Under the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) scheme, a tenant sources their own accommodation in the private rented sector. 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. The tenancy agreement is between the tenant and the landlord and is governed by the Residential Tenancies Acts. The Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) was established as an independent statutory body under the Act to operate a national tenancy registration system and to facilitate the resolution of disputes between landlords and tenants.
For tenancies in Local Electoral Areas (LEAs) which have not yet been designated as a Rent Pressure Zone, the Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Act 2015 provided that rent reviews can only take place every 24 months rather than every 12 months, unless there has been a substantial change in the nature of the accommodation that warrants a review. The review of rent will still be undertaken on the basis of the market rent and the landlord must also provide three examples of rents for similar properties in a comparable area to demonstrate this.
Tenants must be given 90 days’ notice of new rent and can make an application for dispute resolution to the RTB if they have not been given the required notice, or if they feel the rent increase is in excess of the market rent. These provisions have effect notwithstanding any provision to the contrary in a lease or tenancy agreement.
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. It is a matter for the local authority to determine if the application of the flexibility is warranted on a case by case basis.
While there is no legislative provision precluding HAP supported households contributing towards their monthly landlord rent, local authorities have a responsibility to ensure that tenancies are sustainable and are advised not to provide HAP support to tenancies where the household would not be in a position to meet the rental costs involved.
At the end of Q2 2019, there were more than 48,000 households in receipt of HAP support and over 28,000 separate landlords and agents providing accommodation to households supported by the scheme.