Rent Supplement is a means-tested payment for certain people living in private rented accommodation who cannot provide for the cost of their accommodation from their own resources.
In the past, you could apply for Rent Supplement if you were qualified for social housing support and were on the local authority’s housing list. However, people in this situation should now apply for the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP). You will only qualify for Rent Supplement if you meet the eligibility criteria as specified in ‘Rules’ below.
Housing Assistance Payment (HAP)
The Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) is a form of social housing support for people who have a long-term housing need. It is available in all local authority areas throughout the State. HAP will eventually replace long-term Rent Supplement.
The HAP scheme aims to allow all social housing supports to be accessed through the local authorities and to enable people to take up full-time employment and keep their housing support. Read more in our document on HAP and on hap.ie.
Tax relief is available for landlords who rent to tenants getting Rent Supplement or HAP. Read more in our document on Housing tax credits and reliefs.
Equality legislation specifies a number of grounds under which landlords cannot discriminate against potential tenants. These include the “housing assistance” ground. Read more in ‘Discrimination when letting residential property’ below.
Eligibility criteria for Rent Supplement following the introduction of the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP)
As noted above, HAP is now available nationwide. If you qualify for social housing support and you need help with your rent, you should apply for HAP. You are only eligible for Rent Supplement if you are a genuine (bona fide) tenant and meet one of the following conditions:
- You were getting Rent Supplement in the 12 months before the date of your application.
- You were living in private rented accommodation for at least 6 months (183 days) of the last 12 months, you could afford the rent at the beginning of your tenancy and you are unable to continue to pay the rent because of a substantial change in your circumstances which occurred after you started renting. You can combine time living in more than one rented accommodation to satisfy the 6 months (183 days).
- You were living in accommodation for homeless people for at least 6 months (183 days) of the last 12 months. If you have already been assessed as qualified for social housing support you will be referred to your local authority to have your housing needs addressed (rather than being assessed for Rent Supplement).
If you need help with your rent but you don’t meet these conditions, you must contact your local authority to have your housing needs assessed. If you are eligible for and in need of housing support you may be able to access housing under the HAP scheme or local authority housing.
If you are currently getting long-term Rent Supplement (18 months or more) you can be asked to apply for social housing support to your local authority. You must apply within 6 weeks of being asked to do so (if necessary an extra 6 weeks can be allowed). You may then be transferred to HAP or to another form of social housing support.
Other rules for Rent Supplement
Rent Supplement will only be provided if the accommodation is suitable for your needs. Rent Supplement is not generally paid if the rent is above the maximum rent limit set for your county (see ‘Rates’ below for information about these limits and circumstances where they may be waived).
You must also:
- Pass a habitual residence test
- Pass a means test
You won’t qualify for Rent Supplement if you:
- Are in full-time employment or self-employment (30 hours or more a week). However, if you are assessed as in need of housing under the Rental Accommodation Scheme and have been out of full-time employment for 12 months or more you may be entitled to the Supplement - see ‘Employment and Rent Supplement’ below
- Are leaving local authority housing without reasonable cause.
- Have been excluded from social housing by a local authority for reasons of good estate management or anti-social behaviour.
- Are attending full-time education. However, if you are getting a Back to Education Allowance (BTEA) or are participating in the Back to Education Programme you may be entitled to Rent Supplement.
Renting from a parent: You cannot get Rent Supplement to help you pay rent to your parent if you are living in the family home. If your parent owns a second property, you will generally not get Rent Supplement for this property unless you can prove that you are a genuine (bona fide) tenant.
Sharing with your landlord: You may be entitled to get Rent Supplement if you are living in your landlord’s home. It must be a genuine landlord/tenant arrangement. Your landlord has to fill in part of the form and provide his or her PPS number (see 'How to apply' below).
Employment and Rent Supplement
You will not qualify for Rent Supplement if you are in full-time employment - defined as 30 hours or more a week. (In the case of couples, if one of a couple is in full-time employment, both are excluded from claiming 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 are working over 30 hours a week in employment or self-employment, or if you are getting the Back to Work Enterprise Allowance, you must be deemed eligible for the Rental Accommodation Scheme (RAS) by your local authority to continue to get Rent Supplement.
However, you will be reassessed for Rent Supplement and some of your additional income including some of your income from employment 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.
