Rent Supplement and changes to your circumstances

Introduction

If your circumstances change while you are getting Rent Supplement you may have your payment reduced or you may no longer be eligible for it. The amount of Rent Supplement you get depends on various factors – including your income, savings, earnings, household composition and the current local rent limits.

Your Rent Supplement payment is calculated to ensure that your income is not less than the basic Supplementary Welfare Allowance (SWA) rate for your circumstances (for example, €186 for a single person over 25 and €310.80 for a couple) minus a minimum contribution of €30 (or €40 for a couple). If your income increases above this amount, your Rent Supplement payment may be reduced.

Your Rent Supplement claim is reviewed regularly (generally every 6 months). When your claim is reviewed you will be asked to fill out a Rent Supplement Review Form. You should return the form as soon as possible to the officer dealing with your claim to make sure that there is no delay to your payment.

You should always tell the Department of Social Protection (DSP) immediately (see ‘How to apply’ below) if there are any changes to your means. You should also inform the DSP if there are changes to the means of other members of your household, or to the number of people living in your household.

This document outlines what happens to your Rent Supplement payment in some common situations.

A new Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) has been introduced in some areas. Different rules apply for Rent Supplement depending on whether you live in an area where the new Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) is in operation or in an area where HAP is not yet in operation.

Changes to your means

If you or your partner gets full-time work:

In general people working full-time (defined as 30 hours or over a week) are not eligible for Rent Supplement. Claims from self-employed people are assessed on the individual circumstances of the case and you may be asked to show that you are working less than 30 hours a week.

If you get full-time work and you have been accepted as being in need of accommodation under the Rental Accommodation Scheme (RAS) by your local authority, you may be able to keep your Rent Supplement (provided you have been unemployed or not in full-time employment for at least 12 months before you start work). If you are working over 30 hours a week in self-employment or if you are getting the Back to Work Enterprise Allowance you must be deemed eligible for the RAS scheme by your local authority to continue to get Rent Supplement.

However, you will be reassessed for Rent Supplement and your income from work will be taken into account. As a result of the reassessment you may or may not continue to qualify for Rent Supplement. If you do qualify for Rent Supplement you may get a different rate of Supplement. The additional household income disregard (see below) applies to income from work.

Many people on long-term Rent Supplement are being transferred to the new Housing Assistance Payment (HAP). You can work full-time and continue to receive HAP. However HAP is not yet in operation nationwide.

If your spouse, civil partner or cohabitant gets full-time work your household is no longer eligible for Rent Supplement. (Note that a non-dependent household member can work full-time but they must make a minimum contribution to the rent - see 'If your family circumstances or size changes' below.)

If you get full-time work and you are not entitled to retain your Rent Supplement you can continue to get Rent Supplement for up to 30 days after starting work or until you are paid, whichever is earlier.

If you get part-time work:

If you get part-time work (defined as less than 30 hours a week) you can keep your Rent Supplement but your income from work will be assessed against your Rent Supplement and it may be reduced. The additional household income disregard (see below) applies to income from part-time work.

The same applies to your spouse, civil partner or cohabitant - any income he/she gets from part-time work will be assessed against your Rent Supplement and the Supplement may be reduced.

Additional household income disregard

Some income from part-time employment and other sources is not taken into account in the means test for Rent Supplement. Additional household income is income from employment or self-employment, Family Income Supplement, Community Employment, JobBridge, the Tús scheme, the Rural Social Scheme, Gateway, the Part-time Job Incentive Scheme, Work Placement Scheme, Back to Work Allowance, Back to Work Enterprise Allowance or an approved FET course. It also includes income above the SWA rate for those on the Skillnets programme.

Under the additional household income disregard the first €75 per week of additional household income above the SWA rate for your circumstances is not taken into account and 25% of additional household income over €75 per week is not taken into account. There is no upper limit on the amount that can be disregarded. A portion of maintenance payments is assessed as additional household income. The first €95.23 per week of maintenance payments is assessable in full and any amount above this is assessed under the additional household income disregard. You can use our document on Calculating Rent Supplement to work out your additional household income disregard.

If you are getting Disability Allowance or Blind Pension and do rehabilitative work, up to €120 per week of earnings from this employment can be disregarded. However, this disregard cannot be applied together with the additional household income disregard. Only one disregard can be applied, whichever is most beneficial.

If you change from one social welfare payment to another:

There is no change to your Rent Supplement payment if the amount you get stays the same. If your social welfare payment is suspended, pending investigation, your Rent Supplement can be stopped.

