SWA - Rent Supplement


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Table of Contents

PART 1

1. INTRODUCTION

  1. 1.1 Purpose of Rent Supplement
  2. 1.2 Administration
  3. 1.3 Legislation
  4. 1.4 Housing Assistance Payment

2. ENTITLEMENT

  1. 2.1 Qualifying Conditions within Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) Areas
  2. 2.2 Qualifying Conditions outside Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) Areas
  3. 2.3 Other Qualifying Conditions
  4. 2.4 Disqualifications

3. MEANS ASSESSMENT

  1. 3.1 Standard Assessment
  2. 3.2 What Counts as Means
  3. 3.3 What does Not Count as Means
  4. 3.4 Income from Employment
  5. 3.5 Income Disregards
    1. Pensioner Disregard
    2. Carer's Allowance Disregard
    3. Half-rate Carer's Allowance Disregard
    4. Additional Income Disregard
    5. Rehabilitative Earnings Disregard
    6. Assessment of Property & Savings

4. Exemptions

  1. 4.1 Rent Supplement for those returning to full-time employment
  2. 4.2 Back to Education Programme
  3. 4.3 Asylum Seekers
  4. 4.4 Payments to people not retaining Rent Supplement when taking up employment

5. Rent Limits

  1. 5.1 Departmental Response to Homelessness & Preventative Policy

PART 2: APPLICATION, ASSESSMENT AND DECISION PROCEDURES


PART 1

1. INTRODUCTION

1.1 Purpose of Rent supplement

The purpose of Rent Supplement is to provide short term income support to assist with reasonable accommodation costs of eligible people living in private rented accommodation who are unable to provide for their accommodation costs from their own resources and who do not have accommodation available to them from another source.

In July 2013 the Government approved the introduction of the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP). Under HAP, the responsibility for the provision of rent support to those with a long-term housing need will transfer from the Department of Social Protection (DSP) to local authorities.

The Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2014 (HMPA 2014), which was signed on 23rd July 2014, provides for a range of changes to the framework of social housing support, including the introduction of HAP, which will bring together all long-term social housing supports provided by the State under the local authority system.   The Act has also made changes to the qualifying conditions for Rent Supplement. (See under entitlement below)

1.2 Administration

Applications for Rent Supplement can be made to your local Department of Social Protection Office administering Supplementary Welfare Allowance.

1.3 Legislation

  • Chapter 9 of Part 3 and Chapter 3 of Part 10 of the Social Welfare (Consolidation) Act, 2005 (as amended)
  • Part 4 of Schedule 3 of the Social Welfare (Consolidation) Act 2005 Rules as to Calculation of Means, (as amended)
  • Social Welfare (Consolidated Supplementary Welfare Allowance) Regulations 2007 to 2014
  • Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2014 (HMPA 2014)

2. Entitlement

From 15 September 2014, separate qualifying conditions exist for applicants who reside within ‘HAP Designated Areas’.

From 15 September 2014, the Housing Assistance Payment was introduced in Cork County Council, Limerick City and County Council and Waterford City and County Council.

From 1 October 2014, the next phase of the Housing Assistance Payment is being introduced in South Dublin County Council, Kilkenny County Council, Monaghan County Council and Louth County Council.

From 18 December 2014, the Housing Assistance Payment was extended to homeless households in Dublin City Council, Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council and Fingal County Council.

From May 2015, the Housing Assistance Payment was introduced in Donegal County Council.

From June 2015, the Housing Assistance Payment was extended to Offaly County Council, Carlow County Council, Cork City Council, Tipperary County Council and Clare County Council.

From November 2015, the Housing Assistance Payment was extended to Kildare County Council, Meath County Council, Galway County Council, Mayo County Council and Sligo County Council.
 

From February 2016, the Housing Assistance Payment was extended to Galway City Council

From 1 December 2016, the Housing Assistance Payment was extended to Cavan County Council, Kerry County Council, Laois County Council, Leitrim County Council, Longford County Council, Roscommon County Council, Westmeath County Council, Wexford County Council and Wicklow County Council. 