Income taken into account for Rent Supplement
- Net income from employment (this is gross income less PRSI and reasonable travel expenses. A child dependant in full-time education does not have their income from employment assessed as means for Rent Supplement.)
- Social welfare payments (for exceptions - see 'Income not taken into account' below)
- Family Income Supplement (FIS)
- Cash income (for example, maintenance)
- All income and the value of all property of which the claimant deprived themselves in order to qualify for Supplementary Welfare Allowance (SWA)*
- Capital (for example, property except your own home, savings and investments).
*SWA is the scheme under which Rent Supplement is paid.
The capital value of property (except your own home), savings and investments is assessed as follows:
|Capital||Weekly means assessed as|
|Next €10,000||€1 per €1,000|
|Next €25,000||€2 per €1,000
|Any capital over €40,000||€4 per €1,000.|
Income not taken into account when calculating Rent Supplement
Income from the following sources is disregarded - not taken into account - when calculating the amount of Rent Supplement you qualify for:
- An amount equal to the Supplementary Welfare Allowance (SWA) rate for your household circumstances
- Child Benefit
- Mobility Allowance
- Foster care payments from the Health Service Executive (HSE)
- Payments for accommodating children under the Child Care Act
- Income from Gaeltacht students
- Grants or allowances from schemes promoting the welfare of blind people
- Money received from charitable organisations, for example, St Vincent de Paul
- Compensation awarded by the Compensation Tribunal in respect of Hepatitis C contracted from certain blood products, to those who have disabilities caused by Thalidomide and to those receiving compensation under the Residential Institutions Redress Board
- Student Grants
- Domiciliary Care Allowance
- Carer's Support Grant
- Guardian's Payment (Contributory) and Guardian's Payment (Non-Contributory)
- Fuel Allowance and the Living Alone Allowance
- Pensioners: 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 rate of SWA appropriate to your household circumstances, the difference between the maximum rate of State Pension (Contributory) appropriate to your circumstance and the rate of SWA appropriate to your circumstances is not taken into account.
- Carers' payments: The half-rate Carer's Allowance is not taken into account.
- If you are getting Carer's Allowance, the amount of Carer's Allowance above the appropriate SWA rate for your situation (either the qualified adult rate for a couple or the personal rate of SWA) is not taken into account. So if you are one of a couple and getting Carer's Allowance, the amount of Carer's Allowance being paid less the SWA qualified adult rate is not taken into account. If you are single or a lone parent the amount disregarded is the rate of Carer's Allowance being paid less the personal rate of SWA.
- Any amount of Carer's Benefit in excess of the basic SWA rate for your situation (either the qualified adult rate or the personal rate of SWA) is not taken into account.
- Rehabilitative earnings disregard: A certain amount of your income from rehabilitative work is not taken into account. If you are getting Disability Allowance or Blind Pension, €120 from rehabilitative training or employment is not taken into account in the assessment for Rent Supplement. Any earnings over €120 from rehabilitative training or employment will affect your Rent Supplement. If you are earning above €120 you can be assessed using whichever disregard is most in your interest - either the Rehabilitative earnings disregard or the Additional income disregard (but not both).
- Additional income disregard: A certain amount of your
household income from certain sources is not taken into account. €75 of
any additional household income* above the SWA rate for your
circumstances is not taken into account. Also, 25% of additional
household income over €75 is not taken into account. There is no
upper limit on the amount that can be disregarded.
*Additional household income is income from part-time employment or part-time self-employment, Family Income Supplement (FIS), Community Employment (CE), the Tús scheme, JobBridge, the Rural Social Scheme, Part-time Job Incentive Scheme, Skillnets, Work Placement Scheme, Gateway, Back to Work Allowance, Back to Work Enterprise Allowance or a FET (formerly FÁS) course. Part of a maintenance payment is also assessed as additional household income (see below).
If you were getting Rent Supplement before 5 June 2007, you can continue to have your income assessed using the old income disregards, unless the current income disregards ensure a more favourable assessment. However, if you do not claim Rent Supplement for more than 13 weeks you will be assessed using the current income disregards. (See 'Further information' below for more information on how income was assessed for Rent Supplement before 5 June 2007.)
Maintenance and Rent Supplement
Maintenance is assessed as additional household income (see above) and maintenance payments up to €95.23 per week are assessed in full. The household income disregard (see above) applies to maintenance payments above this amount. The reason for this is that the first €95.23 per week of maintenance payments are considered to be a contribution towards your housing expenses.
