Ask CPAG Online - How and for how long will you be paid?

If you are awarded a discretionary housing payment (DHP), it is up to the local authority (LA) to decide how, for how long, and when to pay you. If there are long delays in paying you, you could make a complaint (see ‘What can you do if there are delays?’).

How will you be paid?

In most cases, where you awarded DHPs for rent shortfalls and you are getting housing benefit (HB), the LA is likely to pay you via its HB payment systems along with your normal HB payments. If it does this, the notifications it sends you should make it clear how much HB and how much DHP you are getting (see paragraph 4.7 of The DHP Guidance Manual and Good Practice Guide for LAs).

If you are getting universal credit (UC), the LA may pay you at the same monthly intervals as UC (see paragraphs 2.29 and 4.8).

If you are awarded a DHP for moving costs or past rent arrears, you should receive a lump sum payment. The LA will normally seek to pay DHPs by direct transfer into your bank account, but if this is difficult for you, it can pay you in another way.

The LA can pay DHPs direct to your landlord (or prospective landlord) and is likely to do this if your HB or UC housing costs are already being paid in this way. If you are a council tenant, DHPs can be credited directly to your rent account. If you have an appointee acting for you, your DHPs can be paid to them on your behalf.

When will your DHPs start and finish? 

The LA must decide when to pay you from and until, depending on the details of your need as set out in your application. The LA may decide to pay you from the date of your application, but there is nothing to stop them from making backdated or advance payments (see paragraph 4.8 of the Good Practice Guide).

There are no restrictions on getting backdated DHPs, including for periods prior to your application, as long as you were getting HB or UC housing costs throughout the relevant period. Where, for example, you have accumulated rent arrears because of the ’benefit cap’, the ‘bedroom tax’, or local housing allowance restrictions, you can request DHPs to pay off the arrears. This may particularly apply where you have, or intend to, take steps to mitigate the problem by, for example, moving into work or to a new home (see paragraph 3.21 of the Guidance Manual).

The LA should tell you for how long you will get DHPs. You could be paid for a limited time or indefinitely depending on your circumstances. If you are awarded DHPs for a limited period, you can reapply when the period ends, particularly if your circumstances have not changed. You can challenge the length of your award using the LA’s dispute procedure (see ‘How can you dispute a DHP decision?).

The Guidance Manual (paragraphs 5.0 to 5.2) advises LAs as follows:

‘There is no limit to the length of time over which a DHP may be made. A time-limited award may be appropriate when an impending change in circumstances will result in an increase in benefit. It may also be appropriate for you to make a short-term award to give the claimant time to sort out their financial or housing circumstances, particularly if they are trying to find alternative accommodation or gain employment. Alternatively, you may wish to make a long-term or indefinite award until the claimant’s circumstances change….. It may be more appropriate to make a long term award in cases where a claimant’s circumstances are unlikely to change and making a short term award will cause them undue distress.’

Paragraph 5.3 of the Guidance Manual gives the following examples of where a longer term or indefinite award may be appropriate:

  • a disabled claimant who lives in significantly adapted accommodation and is subject to the ‘bedroom tax’;

  • a claimant with a medical condition which makes it difficult to share a bedroom;

  • a disabled child who needs a separate bedroom, but does not qualify for the middle or higher rate of the DLA care component.

What if your circumstances change?

You are required to notify the LA of any changes in your circumstances which may be relevant to the continuance of your DHPs.1 The LA should inform you of the changes you need to report and how to report them (see paragraph 5.6 of the Guidance Manual). There is no legal time limit for you to notify changes, but you should do so as soon as possible to avoid a possible overpayment.

When can a LA review your award?

A LA can review your DHP award at any time. This is most likely to happen when you report a change of circumstances. Following a review, the LA has the power to cancel your DHPs and ask you to pay back any DHPs paid to you because:

  • you misrepresented or failed to disclose a material fact about your circumstances; or

  • an error was made when the LA was deciding your application.2

You can challenge any decision to cancel your award and recover an overpayment by using the LA’s dispute procedure (see ‘How can you dispute a DHP decision?).