A full list of HAP Designated Areas can be found here.

2.1 Qualifying Conditions within Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) areas 

For household’s within HAP Designated Areas, Designated Persons must be satisfied that, at the time of application, the claimant is a bona fide tenant and;

  • was previously in receipt of a Rent Supplement payment within 12 months of the date of application, or
  • was residing in private rented accommodation (where at the commencement of the tenancy the person could have reasonably afforded the rent and has experienced a substantial change in his or her circumstances where they are now unable to pay the rent) for a period of 183 days within the preceding 12 months of the date of claim for Rent Supplement, or
  • was residing for 183 days or more during the 12 months immediately before the application in an Institution or accommodation for homeless persons as provided under section 10 of the Housing Act 1988. However, where such applicants have already been determined to be qualified for social housing support they should be referred to the local housing authority to have their housing needs addressed.

There is no entitlement to Rent Supplement in respect of any applicant who resides within a HAP Designated area and does not satisfy the above conditions.

Applicants who do not satisfy these conditions should be referred immediately to their local housing authority to have their housing needs addressed. The claimant’s eligibility for social housing support, including HAP, will be assessed by the local authority. 

 

2.2 Qualifying Conditions outside Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) areas

For household’s outside HAP Designated Areas, Designated Persons must be satisfied that, at the time of application, the claimant is a bona fide tenant and: 
  • have been residing in private rented accommodation (where at the commencement of the tenancy the person could have reasonably afforded the rent and has experienced a substantial change in his or her circumstances where they are now unable to pay the rent) or accommodation for homeless persons or in an institution (or any combination of these) for a period of 183 days within the preceding 12 months of the date of claim for Rent Supplement, or
  • have had an assessment of housing need carried out within the 12 months preceding the date of claim and have been deemed by the relevant local authority to be eligible for and in need of social housing support.

In all other cases, a person who wishes to apply for Rent Supplement will be referred, in the first instance, for an assessment of eligibility for social housing support by the local housing authority in the area where claim to Rent Supplement is made (and the person intends to reside). Only when the person has been assessed as being eligible for and in need of social housing support, does the person become eligible for consideration for Rent Supplement.

Rent Supplement is not payable while a housing needs assessment is being undertaken. Some limited exceptions may apply.

2.3 Other Qualifying Conditions

    In addition, the Department's representative must be satisfied that:

    • The accommodation is suited to the person's needs;
    • The amount of rent being paid is within limits prescribed set out in Section 5
    • The amount of Rent Supplement payable does not exceed €55 per week for single people and €60 per week for couples, where accommodation is provided through the Capital Assistance Scheme

 

2.4 Disqualification

A person is not entitled to a Rent Supplement if he or she:

  • fails to satisfy the qualifying conditions set out above
  • Is engaged in full time work, defined as more than 29 hours a week unless the applicant has been deemed as eligible for the Rental Accommodation Scheme by the local housing authority see Section 4.1.
  • has a spouse or partner who is engaged in full time employment
  • Is engaged in full time education see Section 4.2 for exceptions to this rule
  • Is involved in a trade dispute. However, the dependant spouse and dependant children of a person involved in trade dispute are not excluded from SWA for the period of the strike
  • is living in accommodation provided by a local authority
  • is living in accommodation provided by the Health Service Executive
  • is living in accommodation provided by a body or organisation which provides services on behalf of, or similar to, or ancillary to the Health Service Executive, where that body uses residential care staff in providing such services and also receives a subvention payment from the Minister for Health in respect of that person
  • is living in accommodation provided by a voluntary housing body where that body receives a subsidy under the rental subsidy scheme
  • is receiving a rent allowance from the Department of Social Protection due to being a tenant in decontrolled rented accommodation
  • is admitted to an institution for a period of in excess of 13 weeks
  • is excluded from the local authority housing list
  • has vacated local authority accommodation without satisfying the Department's representative there was good cause for doing so
  • has within any continuous 12 month period refused a second offer of accommodation, provided by either a housing authority (includingincluding accommodation offered under the new Rental Accommodation Scheme) or any body approved by the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government for the purposes of Section 6 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1992 (No. 18 of 1992) i.e. the Capital Assistance Housing scheme
  • is not lawfully in the State
  • has made an application for asylum under the Refugee Act, 1996 and such application is awaiting final decision by the Minister for Justice and Equality
  • has made an application under the Aliens Act, 1935 to remain in the State and such application has not been determined

The Department's representative may also decide that a Rent Supplement may not be payable where it has been notified by a housing authority regarding the non compliance with standards prescribed in regulations made under Section 18 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions Act) 1992.

