Nov 08, 2021
Rent Supplement and Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) both provide financial support for people renting property that’s in the private sector. Because of this, it’s easy to get confused between the two. However, they each serve a distinct purpose. Here we give a general overview of the schemes, from the perspectives of both tenant and landlord.
Typically, Rent Supplement provides short-term assistance to people who experience a sudden change in their income. For example, if someone loses their job, Rent Supplement can help them to pay their rent until they can once again cover it themselves.
This payment is means-tested and recipients pay a household contribution towards their rent. Rent Supplement is not usually available to anyone who works full-time (30 hours or more). The scheme is administered through the Department of Social Protection (DSP).
On the other hand, Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) provides support to those who have long-term housing needs. In order to be eligible, the applicant must be on their local authority’s housing list.
The scheme helps those on the list to rent within the private sector. Tenants pay a weekly contribution to their local authority, who then pay the full amount of rent to the landlord. In many circumstances, a tenant can work full-time and still be eligible for the HAP Scheme.
Under Irish equality legislation, a tenant cannot be discriminated against because of receiving either of these payments.
As already mentioned, Rent Supplement helps people to pay their rent on a short-term basis. You must be in a genuine tenancy in order to apply. On the date you wish to apply for Rent Supplement, you may be eligible if:
You were previously receiving Rent Supplement within the last 12 months.
You were living in private rented accommodation for a period of 183 days (approximately 6 months) in the last 12 months. In this case, you were able to pay the rent at the start of the tenancy but no longer can due to a change of circumstances. The 183 days does not necessarily have to have been in the same accommodation.
You were living in accommodation for homeless persons or an institution for a period of 183 days in the last 12 months. However, this does not count if you have qualified for social housing support by a housing authority.
The property you’re renting must be suitable for your needs and you must be able to pass a test to show your main home is the Republic of Ireland.
Typically, Rent Supplement will not be paid if you are:
A full-time student
In full-time employment (or your partner is in full-time employment)
Renting from a parent
However, exceptions may be made in some cases.
Rent Supplement is available instantly for victims of domestic violence. Means testing does not happen for the first three months. This began as a special measure at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, but is now a permanent arrangement.
In addition, there are some slight differences in general eligibility due to the pandemic. You can find out more from the Citizens Information website.
Rent Supplement is reviewed regularly. If there is any change to your circumstances between reviews, you should inform the DSP immediately.
If your tenant is in receipt of Rent Supplement, you can still expect them to pay you in full and on time. However, in certain circumstances, you can request to have Rent Supplement paid directly to you. Extra tax relief is available if you are operating under the Rent Supplement Scheme.
When your tenant is applying for the scheme, you will be asked to fill out a section of the form and provide certain details such as your tax reference number. In order for your tenant to avail of Rent Supplement, the rate you charge must fall within your area’s rent limits as set by the DSP.
Figuring out how much you’re entitled to is a complicated process. You won’t be expected to do it on your own; it will be calculated by the Department of Social Protection’s representative.
In short, the representative will assess your income and then make calculations to ensure it doesn’t fall below a certain minimum level after paying for rent.
You will be asked to pay an appropriate household contribution towards your rent. The remainder will be provided through the Rent Supplement scheme.
Different parts of the country have different rent limits, set by the DSP. This is the maximum amount of rent payable for your circumstances. The total amount you pay (household contribution plus rent supplement) should not exceed the limit for your county/area.
In order to apply, you must fill out the relevant form. Your landlord (or their agent) will also need to fill in a section of the form and provide their tax reference number.
13 counties currently have Central Rent Units. These can provide you with a rent pack that includes everything you need. You can then return your completed application to the unit.
If your county doesn’t have a Central Rent Unit, contact your local Intreo Centre and speak to the DSP’s representative.
If you are on your local authority’s housing list you are eligible for HAP. This includes if you are on the list and also receiving Rent Supplement. If you have been on Rent Supplement for a long time, you may be asked to move to the HAP Scheme.
Citizens Information have detailed guidelines about applying for local authority housing.
It’s your responsibility to find your own private rented accommodation. The cost of rent should fall within the HAP rent limits which are based on your area and the size of your household.
You will pay a weekly rent contribution to your local authority. This will be based on your income and may change depending on your circumstances. Remember: you can work full-time and still be eligible for HAP. The local authority will then pay your contribution plus the balance of rent directly to the landlord. Your tenancy will fall under the terms of the Residential Tenancies Act (2004).
In most situations, you will be expected to remain in your rental property for at least two years. However, in certain circumstances (such as getting a job in a different area), exceptions may be made.
For more information, including how to apply, we recommend you download and read the HAP Tenants Booklet.
When your tenant is applying for HAP, you will be asked to complete Part B of the application form and return it to your local authority. Your payment will then come directly from that local authority and be paid electronically on the last Wednesday of every month. This saves you the hassle of collecting rent. Greater tax relief is a further benefit of the scheme.
Even though payment is coming from the local authority, you still maintain the traditional landlord/tenant relationship. You will need to register the tenancy with the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB).
It’s important that your property complies with residential accommodation standards. To ensure this, a routine inspection will take place within eight months of HAP payments commencing. Tax compliance by you is also a requirement.
To find out more about how this system can work for you, download and read the HAP Landlords Booklet.
Citizens Information provides detailed and accessible information about both Rent Supplement and HAP. The dedicated HAP website also provides helpful information for both landlords and tenants
If you have further queries about Rent Supplement, please contact or visit your local Rent Unit or Intreo Centre.
If you wish to speak to somebody about HAP, please get in touch with your local authority.