The making and amending of rent schemes is the responsibility of housing authorities as an integral part of their housing management functions, subject to guidelines issued from time to time by my Department.
Rent reviews are also a matter for individual housing authorities. Guidelines entitled “Rent Assessment, Collection, Accounting and Arrears Control” were published by the Housing Unit (which subsequently became part of the Housing Agency) in January 2001. These guidelines, developed in conjunction with my Department and the City and County Management Association, set out good practice in the administration of rent related matters. The Guidelines stated that local authorities should review the rent assessment of all existing tenants at least annually to ensure that all tenants are paying the correct rent and to update rents to reflect changes in tenants’ incomes and in housing management costs.
It will normally be a part of the tenancy agreement that the tenant should inform the local authority of any change in circumstances, including increases in family income. When this is done by the tenant, any change in rent that is warranted can be applied promptly.
The above Guidelines also state that arrangements for the repayment of rent arrears should be determined primarily by the tenants’ ability to pay.
My Department has undertaken a review of the potential for a draft national differential rents framework for the purposes of section 31 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009. Such a framework has as its main aim the harmonisation of local authority rents, including a set of standardised income disregards, whilst retaining the general principle of rents related to household income. The overall objective is to ensure that housing supports are fair and sustainable and prioritise those on lowest incomes.
I expect that the review will be completed in the near future.