However in some circumstances your Rent Supplement payment may be affected. If you transfer onto a different and higher payment your Rent Supplement will be reduced in line with the increase (unless you are aged 65 or over or are getting a carer’s payment – see below). For example, a person getting Illness Benefit who transfers onto Maternity Benefit at a higher rate may have their Rent Supplement reduced by the difference between the two payments.

If you are aged 65 or over (or where one of a couple is of pensionable age) and have a combined household income greater than the SWA rate for your circumstances, the difference between the maximum rate of State Pension (Contributory) for your circumstances and the basic Supplementary Welfare Allowance (SWA) rate for your circumstances is not taken into account. For example, a couple who are both aged 66 and getting State (Non-Contributory) pensions would get a payment of €438. However their Over 65 disregard is calculated on 2 State Pension (Contributory) rates. So their disregard is worked out by subtracting the basic SWA rate for a couple (€310.80) from €460.60. The difference of €149.80 is not taken into account but any income the couple has above this might affect their Rent Supplement payment.

A carer's disregard applies to people getting carer’s payments. So if you are getting Carer's Allowance or Carer’s Benefit, the amount of the actual carer’s payment above the appropriate SWA rate for your situation (either the SWA qualified adult rate if one of a couple is getting Carer's Allowance or the personal rate of SWA if the carer is single) is not taken into account. Half-rate Carer’s Allowance is never taken into account.

If you go onto an employment scheme:

If you were getting Rent Supplement before you started the employment scheme (sometimes called a back-to-work scheme) you can generally keep your Rent Supplement but income from the scheme may be assessed and your Rent Supplement may be reduced.

The following table summarises how income from various schemes is treated.

Scheme Effect on Rent Supplement
JobBridge

JobBridge is classified as a work-experience programme. It is not considered employment so interns are not disqualified from Rent Supplement. The €50 allowance is assessed under the additional household income disregard.
Work Placement Programme The Work Placement Programme is also considered to be a work-experience programme. There is no additional allowance and it therefore will not affect your Rent Supplement.
Community Employment Schemes, Rural Social Scheme, Tús, Gateway You continue to be entitled to claim Rent Supplement if you were claiming it when you started the scheme but your payment may be reduced. The additional household income disregard applies to your payment
Family Income Supplement and Part-time Job Incentive Scheme You can retain Rent Supplement while on these schemes (provided you do not work more than 30 hours a week) and you can apply for Rent Supplement while you are on them. The additional household income disregard applies. See also ‘If you get full-time work’ above for exceptions.

If you go back to education:

In most cases, people in full-time education are not eligible for Rent Supplement. Your spouse, civil partner or cohabitant can be in full-time education while you are getting Rent Supplement.

If you are getting a Back to Education Allowance or taking part in a Springboard course, you can retain your Rent Supplement.

Some people can return to education and retain their Disability Allowance or One-Parent Family Payment but they will lose their Rent Supplement because they are in full-time education.

If you are on an approved FET (previously FÁS) course you can retain or apply for Rent Supplement. If you are participating in an approved training course, any lunch or travel allowances paid may be disregarded.

You can apply for or keep Rent Supplement while on a Vocational Training Opportunities Scheme (VTOS) or Youthreach.

If you inherit or are given money:

The income limits for the Supplementary Welfare Allowance Scheme (under which Rent Supplement is paid) are lower than those for other social welfare payments. If, for example, you inherit €15,000 this may have no effect on your main payment (because you can have up to €20,000 capital for the majority of means-tested social welfare payments and €50,000 for Disability Allowance) but it may affect your Rent Supplement (because any capital over €5,000 is assessed).

Changes to the number of people in the household

If your family circumstances or size changes:

Every non-dependent adult household member is expected to pay a minimum contribution to the rent of €30. Custom and practice is that the assessable income of the non-dependent household member (that is, gross income less PRSI and travel costs to work) is divided by the appropriate rate of SWA for their situation which is then multiplied by €30 to establish how much they should contribute to the household's rent.

If the non-dependent household members are a couple their contribution is €40. (A non-dependent household member is anyone who is not your spouse, civil partner or cohabitant who is working or getting a social welfare payment in their own right.)

When your child/children turns 18, if they are still in full-time education, there will be no change to your Rent Supplement. If a child living in the household turns 18 and gets a job or a social welfare payment in their own right they are expected to pay a minimum contribution of €30. However, if benefit and privilege has been assessed against their social welfare payment they do not have to contribute €30.

If a child leaves home your rent must be under the limit for your reduced family size. (The Rent Supplement limits vary depending on where you live. You will need to know what the limits are in your local area.)

If you have a new baby or if you adopt or foster a child your family size will increase so the rent limit that applies to your household may increase. If you have a large family and you need larger accommodation that costs more than the rent limits that apply in your area you should discuss your situation with your local DSP representative - see ‘How to apply’ below.