Rent Supplement may be terminated where the landlord fails to supply the Department with a Tax Reference Number or fails to provide the Department with a reason why s/he has no Tax Reference Number.

Rent Supplement is not normally paid where the rent payable to the landlord is in excess of the limits set out in Section 5 below.

3. MEANS ASSESSMENT

3.1 Standard Assessment

Rent Supplement is normally calculated to ensure that a person, after the payment of rent, has an income equal to the rate of SWA appropriate to their family circumstances less a minimum contribution which recipients are required to pay from their own resources. In general, the standard weekly minimum contribution is €30 for a single adult household and €40 for coupled households.

Circular 2016 (062-16) provides that the minimum contribution payable under the Rent Supplement scheme for Jobseeker’s Allowance/Back to Education/Supplementary Welfare Allowance recipients on age-related reduced rates of payment who are living independently, will be reduced from €30 to either €20 or €10, effective from 2ndJanuary, 2017. Similarly, the minimum contribution in the case of couples in this category will reduce from €40 to either €20 or €30.

Many recipients pay more than this ammount because recipients are also required, subject to income disregards, to contribute any additional assessable means that they have over and above the appropriate basic SWA rate towards their accommodation costs.

A further minimum contribution is also payable in respect of each non-dependent adult household member. It is custom and practice to reduce the Rent Supplement payable by at least €30 in respect of each non-dependent household member who is in receipt of a Social Welfare payment or income from employment.

3.2 What Counts as Means

  • Any income from employment, self employment or a training and educational scheme such as Community Employment (CE), Back to Education Allowance (BTEA) and Back to Work Allowance (BTW)
  • Family Income Supplement
  • The capital value of investments, savings & value of property other than the claimant's own home.
  • All income and the value of all property of which the claimant deprived himself/herself in order to qualify for SWA.
  • Income in cash e.g. maintenance payments.

3.3 What does not Count as Means

The following items are not counted in the means test for Rent Supplement:

  • Child benefit, including equivalent payments from other EU countries
  • Mobility Allowance
  • Guardian's Payment Contributory or Non Contributory
  • Payments received from the Health Service Executive for foster children.
  • Payments for accommodating children under the Child Care Act.
  • Income from Gaeltacht students
  • Domiciliary Care Allowance
  • Grants or allowances arising in pursuance of a scheme promoting the welfare of blind people.
  • Money received from charitable organisations e.g. St. Vincent de Paul
  • Compensation awarded by the Compensation Tribunal in respect of Hepatitis C contracted from certain blood products; compensation awarded to those who have disabilities caused by Thalidomide and to those receiving compensation under the Residential Institutions Redress Board.
  • Maintenance grants paid by Local Authorities for Higher Education.
  • Respite Care Grant

3.4 Income from Employment

Subject to certain conditions, a claimant may work up to 30 hours per week in insurable employment and still qualify for rent supplement. A claimant may also work more than 30 hours per week, if accepted as in need of accommodation under the Rental Accommodation Scheme, and subject to other scheme conditions may retain entitlement to Rent Supplement.

Gross income less PRSI and reasonable travel expenses is taken into account for the means test. Other necessary expenses may be allowed in the case of self employment.

3.5 Income Disregards

The following are the principal income disregards which apply in the calculation of means for rent supplement purposes:

Pensioners Disregard

A special income disregard exists for those aged 65 years or over. Any additional income equal to the difference between the maximum rate of State (Contributory) Pension and the Supplementary Welfare Allowance appropriate to his or her circumstances can be disregarded.

