CASH-strapped Brits can get extra help paying their rent or putting down a housing deposit if they’re on benefits or Universal Credit.
Applying for a Discretionary Housing Payment is a little known way of getting extra money from your local council for housing costs.
It is available to those getting benefits for housing in England and Wales, and each local authority dishes out the cash to those in need on a case-by-case basis.
The amount you’ll get will vary and you can use it to cover a rent shortfall, rent deposits, or rent in advance if you need to move house.
However, you can’t get a payment to help pay your Council Tax.
It comes as councils dished out £171million in Discretionary Housing Payments for the financial year ending March 2021.
This was up 30% from the year before, when local authorities coughed up £132million to struggling families.
The jump in money being dished out came at a time when household finances were ravaged by the Covid crisis last year.
Lower income Brits twice as likely as richer ones to have increased their debts during the pandemic, experts revealed.
How do I apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment?
You can apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment if you claim either housing benefit or the housing element of Universal Credit.
How much you get – and if you get the help – is decided on a case-by-case basis by your local council.
But if you’re struggling to cover costs even you’re on benefits, you could receive the help.
You don’t have to pay a Discretionary Housing Payment back.
You could also be eligible if you’ve been affected by the benefit cap.
For Universal Credit claimants, the cap is set at £23,000 per year for couples or lone parents who live in London and £20,000 for those living outside the capital.
But around 200,000 families on Universal Credit and housing benefit are missing out on an average of £62 a week due to this.
You might also get the help if you’ve been affected by local housing allowance rate changes.
To apply for the help, you’ll have to apply through your local council.
Each one has a different application process – you can find out who your local authority is by using the gov.uk‘s online tool.
How much will I get?
There’s no set amount – or limit – for how much you’ll get.
As each council decides whether you’re eligible for the help and how much you’ll get on a case-by-case basis, amounts will vary.
There is also no fixed way of getting the payment – you may get it paid as a one-off lump sum, or as a regular payment, for example monthly.
The payment may be ongoing or have an end date – if you’re claiming it then it’s worth checking when it will finish
If you still need help after the support ends, you can apply for the payment again, although there’s no guarantee of getting it or that it will be the same amount if you do.
There’s no limit on the amount of times you can apply for the payment.
How else can I get help for housing costs?
If you’re not eligible for a Discretionary Housing Payment, there are other ways you can get help with your housing costs.
You might be able to apply to your local council’s welfare assistance scheme for a grant to put towards keeping a roof over your head.
Many local authorities run welfare assistance schemes, which are available to people on a low income who have run into financial difficulties – or who have had to deal with a crisis.
A Sun investigation revealed that councils handing out grants have soared by 210% in some places.
Some councils, like East Riding of Yorkshire, are handing out up to £1,000 in free cash for families to put towards rent.
You could also apply for a council tax reduction to lower the amount you’re spending on your home.
Reductions are available for those on low-incomes, people claiming certain benefits, those caring for others as well as other circumstances.
The amount your bill is reduced by can range from 25% off to 100% which would mean you pay nothing at all for this bill.
The reduction you get will depend on a number of factors, including where you live, your circumstances, your income and how many adults and children live with you.
We explain how you can apply for a discount here.
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