Thursday, 11 July 2019

Questions (945)

Róisín Shortall


945. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if landlords are permitted to request and-or receive top-up payments in respect of recipients of HAP and RAS; and if not, the penalty applying. [30784/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

The Rental Accommodation Scheme (RAS) established in 2004 placed responsibility on housing authorities to meet the accommodation needs of people in receipt of rent supplement for 18 months or longer, and, who are assessed as having a long-term housing need. RAS tenancies are governed by the Residential Tenancies Acts 2004 -2019. Under the terms of the RAS scheme, payments by the tenant in excess of the rental amount specified in the RAS contract to the landlord are not permitted. In a scenario where a landlord has requested a payment in excess of the agreed rental amount, the tenant has the option of referring a complaint to the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) under the Residential Tenancies Acts 2004 – 2019 and it would be a matter for the RTB to decide on the appropriate sanctions to apply.

Under the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) scheme, a tenant sources their own accommodation in the private rented sector. The tenancy agreement is between the tenant and the landlord and is covered by the Residential Tenancies Acts. The accommodation sourced by tenants should be within the prescribed maximum HAP rent limits, which are based on the household size and the rental market within that area.

Each local authority has statutory discretion to agree to a HAP payment up to 20% above the prescribed maximum rent limit to secure appropriate accommodation for a household that requires it. In addition, the normal 20% discretion beyond the rent limits is increased to 50% for homeless households in the Dublin Region.

My Department is aware that some HAP recipients are making payments directly to their landlords, beyond the amount of HAP being paid on their behalf. There is no legislative provision precluding HAP supported households contributing towards the monthly rent to their landlord. This reflects the fact that, unlike Rent Supplement, where payment ceases in certain circumstances, HAP support can continue to be paid where a household’s income increases, including for reasons of the tenant taking up full-time employment. In those cases, it would therefore be expected that some tenants would consider rental options, which they source themselves in the private rental market, that would involve them paying an element of rent beyond the HAP rent limits, enabled to do so by their improved income position.

It should be noted that local authorities have a responsibility to ensure that HAP tenancies are sustainable and are advised not to provide HAP support to tenancies where they are not satisfied that the household would be in a position to meet the rental costs being sought.

At the end of Quarter 1 2019, there were over 45,000 active tenancies being supported under the HAP scheme. Collection of data in relation to the number of households making a top-up payment to their landlord does not form part of the standard reporting process of my Department. However, the information available to the HAP Shared Service Centre operated by Limerick City and County Council indicates that approximately three quarters of all HAP tenancies are fully supported.