Housing Assistance Payment (HAP)
Table of Contents
The Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) is a social housing support administered by local authorities. HAP will replace Rent Supplement for those with a long-term housing need who qualify for social housing support. Under the HAP scheme, responsibility for the provision of rental assistance to those with a long-term housing need is transferring to Local Authorities.
HAP has been designed to simplify the current system of housing supports, and it allows households that get full-time employment to remain in the scheme. If you are eligible and approved for HAP, your local authority will pay your monthly rent directly to your landlord on your behalf. In return, you pay a contribution towards your rent to the local authority.
This will be a ‘differential rent’ meaning that it is based on your household weekly income in the same way differential rents are charged to tenants in local authority housing.
To be eligible for HAP, you must first apply for and be approved for social housing support by your local authority. If your household is already on your local authority’s housing list, you will be eligible for HAP. If you are on your local authority’s housing list and currently in receipt of Rent Supplement, you will be eligible for HAP.
Rent Supplement will still be available from the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection for people who do not qualify for social housing support – for example, someone who is temporarily unemployed. Normally, you need to show that you have been renting in the private sector for at least six months of the previous year and that you could afford your rent at the beginning of the tenancy.
You may also qualify if you have received Rent Supplement at any time during the 12 months before applying.
In order to have the local authority pay your rent directly to your landlord, you must meet the following conditions:
- You must pay your weekly rent contribution to the local authority. If you do not pay this rent contribution, HAP payments to your landlord will be stopped or suspended.
- You, or any member of your household, must not engage in antisocial behaviour.
- Your accommodation must meet the standards for rented accommodation. Your local authority will carry out an inspection to make sure the property meets these standards. This inspection will happen within eight months from the time the first HAP payment is made to your landlord.
- Your landlord must be tax compliant – that is, the landlord’s tax affairs must be in order and they must be able to supply a current tax clearance cert to the local authority.
Your local authority may not approve a HAP application if the accommodation is not suitable for your household’s needs. You should also note that your local authority can decide not to make HAP payments in certain circumstances – for example, they could stop payments if a member of your household is engaged in antisocial behaviour.
Under the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP), it is up to the tenant to find accommodation for rent in the private rented sector. This accommodation must be within the HAP rent limits, which are based on the size of your household and the rental market in your area. Your local authority will let you know what the rent limits are.
The local authority will pay the rent directly to the landlord on behalf of the tenant. This is subject to certain conditions, including that you pay a rent contribution to your local authority. The tenancy will be covered under the terms of the Residential Tenancies Act 2004 (RTA). This means that the tenancy agreement is, or will be, between the tenant and the landlord – the local authority will not be the landlord.
The landlord is the person the tenant makes the rental agreement with and who the local authority pays the rent to. In addition, under the RTA, the landlord must register the tenancy with the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB).
How to Apply
Once you are qualified for social housing support, you are eligible to apply for HAP. If you are already on your local authority’s housing list, you can ask for the HAP application form and find your own accommodation.
The HAP application form only needs to be filled in after you have found accommodation that suits you. This could be your existing accommodation if you are in receipt of Rent Supplement. If this is the case, you need to talk to your landlord as they need to agree to the terms and conditions of the HAP scheme.
If you have been receiving Rent Supplement for a significant period of time, the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection may ask you to contact your local authority about your social housing support qualification and applying for HAP.
Working and HAP
Under HAP, you are allowed to work full time and continue to benefit from Housing Assistance Payment (HAP). Payments to your landlord will continue, but the amount of rent contribution you pay to your local authority will increase in accordance with your income, similar to the Differential Rent Scheme operated by the local authorities.
Local Authority Housing List
Once you are receiving HAP, your housing needs are met and you will be removed from the local authority’s housing list. However, you will be able to apply for transfer to other forms of social housing, for example a local authority house.
When you are approved for HAP, you will receive a letter and a form to apply for a transfer from your local authority. If you apply for a transfer within two weeks of the date of the letter, any time you spent on the housing list before you entered HAP will be taken into account when your local authority considers your application.
This means that you can be placed on your local authority’s transfer list at the point you left the housing list. In other words, you do not have to start from scratch. You can apply for transfer at a later date too, but your previous waiting time on the housing list will not count.
Once you have been approved for HAP, you will be expected to stay in the same property for at least two years. However, you may be able to apply for a new HAP payment for another property sooner if your circumstances change.
For example, if you receive a job offer in another town, or if your family has another child and the property is no longer big enough.
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