The Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) is a form of social housing support for people who have a long-term housing need. It is being administered by local authorities and will eventually replace long-term Rent Supplement - see 'Background - Rent Supplement' below. HAP is being introduced under the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2014 and a series of Statutory Instruments.
The HAP scheme aims to:
Under the HAP scheme, local authorities pay landlords directly. Tenants pay a weekly HAP rent contribution to the local authority, based on their income and ability to pay – see ‘Rent’ below.
The Equal Status Acts 2000–2015 apply to lettings and accommodation. Landlords cannot discriminate against potential tenants on grounds of gender, civil status, family status, sexual orientation, religion, age, disability, race or membership of the Traveller community.
Since 1 January 2016, you cannot be discriminated against when renting because you are getting Rent Supplement or any other social welfare payment, or a Housing Assistance Payment. This means that landlords can no longer state when advertising accommodation that HAP (or Rent Supplement) is not accepted and they cannot refuse to rent you accommodation because you are getting a social welfare payment. If you feel you have been discriminated against by a landlord or their agent, you can find out more about making a complaint under the Equal Status Acts. Read more on the website of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission.
HAP is currently operational in the following local authority areas and is being extended to all local authorities on a phased basis:
You must be on the local authority’s housing list – which means that you qualify for social housing support. See our document on applying for local authority housing for details of assessment for social housing support.
People who are on the housing list and are currently getting Rent Supplement will be transferred to HAP on a phased basis. They are eligible to apply for HAP at present, without waiting to be transferred. However, you do not have to be getting Rent Supplement in order to qualify for HAP – but you must be on the housing list.
You cannot transfer from the Rental Accommodation Scheme (RAS) to HAP.
Although the local authority administers the HAP scheme, you will not be a local authority tenant. The rental agreement will be between yourself and the private landlord and your tenancy will be covered by the Residential Tenancies Act 2004. This means that you will have certain rights and obligations, as will your landlord. You must find your own private rented accommodation - the local authority will not source it for you.
In December 2014, HAP was extended on a pilot basis to homeless households in the Dublin region. This decision was implemented by Regulations. To qualify for HAP under the pilot scheme, a household must be accepted as homeless within the meaning of section 2 of the Housing Act 1988 by one of the 4 Dublin local authorities.
The Homeless HAP Pilot, which is operated by the Dublin Region Homeless Executive (DRHE) on behalf of the Dublin local authorities, provides discretion to exceed the HAP rent limits for homeless households, if this is necessary in order to source suitable accommodation.
In general, the rent must be within the HAP rent limits for your household size and the area you live in. The limits are generally based on the limits for Rent Supplement and are set out in the Housing Assistance Payment (Amendment) Regulations 2016 (pdf). In certain specified local authority areas , these Regulations allow for flexibility where suitable accommodation cannot be found for a household within the HAP rent limits. Also, as noted above, there is flexibility for homeless households in the Dublin region.
You will pay a weekly HAP rent contribution to the local authority, based on your household’s weekly income, calculated in the same way as standard local authority differential rents. This rent will vary in accordance with your income.
If you take up a job or increase your working hours, you will still be eligible for HAP if you fulfil the other conditions of the scheme. This is a change from the rules that apply to Rent Supplement.
The local authority will pay your rent directly to your landlord on your behalf, subject to certain conditions:
If your landlord requires a deposit, you will have to pay this yourself – the local authority will not pay it for you. You may be able to get an Exceptional Needs Payment to help with paying the deposit.
The local authority will inspect your accommodation within 8 months of the first HAP payment to your landlord, to ensure that it meets the required standards. The landlord is also required to produce a tax clearance certificate within 5 months.
Your housing needs will have been met under HAP and you will no longer be on the local authority’s housing waiting list. However, if you wish to have access to other social housing supports, such as local authority housing or housing provided by a housing association, you can apply to the local authority for a transfer.
If you do apply for a transfer as soon as you get the letter offering you HAP, any time that you spent on the housing list can be taken into account when your local authority considers your application. If you apply for a transfer at a later date, the time that you previously spent on the housing waiting list won’t count.
You will be expected to stay in your HAP accommodation for at least 2 years, but in some situations you may be able to apply for a new HAP payment elsewhere – for example, if you are offered a job in another town or if your family grows too large for the property.
In the same way as anyone else who is paying a differential rent, you will have to notify the local authority of any changes in your income or household size, so that the rent can be recalculated.
If you are not yet on the housing list, you will need to apply for social housing support in the usual way.
If you are already on the housing list, and if HAP is operating in your area, you can ask the local authority for a HAP application form. This form only needs to be filled in when you have found suitable accommodation, or if you are already in private rented accommodation and eligible to transfer to HAP. Your landlord will need to complete and sign part of the HAP application form.
If you are approved for HAP, you then sign a Rent Contribution Agreement with the local authority. You may be asked for a copy of the rental agreement with your landlord.
If you have been on Rent Supplement for a long time, the Department of Social Protection may ask you to contact your local authority about transferring to HAP.
Rent Supplement was originally designed as a support for people who needed short-term help with their rent, for example, if they had lost their job. However, many people who are currently on Rent Supplement have been assessed as having a long-term housing need, and as a result they are on local authority housing lists.
HAP will eventually replace Rent Supplement for people with a long-term housing need, though Rent Supplement will continue to be available for people who need short-term support to pay their rent.
As Rent Supplement is generally not payable to people in full-time employment, it can be a disincentive to taking up work. However, people on HAP can take up full-time employment, subject to the conditions of the scheme.
If you have a question relating to this topic you can contact the Citizens Information Phone Service on 0761 07 4000 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 8pm) or you can visit your local Citizens Information Centre.