If you marry, enter a civil partnership or start to live with a new partner:

If someone comes to live with you as a spouse, civil partner or cohabitant you will be treated as a couple and you will be expected to pay a minimum household contribution of €40 towards your rent. You do not have to make a new application for Rent Supplement. However your existing claim will be reviewed and any income your spouse, civil partner or cohabitant has from work or from a social welfare payment will be taken into account. If the person is working full-time you will no longer be entitled to Rent Supplement.

If you separate from your spouse, civil partner or cohabitant:

If your spouse or partner leaves the family home and you remain there with your children, your Rent Supplement payment does not change (because the rent limits for a one-parent family and a couple with children are the same). However if your partner has custody of your child(ren) for most of the time, the rent limits applied for the family size can change (because the child(ren) are no longer in the home full time).

If you do not have children and your partner leaves you will be assessed as a single person for Rent Supplement.

If your former spouse or partner pays maintenance some of this will be assessed in the means test for Rent Supplement. The first €95.23 per week of maintenance payments is assessable in full (because it is considered to be a contribution towards your housing expenses) and any amount above this is assessed under the additional household income disregard - see ‘Additional household income disregard’ above.

If you own your home as joint owners and the person who leaves the family home applies for Rent Supplement they may be refused because they are considered to have an interest in the home. However, once there is a separation agreement in place and the home ownership issues have been resolved the person who left should be able to apply for Rent Supplement in their own right. They will need to have their housing need assessed by the local authority in the usual way.

If your children spend some time with one parent and some time with another:

If you have shared custody or guardianship of a child and that child stays with you overnight for part of the week, you should check with your local Department of Social Protection representative (formerly known as the Community Welfare Officer or CWO). Each Rent Supplement claim is examined with regard to all of the circumstances of the case.

If you are not the primary carer and are looking for accommodation to provide for your children the DSP will take the following into consideration when processing your Rent Supplement claim:

  • Your family composition and size
  • Whether any court orders or agreements exist indicating whether joint custody arrangements or access arrangements are in place
  • Where you live in relation to the primary carer
  • Whether the child is living with you temporarily as part of an access agreement
  • Any evidence of a history of continued parental support for the child such as transfer of property to the primary carer, evidence of financial support and other supports such as attending parent-teacher meetings and collecting child from school
  • Any evidence indicating whether you availed of overnight access to the child(ren) before your application for Rent Supplement
  • Any evidence from any social worker or medical reports
  • Whether any letters of consent from the primary carer exist or are required
  • The content of any Housing Needs Assessment from your local authority

Other changes to your circumstances

If your landlord raises the rent:

Rent Supplement is not normally paid where the rent payable to the landlord is over the limits. However, under certain circumstances the Department's representative can pay Rent Supplement where the rent is above the relevant limit; this might apply where there are special housing needs or on a very short-term basis until the tenant is in a position to reassume responsibility for his/her rent.

In some parts of Ireland rents have risen since the limits were last revised. The Community Welfare Service has statutory discretionary power to award or increase a Rent Supplement payment, for example, when dealing with a person who is in danger of homelessness. This applies both to people getting Rent Supplement and new applicants. Tenants in Dublin can access the Tenancy Protection Service provided by Threshold on 1800 454 454.

If you have to leave your current accommodation:

If there is a good reason why you have to leave your current accommodation (for example, your landlord is not willing to renew your lease), you can make an application for Rent Supplement for a new address, provided it is still within the rent limits.

However, you will have to apply again and fill out new application forms for yourself and your new landlord. There may be a gap in payment while your new application is processed.

If you qualified for Rent Supplement based on housing need (that is, you are on a local authority housing list) and you are moving to a new local authority area, you will have to make a fresh application with the new local authority.

Special provisions apply if you are at risk of becoming homeless.

If you go to hospital or prison:

If you go to hospital for a short stay, or if you are in prison or remanded in custody for less than 13 weeks, you can continue to get your Rent Supplement. If the period is longer than 13 weeks, you may no longer qualify or your family’s payment may be amended.

If you get an offer of housing from a local authority:

If you refuse two offers of social housing from a local authority within a 12-month period, your Rent Supplement will be stopped and you will not be allowed to claim Rent Supplement for 12 months.

How to apply

It is very important that you let the Department of Social Protection know of any changes to your circumstances including an increase in your rent.

If you wish to apply for Rent Supplement for the first time you should read our general document on Rent Supplement. You can download the application form from the Department of Social Protection's website (pdf).

Where to apply

You should contact the Department of Social Protection's representative (formerly known as the Community Welfare Officer) at your local health centre or contact the Rent Unit for your area (see the central rent unit list).

Page edited: 24 July 2015