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Discretionary housing payments

Find out if you can claim discretionary housing payment and how to apply.

What is a discretionary housing payment?

A discretionary housing payment is additional money that can be paid to you if:

  • you get money for housing costs included in your universal credit, or you get housing benefit
  • and this isn't enough to meet the cost of your housing costs in full

Discretionary housing payment can be paid weekly, or can be a lump sum, it can also be backdated.

It might also be paid for

  • rent arrears (if these were due to a shortfall between your benefits and the cost of your rent
  • rent in advance
  • rent deposit

Who can get a discretionary housing payment?

Anyone who is in receipt of housing benefit or universal credit can claim discretionary housing payment (providing you have a housing cost)

It can't be used for:

  • council tax
  • if your financial need is only because you are repaying a benefit overpayment
  • and some service charges are excluded.

How to apply

You need to make your application to your local council. Most local councils have a way you can apply online on their website, or you can contact them by phone and ask how to make an application.

The council will assess and decide if you can receive a payment. They will usually take into account any special circumstances that contribute to your financial difficulties. When you apply its important to let the council know, or example:

  • if you have been affected by the benefit cap
  • if your universal credit or housing benefit doesn't cover the full cost of your rent
  • for a deposit or rent in advance for a property you have yet to move into so long as you are already receiving housing benefit or universal credit 
  • if your rent shortfall is putting you at risk of becoming homeless
  • if you have extra heating costs because you spend a lot of time at home because you are sick or disabled
  • you have additional travel costs because you travel to a doctor or hospital or you care for a relative or friend
  • if your finances have been affected due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

It can be helpful to show what your income and outgoings are especially if you have any extra costs due to things like a family emergency, or a disability. Provide as much evidence to support this as you can.

If I don't get it, can I appeal?

You can ask the council to review their decision. You should give as much information as you can about why you need the payment. You might want to speak with an adviser about this.

Scotland map Housing laws differ between Scotland and England.
This content applies to Scotland only.
Get advice if you're in England

The important points

  • If you receive housing benefit or universal credit (that includes housing costs towards your rent) and it doesn't cover your rent then you can apply for discretionary housing payments.
  • You will be asked how much money you spend each month.
  • Discretionary housing payments can be paid weekly, or can be a lump sum.

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