Discretionary Housing Payment
A discretionary housing payment (DHP) is not part of the Housing Benefit (HB) scheme, although you do have to be in receipt of HB and CTB in order to claim one.
The purpose of the scheme is to offer “further financial assistance with housing costs”, and to achieve this the Government provide Wrexham Council with a finite grant to distribute as it decides based upon individual circumstances. Once the grant for the financial year has been spent the Council cannot legally make any further payments.
In order to qualify for a DHP you will need to show that you are suffering a degree of financial difficulty as a result of your Housing and Council Tax Benefit not covering all of your housing costs (we consider Council Tax to be a housing cost). You do not need to show that you are suffering from “hardship”, or that your circumstances are “exceptional”, but you will need to show that you require “further financial assistance” to meet any shortfall in you have in your rent.
The types of shortfalls a DHP can cover
- A shortfall between the Rent Officer’s restricted rent decision and your eligible rent
- A shortfall between the Local Housing Allowance Rate and your actual rent
- A shortfall as a result of a non-dependant deduction
- A shortfall due to the effect of the income tapers in benefit schemes.
What a DHP can’t be used to cover
- Any ineligible service charges
- An increase in your rent to cover rent arrears
- A shortfall in the second adult rebate elements of a claimant’s Council Tax Benefit
- Any sanctions or reduction in benefit applied by any public authority
- Your rent liability if you only qualify for Council Tax Benefit
- Any rent shortfall due to your HB being suspended.
How to claim a DHP
The Council do not have a dedicated claim form for claiming a DHP, instead we ask claimants to write to us explaining why they feel they should be considered for a DHP.
To substantiate your DHP claim the Council will need you to provide a complete financial statement showing your income and expenditure. From this we will be able to determine the degree of assistance we can offer.
How we will decide your DHP claim
Essentially the Council will compare your income and expenditure to see whether you are in need of “further financial assistance” to meet your housing costs. Please remember the decision we reach is “discretionary” and isn’t governed by strict regulations, although the Council will ensure that all decisions made are equitable and reasonable.
Please note that the regulations regarding the treatment of income in HB claims do not apply in DHP decision making, and that we may decide to count income into a DHP calculation that might have disregarded in your HB assessment.
Similarly we can use our discretion when determining if your expenses are reasonable. Any decisions made about a person’s expenditure will be done on an individual basis and may require some additional clarification by the Council.
How much will you award?
It is up to our discretion as to how much of your rent shortfall we will meet by way of a DHP however the amount cannot exceed your eligible rent or Council Tax liability when combined with your Housing and Council Tax Benefit.
The length of a DHP award
The Council have the discretion to award a DHP for as long as it feels is necessary. We can award a DHP for a short period in order to allow the recipient to sort out their financial circumstances or we can make an indefinite award until there is an advantageous change in the claimant’s circumstances. In any case we will clearly set out when the award will start and end.
The Council also has the discretion to backdate a DHP award to match the start of the claimant’s circumstances.
When we have made a decision about your DHP claim
The Council will write to you explaining the decision we have made. This letter will advise you how much the award is, how long the award is for, the arrangements for reviewing the decision, your responsibilities and your rights to dispute the decision. Please note that the appeal rights that exist in Housing and Council Tax Benefit do not exist for a DHP.
We do not have a legal obligation to notify landlords of a DHP decision.
Changes of Circumstance
A claimant receiving a DHP is obliged to notify the Council of any changes of circumstances which affects their DHP award. In most cases the change will also affect the recipient’s HB or CTB and will be picked up from their HB / CTB notification.
Should the circumstances be such that they no longer make the award of a DHP appropriate, the Council has the right to terminate the award from the end of the benefit week in which your circumstances changed.
Overpaid Discretionary Housing Payments
The Council will only recover an overpaid DHP award if the overpayment arose as a result of:
- misrepresentation or failure to disclose a material fact, fraudulently or otherwise;
- or due to an error made when we decided your claim.
Should you disagree with our decision
There are no comparable appeal rights for DHP decision making as there are in HB / CTB decision making. Should you disagree with our decision please write to the Council outlining the reasons why you disagree with our decision and we will review the decision made. If we are unable to change our decision we will advise you of what rights you have from thereon.