The Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) is a form of social housing support for people who have a long-term housing need. HAP will eventually replace long-term Rent Supplement. It is being introduced under the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2014 and a series of Statutory Instruments.
The HAP scheme aims to allow all social housing supports to be accessed through one body - the local authority - and to enable people to take up full-time employment and keep their housing support.
Under the scheme, local authorities pay landlords directly. The rent being charged for the accommodation must be within the limits set down for the household type in that local authority’s area – see ‘Rent limits’ below. Tenants pay a weekly HAP rent contribution to the local authority, based on their income and ability to pay.
The Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government has detailed information about HAP on its website, including booklets for landlords (pdf) and tenants (pdf), along with a general information leaflet (pdf).
HAP became operational in Cavan, Kerry, Laois, Leitrim, Longford, Roscommon, Westmeath, Wexford and Wicklow on 1 December 2016.
It was already available in the following local authority areas and is due to become operational in the remaining local authorities (all located in Dublin) from March 2017.
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/social housing for details of assessment for social housing support. You cannot transfer from any other form of social housing to HAP.
In December 2014, HAP was extended on a pilot basis to homeless households in the Dublin region. 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 (The original requirement to have been in homeless accommodation on a certain date is no longer in effect.)
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. The Dublin Place Finder Service supports homeless households in the Dublin region to find a tenancy using HAP.
If you live in an area where HAP is available and you have been getting Rent Supplement for a long time (generally 18 months or more) you may get a letter from the Department of Social Protection, asking you to contact your local authority to apply for social housing support (which includes HAP).
You must apply within 6 weeks of being asked to do so (but if necessary an extra 6 weeks can be allowed). You may then be transferred to HAP or to another form of social housing support.
The legislative basis for these arrangements is a series of amendments made to the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005 by Section 54 (3) of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2014.
Under HAP you must find your own private rented accommodation - the local authority will not source it for you.
Since 1 January 2016, you cannot be discriminated against when renting because you are getting one of certain payments, which include HAP, so landlords can no longer state when advertising accommodation that HAP is not accepted.
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 as amended (pdf). This means that you will have certain rights and obligations, as will your landlord. Your tenancy must be registered with the Residential Tenancies Board.
The local authority will inspect your accommodation within 8 months of the first HAP payment to your landlord, to ensure that it meets the minimum standards for rented housing. The landlord is also required to produce evidence of tax compliance before the total of the HAP payments adds up to €10,000.
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 within 2 weeks of getting the letter confirming your HAP payment, 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 pay a weekly HAP rent contribution to the local authority, based on your household’s weekly income and your ability to pay, calculated in the same way as standard local authority differential rents. This rent contribution will vary in accordance with your income and the local authority’s rent scheme.
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 your rent contribution can be recalculated.
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 different from the rules that apply to Rent Supplement.
The local authority will make the HAP payment 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.
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. You will need to contact your local authority if you are thinking of moving.
In general, the rent must be within the prescribed HAP rent limits for your household size and the area you live in. However, flexibility of up to 20% may be provided, on a case-by-case basis, where a household cannot find suitable accommodation within these limits. As noted above, there is also specific flexibility, on a case-by-case basis, for eligible homeless households in the Dublin region.
The current limits are stated in the Housing Assistance Payment (Amendment) (No. 4) Regulations 2016 (pdf).
This table shows the maximum monthly rent limits allowable in each local authority area for different types of household with effect from 1 July 2016, along with the 9 local authorities added on 1 December 2016.
|Local authority||1 adult in shared accommodation||Couple in shared accommodation||1 adult||Couple||Couple or 1 adult with 1 child||Couple or 1 adult with 2 children||Couple or 1 adult with 3 children|
|Carlow County Council||€270||€290||€440||€510||€570||€600||€630|
|Cavan County Council||€190||€220||€380||€420||€450||€470||€490|
|Clare County Council||€220||€240||€360||€400||€480||€515||€550|
|Cork City Council||€300||€330||€550||€650||€900||€925||€950|
|Cork County Council||€300||€330||€550||€650||€900||€925||€950|
|Donegal County Council||€200||€230||€340||€370||€410||€470||€520|
|Dublin City Council||€430||€500||€660||€900||€1,250||€1,275||€1,300|
|Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council||€430||€500||€660||€900||€1,250||€1,275||€1,300|
|Fingal County Council||€400||€440||€660||€900||€1,150||€1,175||€1,200|
|Galway City Council||€330||€360||€575||€650||€850||€875||€900|
|Galway County Council||€330||€360||€575||€650||€850||€875||€900|
|Kerry County Council||€200||€230||€380||€410||€525||€550||€575|
|Kildare County Council||€350||€400||€575||€750||€975||€1,050||€1,100|
|Kilkenny County Council||€230||€270||€480||€530||€630||€660||€690|
|Laois County Council||€240||€280||€420||€433||€580||€610||€630|
|Leitrim County Council||€200||€220||€340||€370||€450||€475||€500|
|Limerick City and County Council||€270||€300||€420||€450||€650||€700||€750|
|Longford County Council||€180||€200||€330||€350||€400||€425||€450|
|Louth County Council||€310||€350||€575||€650||€975||€1,050||€1,100|
|Mayo County Council||€200||€220||€390||€410||€480||€500||€520|
|Meath County Council||€310||€350||€575||€700||€975||€1,050||€1,100|
|Monaghan County Council||€200||€220||€330||€390||€500||€515||€530|
|Offaly County Council||€210||€230||€380||€435||€550||€575||€600|
|Roscommon County Council||€240||€260||€360||€390||€500||€525||€550|
|Sligo County Council||€220||€250||€460||€490||€550||€575||€600|
|South Dublin County Council||€430||€500||€660||€900||€1,250||€1,275||€1,300|
|Tipperary County Council||€210||€230||€380||€420||€525||€560||€600|
|Waterford City and County Council||€240||€270||€430||€450||€550||€575||€600|
|Westmeath County Council||€220||€240||€450||€470||€600||€625||€650|
|Wexford County Council||€280||€300||€420||€433||€530||€565||€600|
|Wicklow County Council||€370||€410||€660||€900||€1,150||€1,200||€1,250|
If you are not yet on your local authority’s 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 in any doubt about whether your tenancy arrangement qualifies for HAP, check with your local authority, which can advise you on this.
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.
If you have a question relating to this topic you can contact the Citizens Information Phone Service on 0761 07 4000. The Phone Service will operate Monday to Friday, 9am to 6pm during January 2017. You can also visit your local Citizens Information Centre.