On this page
- What are discretionary housing payments
- Who can get a discretionary housing payment
- How much are discretionary housing payments
- Claiming discretionary housing payments
- How to challenge a discretionary housing payment decision
- Future changes
- More information
Discretionary housing payments are extra payments that can be made by your local authority if you need help to pay your housing costs.
You can get a discretionary housing payment from your local authority if you are entitled to housing benefit or universal credit which includes an amount for rent costs. Discretionary housing payments are for help with your rent - for example because:
- your benefit is reduced because of the bedroom tax or the benefit cap
- the local housing allowance does not cover your full rent
- your benefit does not cover your rent because of non-dependant deductions
- you need help with a rent deposit or rent in advance
- you need help with removal expenses
The Scottish government provinces funding through discretionary housing payments to mitigate the effects of the bedroom tax and the benefit cap. This means that if you are affected by the bedroom tax or the benefit cap and you apply to your local authority for a discretionary housing payment you should get one. Read the Scottish government announcement about benefit cap on gov.scot.
However, the scheme is discretionary so the local authority can decide whether to pay you, how much to pay and for how long.
Your local authority decides how much discretionary housing payment to award you, and how long for. This could be a one-off payment, or the same amount every week or month. But for weekly or monthly payments, the amount of a discretionary housing payment cannot be more than the amount of universal credit or housing benefit that you get to help with your rent.
The local authority decides how to pay you. For example, it could be paid alongside your housing benefit, direct to your landlord or into your bank account.
You claim a discretionary housing payment from your local authority, whether you are getting housing benefit or universal credit. The rules on how you can claim are set by your local authority. Find links to local authority webpages about discretionary housing payments on mygov.scot.
If you disagree with a decision about a discretionary housing payment you can challenge this decision by requesting a review.
If you are unhappy with a local authority’s decision about a discretionary housing payment, you can ask for the decision to be looked at again. This is called a ‘review’.
There is no time limit to ask for a review, but you should do so as soon as possible after finding out about the decision. There are no rules about how you have to request a review. Check the decision notice to see how your local authority wants you to request a review.
If you are still unhappy with the decision
If you are still unhappy with the decision after a review, you cannot appeal against it. You will need to either make a complaint to the local authority, or get legal advice about whether you have grounds for judicial review.
You can find information about your local authority’s complaints procedure on its website. Find links to local authority websites on mygov.scot.
Changing the law about discretionary housing payments
The Scottish government plans to change the law about discretionary housing payments, and will then have to produce guidance to local authorities about them. It is not known when this will happen.
Abolishing the bedroom tax
The Scottish government has the power to decide how much help with rent people can get in universal credit. It says that it will no longer make bedroom tax reductions, but it is not clear when this will happen.
When the change is made and there are no bedroom tax reductions, some people will see their extra universal credit reduced by the benefit cap instead. The Scottish government will make sure that no-one loses out by introducing ‘housing assistance’. It is expected that this will be paid with your universal credit, and you will not need to do anything.
For in-depth information about discretionary housing payments, see chapter 29 of the Welfare benefits and tax credits handbook. You'll need a subscription to be able to log in and read the content.
The DWP has published good practice guidance about discretionary housing payments for local authorities in England and Wales. As there is no Scottish guidance, local authorities in Scotland may still be using the DWP guidance. Read the discretionary housing payments guidance manual on gov.uk.
Read the regulations about discretionary housing payments on legislation.gov.uk.