Discretionary housing payments
Updated: 19 May 2013
Who can get a discretionary payment?
Currently only tenants in the private sector can get discretionary payments, but there are proposals to make it available for social tenants from April 2013.
What exactly is a discretionary payment?
It's an extra payment to help pay the difference between the rent charged by a landlord (the contractual rent) and the rent used by us to work out their entitlement to Housing Benefit (eligible rent or Local Housing Allowance).
The difference between the contractual rent and eligible rent is known as a shortfall, and discretionary housing payments may be made to cover some or all of this shortfall.
We award discretionary housing payments from a budget provided by the Department of Social Development (DSD). This budget is limited, therefore discretionary housing payments cannot be guaranteed.
Who can get a discretionary housing payment?
You must be already in receipt of Housing Benefit to claim a discretionary housing payment, and you must have a shortfall between your contractual rent and your eligible rent. You must also show that you need financial help to meet this shortfall.
How do I apply for a discretionary housing payment?
You can contact your nearest Housing Executive office to request a discretionary application, or you can download an application form at the following link:
You should complete and return this form to your nearest Housing Executive office as soon as possible.
How do you decide if I can be awarded a discretionary housing payment?
We will consider all applications for discretionary housing payments while trying to ensure that payments are made to those most in need. There is no list of circumstances that will automatically qualify you for an award of discretionary housing payment. Each request will be considered on its own merits, but you will need to show that you are in need of financial help to meet the shortfall in your rent.
Wherever it is possible and reasonable to do so, you will be expected to take steps to improve the circumstances that have led to your need for a discretionary housing payment, for example, finding more affordable accommodation.
We will ask you for information to support your application and we may ask you to visit us to discuss your claim in more detail.
How much can I get and for how long?
Discretionary housing payments will not be greater than the shortfall between your contractual rent and the eligible rent the Housing Executive uses to work out your Housing Benefit claim.
For example, if your landlord charges you £70.00 per week, and your eligible rent is £65.00 per week, the maximum discretionary housing payment you can get is £5.00 per week.
The money we get to pay discretionary comes from DSD and is strictly limited each year. Therefore if a discretionary housing payment is awarded, it will last for a set period of time (usually a maximum of 6 months).
When your award ends, you may apply for another discretionary housing payment award and this will be considered according to your needs and the amount of discretionary budget remaining. The fact that you have received a discretionary housing payment previously does not guarantee that a further award will be made.
Once the discretionary housing payments budget has been allocated in full, further requests within that year will be turned down.
How will you pay if my application is successful?
We will pay your award with your Housing Benefit; however, a discretionary housing payment is not a payment of Housing Benefit.
What should I do if I disagree with your decision?
If you disagree with our decision not to give you a discretionary housing payment, or the amount we have decided to give you or how long your award lasts, you can ask us to look at the decision again if you write to us within one month of the date that we inform you of the decision.
As an award of discretionary housing payment is not an award of Housing Benefit, you cannot appeal to the Appeals Service about our decision.
What if my circumstances change?
If your circumstances change, you must tell us straight away. We will look at your award of discretionary housing payment again to see if we need to change it. If the change means that we have paid you too much discretionary housing payment, we will ask you to repay the money.