
Generally, we pay discretionary housing payments for between three and six months, but we may pay you for a shorter or longer period depending on your circumstances.
 
Longer awards of up to 12 months may be made for example, where someone is recovering from a serious illness and is unable to move to smaller, more affordable accommodation until they recover; or where someone in the household is disabled and the accommodation has been significantly adapted to meet their needs.
 
Once we end your discretionary housing payments, you can make a claim for a further award, but there is no guarantee that you will get the extra help again even if your circumstances have not changed.

What appeal rights do I have if you refuse to pay me discretionary housing payments?

If we turn your claim for discretionary housing payments down you can ask us to look at the decision again. An officer who was not involved in the original decision will look at your claim again including any new information and evidence you want to give us. There is no further right of appeal against this officer’s decision.

Further help and advice

If you want to ask us anything about discretionary housing payments, please get in touch with us.
As part of the process in applying, your details will be passed onto the following independent organisations who will make contact with you separately, to offer money advice and discuss any housing issues.
 

 Downloads

 
 

 Contact information

 
Housing benefit and Council Tax reduction
Luton Borough Council, Town Hall, George Street,, Luton, Bedfordshire, LU1 2BQ
Tel: 0300 790 0345
Fax: 01582 546977
Contact us