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Can a Discretionary Housing Payment be used to pay rent for a period before Housing Benefit is awarded?

Benefits38
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Welfare Benefits Team, The Money Carer Foundation

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Hello

We have a client who we have made an application for Housing Benefit for.  It is likely that the Housing Benefit will only be backdated for one month as the client is of working age.  However, the client moved into their property about three months ago.  There was a delay in making the claim because we had problems obtaining the tenancy agreement.  After Housing Benefit is awarded, could a Discretionary Housing Payment be made to pay rent for the period before the Housing Benefit is likely to be awarded for?

Thanks

HB Anorak
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Benefits consultant/trainer - hbanorak.co.uk, East London

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Not according to the very clear case law (Natasha Gargett and Lambeth Council), but this is routinely ignored including by DWP in their DHP guidance.  Local authorities are not officially discouraged from conjuring lump-sum DHPs out of thin air, despite the regulations (as confirmed in Gargett) saying that any DHP, whether it is paid from week to week, month to month or as a one-off, must be calculated by reference to a period in which there is a weekly/monthly shortfall between entitlement to HB or UC and the full rent.  Nothing bad will happen if they do it.

Depending on how the budget looks, this could be a very good time or a very bad time of year to ask for a large DHP.  If there is an underspend they will be looking to use it for any old case before the end of this month because it goes back to central government otherwise and the underspend might well be noted down and used to inform future allocation decisions.  But if the budget has already gone, now would not be a good time.

Benefits38
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Welfare Benefits Team, The Money Carer Foundation

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Thank you for your help HB Anorak.  Do I need to wait for the Housing Benefit to be awarded until I apply for the Discretionary Housing Payment?

HB Anorak
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Yes, I think it would be stretching a bit too far to get a DHP without any HB entitlement at all at any time

Vonny
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Welfare rights adviser - Social Inclusion Unit, Swansea

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Benefits38 - 04 March 2020 01:26 PM

Hello

We have a client who we have made an application for Housing Benefit for.  It is likely that the Housing Benefit will only be backdated for one month as the client is of working age.  However, the client moved into their property about three months ago.  There was a delay in making the claim because we had problems obtaining the tenancy agreement.  After Housing Benefit is awarded, could a Discretionary Housing Payment be made to pay rent for the period before the Housing Benefit is likely to be awarded for?

Thanks

In future (for the few HB claims that can be made), it would be best to get the application in, then any problems with evidence required, you can ask for an extension of time if you have problems.  With current backdating limits for working age benefits, it would be best to always take this approach, as it protects the date of claim