What is the housing assistance payment?
The Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) is a form of social housing support offered by local authorities for people who have a long-term housing need.
To qualify, a household must be eligible to go on the local authority housing waiting list but not currently housed by their local authority. Current Rent Supplement recipients who qualify for social housing support will be transferred from Rent Supplement to HAP on a phased basis.
Under HAP the tenant sources private rental accommodation and enters a tenancy with a private landlord. The rent charged for the accommodation must be within prescribed limits for the household type in that administrative area. Once the landlord has agreed to rent their property to the HAP tenant, the local authority will make a monthly payment directly to the landlord, covering a portion of the rent. The payment is conditional on the HAP tenant continuing to pay a weekly rent contribution to the local authority, the level of which is determined based on their income and ability to pay. HAP tenants pay their rent contribution through the An Post Household Budget Scheme, Bill Pay card or where their social welfare payment is paid into their bank, by direct debit from their bank. Under the HAP scheme you can take up full-time employment and keep your housing support. Detailed information about HAP is available on www.hap.ie, including information leaflets for tenants and general information.
Landlords are not entitled to discriminate against prospective tenants because they receive certain payments, including HAP. Thus, tenancies cannot be advertised claiming not to accept HAP tenants.
It is important to note that under HAP you have a normal landlord-tenant relationship with the person you rent the property from and have the same rights and responsibilities under the Residential Tenancies Act 2004 as any private tenant. Useful resources for private tenants with difficulties include www.citizensinformation.ie, www.threshold.ie and www.rtb.ie.
Further information and a table setting out the prescribed HAP rent limits in each local authority is available here.
A higher rate of HAP can apply under the Homeless HAP scheme, which has additional eligibility criteria and is not available in all areas.
What is the rental accommodation scheme?
The Rental Accommodation Scheme (RAS) is for people who are receiving Rent Supplement and who have a long term housing need that cannot be funded from their income. In general, people who are getting Rent Supplement for more than 18 months are considered for RAS. Your local authority will negotiate a tenancy. You still pay rent to the local authority. The Residential Tenancies Act 2004 governs the relationship between the landlord and the tenant, which means, for example, that disputes can be referred to the Private Residential Tenancies Board. For more information on your rights and obligations as a private residential tenant see www.citizensinformation.ie and www.threshold.ie.
What is the difference between RAS and HAP?
There is little difference in the two schemes in practice. One difference between the schemes is that under HAP the tenant is expected to find suitable private rental accommodation, whereas under RAS the local authority sourced the accommodation. Secondly, an individual must be in receipt of Rent Supplement for more than 18 months to be considered for RAS. You can apply for the HAP scheme at any point when you are eligible and in need of social housing support.
Who can still access rent supplement?
Rent Supplement will still be available from the Department of Social Protection for people who don’t qualify for social housing support – for example, someone who is temporarily unemployed. Normally, you need to show that you have been renting in the private sector for at least six months of the previous year and that you could afford your rent at the beginning of the tenancy. You may also qualify if you have received Rent Supplement at any time during the 12 months before applying.
For applicants who apply on or after 13 March 2020, you must have been in your current tenancy for more than 4 weeks and could have continued to pay your rent from your own resources, but are unable to due to the COVID-19 public health emergency.
I am falling behind with my rent payments to the local authority – what should I do?
Falling behind with rent payments to the local authority is a common occurrence that local authorities are used to dealing with. You should explain your financial situation to your local authority as soon as possible. The local authority will work with you as best they can to help sort the problem out and to arrange for you to enter into a payment plan to pay a little bit of rent arrears each week. If you leave the arrears to build up, this will lead to far greater difficulties in the future than if you co-operate with the local authority at the outset.