In effect, any single person aged 65 or over with income equivalent to the value of the maximum rate of State Pension (Contributory) should only make the minimum contribution of €30 per week. A pensioner couple who both have a State (Contributory) Pension payable at the maximum rate and have no other income, should contribute €40 per week towards their rent.

Carer's Allowance Disregard

The rules governing the means test for Rent Supplement provide for a disregard of income derived from Carer's Allowance.

In the case of a couple, where either spouse is a recipient of Carer's Allowance, the amount to be disregarded is: the rate of Carer's Allowance in payment less the SWA adult dependant rate.

In the case of a single person or a Lone Parent in receipt of Carer's Allowance, the amount disregarded is: the rate of Carer's Allowance in payment less the personal rate of SWA

Half-Rate Carer's Allowance Disregard

From 27th September 2007, all income received in respect of half rate Carer's Allowance made under Section 24 of the SW & Pensions Act 2007 is disregarded in full in the Rent Supplement assessment.

Additional Income Disregard

The "additional income disregard" refers to the amount of additional income from certain sources, over and above the appropriate SWA rate, that can be disregarded in the means test for Rent Supplement purposes.

The 'additional income disregard' was introduced with effect from 6th June 2007 as follows:

  • Disregard the first €75 of "additional income"
  • Disregard 25% of "additional income" over €75
  • There is no upper limit on the amount that can be disregarded

"Additional income" is the amount of income in excess of the SWA rate, applicable to household circumstances and includes income derived from:

  • Part time employment or part time self employment (under 30 hours per week)
  • Full time employment or full time self employment (30 hours or over per week) where the claimant is accepted as in need of accommodation under the Rental Accommodation Scheme.
  • Any employment or approved training scheme e.g. CE, BTWA, BTWEA or FAS course
  • Family Income Supplement.
  • Maintenance Payments in excess of €95.23

The first €95.23 per week of maintenance payments is assessable in full for the purpose of the Rent Supplement Scheme. The amount of maintenance over €95.23 per week that can be disregarded is €75 per week with 25% of any maintenance in excess of €170.23 (€95.23 + €75) also disregarded.

For persons participating in approved training courses, any lunch or travel allowances that are paid may also be disregarded. Certain training courses now provide a childcare allowance to participants on certain courses. These childcare allowances are treated in the same manner as a lunch or travel allowance and disregarded.

Rehabilitative Earnings Disregard

Up to €120 of earnings from rehabilitative employment can be disregarded. However, this disregard cannot be applied together with 'the additional income disregard'. Only one such disregard can be applied, whichever is most beneficial.

Assessment of Property & Savings

Capital (savings and investments) and the value of property owned but not personally used or enjoyed is assessed as means. Where capital or property is assessed on this basis, any income received from its use (e.g. interest on savings, dividends from shares, rent from property let) is not assessed as cash income. Instead, the following formula is used to establish weekly means:

  • Disregard first €5,000 of capital value of property/savings
  • Assess next €10,000 @ €1 per €1,000
  • Assess next €25,000 @ €2 per €1,000
  • Assess remaining capital over €40,000 @ €4 per €1,000.

4. Exemptions

4.1 Rental Accommodation Scheme and Full Time Employment

Rent Supplement is not payable where a person or their spouse/partner is in full-time employment i.e. 30 hours or more per week. However, existing claimants may retain their Rent Supplement provided they are deemed by a local authority to be eligible to participate in the Rental Accommodation Scheme (RAS) and satisfy the means test.

The Rental Accommodation Scheme is administered by local housing authorities under the aegis of the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government. Its purpose is to provide accommodation from the private rented market or through other social housing measures to persons with a long term housing need. You should contact your local housing authority if you want to be considered as eligible for the scheme.

