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.
It is a short-term income support for people in the private rented sector.
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.
Domestic violence and Rent Supplement
Victims of domestic violence referred from Tusla-funded services, An Garda Síochána and the Health Service Executive (HSE) can get immediate access to Rent Supplement. The mean-test for Rent Supplement will not apply for 3 months.
Rent Supplement can be extended for a further 3 months, but the means-test will apply.
After this 6 month period, if the person has a long term housing need, they can apply to their local housing authority for social housing supports and access the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP), if eligible.
Special access to Rent Supplement for victims of domestic violence will continue until the end of 2021.
COVID-19 and Rent Supplement
Legislation was introduced to prevent both the termination of residential tenancies and any rent increases for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic.
While tenants are expected to pay rent during the COVID-19 pandemic, Rent Supplement is available to you if you are struggling to pay.
There are new Rent Supplement rules for applicants who apply on or after 13 March 2020. These rules will be in place until 31 March 2021:
- You can qualify for Rent Supplement if you or your partner are working more than 30 hours per week and you have had a reduction in your income from work due to the COVID-19 public health emergency.
- You must have been in your current tenancy for more than 4 weeks and could have continued to paid your rent from your own resources, but for the COVID-19 public health emergency.
- If you are diagnosed with COVID-19 or are suspected of having COVID-19 and are medically required to self-isolate, your Rent Supplement can be processed and paid immediately.
- You will be assessed for Rent Supplement using a higher Supplementary Welfare Allowance rate – see below.
If your Rent Supplement continues after 31 March 2021, it will be reviewed and the existing Rent Supplement rules, guidelines and means assessment will apply.
Supplementary Welfare Allowance rate for Rent Supplement and COVID-19
Rent Supplement ensures that your income, after paying rent, does not fall below a minimum level. This minimum level is the basic Supplementary Welfare Allowance rate for your circumstances minus a set Household Contribution (you may pay more depending on your means).
The basic Supplementary Welfare Allowance (SWA) rate is normally €201 – you will get a higher rate if you have dependents. However, if you are a new Rent Supplement applicant and applied on or after 13 March 2020, you will be assessed for Rent Supplement using the following Supplementary Welfare Allowance rates:
- €350 for a single person
- €700 for a couple
- €40 for each child.
If your employment (or self-employment) has been affected by the coronavirus pandemic, or if you are sick or caring for someone who is sick, read our document on COVID-19 (coronavirus) and social welfare payments.
During COVID-19 restrictions, the Department has reduced public opening hours for Intreo centres. You can contact your local office administering SWA by email or phone.
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).
For applicants who apply on or after 13 March 2020, you must have been in your current tenancy for more than 4 weeks and could have continued to paid your rent from your own resources, but for the COVID-19 public health emergency.
If you need help with your rent but you don’t meet these conditions, you should contact your local Intreo Centre for advice on your situation.
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 situations 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 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 registered as a full-time student. 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.
- You are getting a Housing Assistance Payment (HAP).
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 their 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 can only continue to get Rent Supplement if your local authority considers that you eligible for the Rental Accommodation Scheme (RAS).
For applicants who apply on or after 13 March 2020, you can qualify for Rent Supplement if you or your partner are working more than 30 hours per week and you have had a reduction in your income from work due to the COVID-19 public health emergency – see COVID-19 and Rent Supplement above.
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.
If you start work (employment or self-employment), you must notify the Department of Social Protection (DSP) to avoid any overpayment of Rent 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)
- Working Family Payment (WFP)
- Cash income (for example, maintenance)
- All income and the value of all property of which you deprived yourself in order to qualify for Rent Supplement
- Capital (for example, property except your own home, savings and investments).
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 from some sources is disregarded - not taken into account - when calculating the amount of Rent Supplement that you qualify for. You can find more information in our document on calculating Rent Supplement.
Your contribution to rent (Household Contribution)
Once the amount of Rent Supplement that 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 their social welfare payment they 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.
Calculating Rent Supplement
Calculating your Rent Supplement can be difficult. The Department of Social Protection 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 Electronic Fund Transfer, post draft or cheque, 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 Social Protection (DSP). However, the DSP may set lower rates within these limits. 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 (including on-going reviews)
The DSP can make additional Rent Supplement payments above rent limits when this is deemed necessary. This is done on a case-by-case basis both for people getting Rent Supplement already and for new applicants.
Under the National Tenancy Sustainment Framework (NTSF), DSP staff may provide additional financial support above your normal Rent Supplement if:
- A landlord increases or sets a rent above the maximum rent limit for your area
- You or a member of your household need specially adapted accommodation due to a disability.
If you are having difficulty with your Rent Supplement for any other reason, you should contact the DSP's community welfare service officer at your local office as soon as possible.
In certain limited circumstances you may make additional payments above the rent limit yourself, provided that you have the additional income above your standard social welfare entitlement.
The Department also has an arrangement with the housing charity Threshold to support people who are at risk of homelessness in Dublin, Cork, Meath, Kildare, Wicklow and Galway City.
You can find the rent limits for Rent Supplement on the Department's website. Note that the DSP may set lower rates within these limits.
SI 221/07 sets down that the maximum amounts of Rent Supplement payable for tenants. For voluntary housing developments funded through the Capital Assistance Scheme, the rates are €55 for a single person and €60 for other household compositions. The rules established for your expected contribution towards your rent are set above.
For cases where the rent expected is above the relevant maximum limit, the Department’s NTSF policy, as outlined above, is to provide a flexible case-by-case approach, providing additional financial support to ensure that people qualifying for Rent Supplement keep their accommodation.
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 Social Protection.
How to apply
To apply, fill in an application form for Rent Supplement (pdf). The DSP'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 DSP. 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 DSP 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 DSP or has not explained why they do not have one.
You will need show proof of your identity, income and tenancy. Some of the documents you may need are:
- Identity documents for you and your dependants, such as full birth certificates, passports, driving licence, work permit, Irish Residence Permit (IRP), etc.
- Documents to show your income and financial situation, such as, pay slips, tax statements, 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 DSP's representative 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 can appeal the decision to the Social Welfare Appeals Office. You must appeal within 21 days of getting the decision.
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 Centre or Social Welfare Branch Office.
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.