I can no longer afford my full rent

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Q. I have recently changed jobs and I can no longer afford to pay my full rent. I applied for Housing Benefit but I still have a shortfall that I am struggling to cover. I live in private rented accommodation.

Initially we would always advise you to contact your local Citizens Advice to get a full benefit check completed.

The benefit check will ensure that you are in receipt of the correct benefits.

Once this check has been completed if you still have a shortfall you could apply for a discretionary housing payment.

This is only available to claimants who rent privately.

The Housing Executive can make a discretionary payment if you are entitled to housing benefit and you appear to need further financial assistance to meet your housing costs.

When a discretionary housing payment may be made:

The Housing Executive will consider all applications for discretionary housing payments while trying to ensure that payments are made to those most in need.

The amount of a discretionary housing payment (DHP) is up to the Housing Executive, they have a cash limited budget to spend on DHPs, so they are unlikely to meet all rent shortfalls.

There is no list of circumstances that will automatically qualify you for an award of discretionary housing payment.

Each request will be considered on its own merits, but you will need to show that you are in need of financial help to meet the shortfall in your rent.

Wherever it is possible and reasonable to do so, you will be expected to take steps to improve the circumstances that have led to your need for a discretionary housing payment.

For example, finding more affordable accommodation.

The Housing Executive will ask you for information to support your application and they may ask you to visit them to discuss your claim in more detail.

How long can a discretionary housing payment be paid for:

The length of time over which a DHP is paid is up to the Housing Executive.

It may decide on short term payments or indefinite payments until your circumstances change.

When your award ends, you may apply for another discretionary housing payment award and this will be considered according to your needs and the amount of discretionary budget remaining.

The fact that you have received a discretionary housing payment previously does not guarantee that a further award will be made.

How to claim a discretionary housing payment:

Discretionary housing payment application forms are available from the local Housing Executive or alternatively they can be downloaded from nihe.gov.uk.

Reconsidering a decision about discretionary housing payments:

The Housing Executive can look at a decision about discretionary housing payments again whenever it seems appropriate.

This might be because you have requested it, or because the Housing Executive revisits a decision on its own initiative, for example, because of a change of circumstances or on a periodic basis.

There is no time limit on getting a decision reconsidered or on the number of times that a client can request a reconsideration.

The Housing Executive should notify the client of the reason for the refusal to award a discretionary housing payment.

There is no right of appeal on a decision about discretionary housing payments.

If you are not happy with internal review of a discretionary housing payment decision, you would need to request a judicial review.

For further information you can get free, confidential and independent advice from your nearest Citizens Advice online at citizensadvice.co.uk.