Rent supplement may continue where an eligible person:

  • engages in remunerative full time employment and during the 12 month period immediately before his or her engagement in remunerative full time employment, the person was not regarded as being engaged in remunerative full time employment (30 hours rule), or
  • is participating in:
    (i) a scheme known as the Area Allowance Enterprise Scheme, approved by a company known as an Area Partnership, in consultation with the Minister,
    (ii) a scheme administered by an Foras Áiseanna Saothair and known as Community Employment, or
    (iii) a scheme administered by the Minister and known as the Back to Work Allowance Scheme,

This new measure allows existing Rent Supplement tenants, who have been accepted as being in need of accommodation under the Rental Accommodation Scheme and who have been out of full time employment for 12 months or more to return to full time employment and still be considered for Rent Supplement, subject to the other qualifying conditions of the scheme.

4.2 Back to Education Programme (BTEA) 

People in full time education are normally excluded from receipt of Rent Supplement. However, people participating in approved courses under the BTEA scheme may retain any Rent Supplement which may have been in payment prior to the commencement of their education course.

It is also open to them to apply for Rent Supplement if they have not been previously getting a supplement – subject to satisfying all other qualifying conditions of the scheme.

BTEA is payable to people participating in approved second or third level courses.

Income from BTEA is fully assessable under the means test and is not eligible for the “additional income disregard”. However, recipients of the Back to Education Allowance who have income from another source (e.g. part-time employment) may qualify for the “additional income disregard” i.e. the first €75 of additional income in excess of the SWA rate is disregarded with 25% of additional income over €75, with no upper limit, also disregarded.

4.3 Asylum Seekers

In general, asylum seekers are not allowed to work while their claim for asylum is being processed, however, asylum seekers who arrived in the State on or before 26 July 1999 and who were awaiting a final determination on their claim for asylum for 12 months or more were granted permission to seek employment. Entitlement to Rent Supplement is assessed under the standard assessment where an asylum seeker in this category secures employment.

4.4 Payments to People not Retaining Rent Supplement when Taking up Employment

A person who is not entitled to retain Rent Supplement on taking up employment through the methods outlined above may continue to receive payment of the relevant supplement for a period of up to 30 days after starting work or until such time as he or she first receives remuneration, whichever is the earlier.

5. RENT LIMITS

Rent Supplements are subject to a limit on the amount of rent that an applicant for Rent Supplement may incur. Rent Supplement is not normally paid where the rent payable to the landlord is in excess of the limits set out below. The Department's representative also has the authority to set levels below that provided for in regulations in respect of sub divisions of its functional areas.

SI 412/07 provides that entitlement to rent supplement shall be just and proper having regard to the nature, character and location of the residence, and for this purpose, the maximum amount of rent in respect of which a supplement is payable is set out under Schedule 1 of SI 412/2007.
 
The prescribed maximum rent limits do not apply to households which consist of family compositions or sizes which are not prescribed under Schedule 1 of SI 412/2007: for example, there is no prescribed rent limit in respect of a household consisting of a family with 4 or more children.
 
When making decisions in respect of a non-prescribed household type, staff processing rent supplement applications must be independently satisfied that the rent payable by the claimant is just and proper having regard to the nature, character and location of the residence.  In making this decision, reference should be made to the relevant prescribed rent limits for guidance.
 

Under certain circumstances, the Department's representative can pay Rent Supplement where the rent is above the relevant limit; where there are special housing needs, where the applicant has additional income in excess of the SWA rate or on a short term basis until the tenant is in a position to re assume responsibility for his/her rent.

5.1 Departmental Response to Homelessness & Preventative Policy

In view of the reduction of supply in the private rented market and increasing rents at this time, the Department has implemented a policy approach that allows for flexibility where landlords seek rents in excess of the limits for both existing customers and new applicants to the rent supplement scheme. The circumstances of tenants are considered on a case-by-case basis and rents are being increased above prescribed limits, as appropriate. In addition, the Department, in conjunction with Threshold, operates a special protocol in the areas where supply issues are particularly acute. Tenants in the following areas can access the Tenancy Protection Service provided by Threshold on 1800 454 454; Counties Dublin, Kildare, Meath, Wicklow and Cork city.

View details of the current Maximum Rent levels here.

    Last modified:02/12/2016
     

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