Rent supplement plays a vital role in supporting families and individuals in private rented accommodation, with the scheme supporting approximately 20,160 recipients for which the Government has provided €132.4 million for 2019.
The strategic policy direction of the Department is to return rent supplement to its original purpose of being a short-term income support following the introduction of the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) scheme, which became available nationwide from 1 March 2017.
All new applicants with housing needs assessments must present to the relevant local authorities for assessment for social housing, whereupon following confirmation of need, HAP will be made available rather than rent supplement. People in receipt of rent supplement for over 18 months are being requested to contact their local authority to have their housing needs assessed, thus beginning the transfer process to HAP. The target is to complete all transfers from long term rent supplement to HAP in 2020 and there are currently over 48,600 active HAP tenancies in place.
Suspension of rent supplement can occur where a tenant fails to engage in the HAP transfer process. The customer is initially given six weeks to engage with their local authority. A further six weeks, is provided to the customer to assist the customer with their initial HAP transfer application. If the customer fails to engage or cooperate with the local authority during this transfer process rent supplement may be suspended. Where suspension does occur, rent supplement is reinstated when the customer re-engages to facilitate the HAP transfer process.
Failure of a landlord to participate in HAP should not affect an existing customer’s entitlement to rent supplement, provided that the tenant has engaged with the local authority and/or Community Welfare Officer. I can assure the Deputy that officials in my Department continue to make every effort to ensure that persons in receipt of rent supplement are supported in the transfer to HAP.
Should the Deputy have a particular case in mind I would invite him to share these details with my Department for review.
I trust that this clarifies the position.