Example: if your only additional household income is maintenance, all of your maintenance payment up to €95.23 per week is assessed in full. The household income disregard of €75 applies to sums above this, so that any maintenance between €95.23 and €170.23 is not taken into account. 25% of all maintenance over €170.23 is also not taken into account.
Your contribution to rent (Household Contribution)
Once the amount of Rent Supplement you qualify for has been worked out, it will be reduced by a minimum of €30. This is because you must pay at least €30 a week towards your rent. You may pay more than €30 because you are also required to contribute any additional assessable means that you have above the appropriate basic Supplementary Welfare Allowance rate towards your rent. A couple claiming Rent Supplement must pay at least €40 a week towards their rent.
Any non-dependent household members who are solely dependent on a personal social welfare payment must also contribute €30. However, if benefit and privilege has been assessed against your social welfare payment you do not have to contribute €30. If the non-dependent household members are a couple their contribution is €40. A couple over 65 with an income equal to or less than the State Pension (Contributory) for their situation will contribute €40 a week towards their rent. A couple who both have State Pensions (Contributory) and no other income will also contribute €40 towards their weekly rent.
Since January 2017, people aged 18-24 who are on age-related benefits pay a lower Household Contribution. The contribution is reduced from €30 to €10 per week for Rent Supplement recipients who are getting Jobseeker’s Allowance (JA) or Supplementary Welfare Allowance of €100 per week and from €30 to €20 for those who are getting JA of €144.
For people who are getting BTEA, a Further Education and Training (FET) training allowance or on Youthreach, where the age-related rate of €160 applies, the Household Contribution is reduced from €30 to €20 a week.
Calculating Rent Supplement
Calculating your Rent Supplement can be difficult. The Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection's representative (formerly known as the Community Welfare Officer) will decide if you are eligible for Rent Supplement and calculate the amount you will get. More information is available on how to calculate Rent Supplement.
Discrimination when letting residential property
Equality legislation applies 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.
You cannot be discriminated against when renting because you are getting Rent Supplement, HAP or any other social welfare payment. (This is known as the “housing assistance” ground.) This means that landlords can no longer state when advertising accommodation that Rent Supplement (or HAP) 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.
Rent Supplement is paid to you weekly or monthly by cheque, Electronic Fund Transfer or post draft, usually in arrears.
The amount of Rent Supplement that is calculated will generally ensure that your income, after paying rent, does not fall below a minimum level. This level is the basic Supplementary Welfare Allowance rate for your circumstances minus the appropriate rate of Household Contribution (see above). However, you may pay more depending on your means - see 'Rules' above.
The rent paid to your landlord (that is, your contribution plus your Rent Supplement) should not be above the maximum rent limit set for your county or area (this provision can be waived in some circumstances). The maximum rent limit for your county is set by the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection (DEASP). However, the Community Welfare Office may set lower rates within these limits. There is a maximum rent limit for each area (see below). If your actual rent is higher than the local maximum, you may be refused Rent Supplement entirely.
Cases where rent is over the relevant limit
In some cases Rent Supplement can be paid at the discretion of the DEASP staff administering the scheme where the rent is over the relevant limit:
- If you or a member of your household has special housing needs (for example, a disabled person in specially adapted accommodation).
- If you will be able to pay the rent yourself within a short period, if, for example, if you are taking up employment. In this case Rent Supplement at a higher rate can be paid for a short period of 6-8 weeks.
- If you have additional income to pay the balance yourself. (Rent Supplement is still based on the maximum rent limit.)
- If there are other exceptional circumstances. (Special provisions apply if you are at risk of becoming homeless.) Note also that 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 to new applicants. Tenants living in Dublin, Kildare, Meath, Wicklow, Cork City and its environs, Galway, Mayo and Roscommon can access the Tenancy Protection Service (TPS) on Freephone 1800 454 454. If you live outside of these areas, the TPS can assist you with your Rent Supplement application.
Rent Supplement and lease agreements
If, when your Rent Supplement claim is reviewed, the rent you pay is above the relevant limit and your lease is not due for renewal, you will be expected to re-negotiate your rent with your landlord. If the landlord insists that the terms of the current lease are not negotiable, and does not reduce the rent to the new limits, the DEASP representative will discuss your options with you. These may include seeking other accommodation. If the rent is in line with local market rates the limits can be exceeded in some cases.
