Wednesday, 13 May 2020

Questions (1295)

Chris Andrews

Question:

1295. Deputy Chris Andrews asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the actions taken regarding new HAP contracts when landlords are waiting on payment but local authorities are not processing so the tenant is in default; the measures being put in place to safeguard vulnerable tenants and to ensure landlords are receiving payments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5036/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

Limerick City and County Council provide a highly effective transactional shared service on behalf of all local authorities in the administration of the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) scheme. The HAP Shared Services Centre (SSC) manages all HAP related rental transactions for the tenant, local authority and landlord. Once a HAP application has been received and confirmed as valid by the relevant local authority, it is then processed by the HAP SSC. Any rental payment arising for a given month will then be made to a landlord on the last Wednesday of that month.

Local Authorities and the HAP SSC continue to provide a critical service to all HAP customers. While local authorities are putting in place arrangements to reduce direct contact, because of public health requirements, alternative processes are in place to ensure a HAP service continues to be provided. This is particularly important for those applying for support under Homeless HAP in the current crisis.

Under the HAP scheme, priority is currently being given to HAP set-ups and ensuring that landlords are paid and that HAP tenancies are maintained. HAP applications continue to be received and processed by local authorities, and the HAP Shared Service Centre is continuing to carry out all of the necessary back office activities in setting up HAP tenancies as normal.

HAP application processing times within local authorities may vary. Once a HAP application has been received and confirmed as valid by the relevant local authority, it is entered on the system by the local authority and then submitted for processing and payment by the HAP SSC. If there are delays at the processing stage within a local authority, payment to the landlord will be backdated to the date on which a complete and valid application form was received by the local authority. The landlord is therefore not penalised for any delay.

As at 11 May 2020, a weekly average of 293 HAP tenancies have been set up in 2020, with the most recent 5 week trend data showing a weekly average of 326 tenancies being signed-up. Since 2 March 2020, 2,947 HAP tenancies have been set up, including 456 Homeless HAP tenancies in the DRHE region. Over 76,600 HAP tenancies have been set-up since the Scheme commenced, over 55,300 of which are still active.

Under the Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (COVID-19) Act 2020, the Government introduced additional supports and protections for renters, beyond the income supports already agreed with the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection. The Act provides for amendments to the Residential Tenancies Acts 2004 to 2019, which will operate for a period of 3 months from 27 March 2020. Provision has also been made for this period to be extended, if the Government considers it appropriate to do so.

A notice of termination cannot be served during the COVID–19 emergency period. All notices of termination which were served before the emergency period are paused and tenants, in general, cannot be obliged to leave their rented accommodation during this time. Similarly, all notices of rent increase which were served before the emergency period and were due to take effect during this period, are paused. While tenants are obliged to pay rent during the COVID – 19 emergency period, landlords are not permitted to increase the amount of rent payable during this period.

Under HAP, a tenant sources his or her own accommodation in the private rented market. The tenancy agreement is between the tenant and the landlord and is governed by the Residential Tenancies Act 2004 -2019. HAP supported tenancies are afforded the same protections available to all private rented tenancies.