You can find the rent limits for Rent Supplement on the Department's website. Note that the Community Welfare Office may set lower rates within these limits.
SI 221/07 sets down that the maximum amounts of Rent Supplement payable for tenants in voluntary housing developments (funded through the Capital Assistance Scheme) are €55 for a single person and €60 for a couple. The minimum Household Contribution set out above also applies.
If you are currently getting Rent Supplement, there is no automatic increase to a new rate if the rates increase (as you are currently signed up to a tenancy agreement with your landlord). The current rate limits will apply when your existing lease expires or when your claim is reviewed. You can request a review of your Rent Supplement claim by contacting the office dealing with your claim.
Tenants living in Dublin, Kildare, Meath, Wicklow, Cork City and its environs, Galway, Mayo and Roscommon can access the Tenancy Protection Service operated by Threshold on Freephone 1800 454 454.
Changes to your circumstances
If your circumstances change, you may no longer qualify for Rent Supplement or the amount of your payment may change. Read more about Rent Supplement and changes to your circumstances. You can also read FAQs about Rent Supplement from the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection.
How to apply
To apply, fill in an application form for Rent Supplement (pdf). The DEASP's representative (formerly known as the Community Welfare Officer) or local Citizens Information Service can help you fill in this form.
Part of the form will need to be filled in by your landlord or their agent. Your landlord will need to provide their tax reference number (normally their PPS number) to the DEASP. If your landlord does not wish to fill in the form a separate form (SWA 3C) (pdf) is available. If your landlord does not have a tax reference number, they should state this in writing to the DEASP and explain why this is the case. Your Rent Supplement may not be paid if your landlord has not given their tax number to the DEASP or has not explained why they do not have one.
Another part of the form may need to be filled in by your local authority, to confirm you are on their housing list and have a housing need (if you are not exempt from this rule).
You also need to bring the following documents:
- Identity documents for you and your dependants, such as full birth certificates, passports, driving licence, work permit, immigration (GNIB) card, etc.
- Documents to show your income and financial situation, such as, pay slips, P45, P35, P60, bank statements, etc.
- Documents to prove where you live, such as electricity, gas or phone bills, etc.
- Documents relating to your tenancy, such as your rent book, lease or tenancy agreement.
The DEASP's representative (formerly known as the Community Welfare Officer) usually visits you to confirm your circumstances.
Appealing a decision
If you are not satisfied with a decision made in relation to Rent Supplement, you should first find out why the decision was made by asking the DEASP's representative (formerly known as the Community Welfare Officer). You should provide any extra documentation to back up your case.
If the decision is not changed, then request an appeal form. Include as much detail as possible in your appeal and keep photocopies of everything.
If your appeal is unsuccessful, you can refer the appeal to the Social Welfare Appeals Office. You may request a personal hearing and you can bring along a representative to help argue your case.
Where to apply
To apply for Rent Supplement you should contact the Department of Social Protection's representative (formerly known as the Community Welfare Officer) at your local Intreo or social welfare branch office. However, in some areas new Rent Supplement applications are processed by centralised Rent Units. To see if your area is dealt with by a central Rent Unit you can view the central Rent Unit list.
If you live in one of these areas you can get a rent pack from your local office. This pack contains detailed information (including a list of documentation you will need) and all the relevant application forms. You should read the information in the pack carefully. If you are satisfied that you have all the necessary documents ready you can forward your application to the relevant Rent Unit. The processing of your application may be delayed if you do not supply all the information requested in the pack. The Unit will contact you if they need any further information. If they do not need any more information they will tell you when your application will be processed.
A certain amount of your income is not taken into account in the assessment for Rent Supplement. The income not taken into account is called an income disregard. The current income disregards came into effect on 5 June 2007.
All existing Rent Supplement claims in payment on 5 June 2007 were reviewed and assessed using both the current income disregards and the old income disregards. If you would get more Rent Supplement using the old income disregards (see below), you continued to be assessed using the old income disregards until:
- You no longer qualify for Rent Supplement or
- You have a break in your claim for more than 13 weeks or
- You have a change in your circumstances. For example, a change of address, household income, increase or decrease in rent or a change in your social welfare payment.