Rent supplement is paid to persons in private rented property who cannot meet the rental costs from their income and resources. Rent supplement is geared in such a way to ensure that income does not fall below an absolute minimum. It is effectively the basic social welfare rate less a notional rental allowance.
The accommodation must be suitable for the needs of the applicant. The rent must be below certain maximum amounts, which are set per county.
A person may be eligible for rent supplement if he has been living for six months out of the previous 12 in
- accommodation for homeless persons,
- private rented accommodation
- has been assessed by the local authority as being eligible for or in need of social housing in the last 12 months or
- is a resident in an institution, care home, hospital or place of detention.
In the case of a person resident in private or rental accommodation, it is necessary to show that he could afford the rent at the commencement of the tenancy and would have been able to continue paying the rent, but for a change in circumstances.
The housing assessment must be undertaken by the local authority in the area in which the rent supplement is claimed. A person must be first assessed as eligible for housing. The supplement is not payable while the housing needs assessment is being undertaken.
Rent supplement is designed for persons in private rental accommodation who satisfy the means assessment and meets certain other tests. The level of rent supplement which may be paid seeks to ensure that income does not fall below a certain level. If there is a change in circumstances the applicant must notify the Department.
The accommodation must be suitable for the needs of the applicant. There is a maximum rent allowance set for each county. These are similar to those applicable to mortgage interest supplement.
A person may qualify for rent supplement if he has lived for six of the last twelve months in a combination of homeless person’s accommodation, private rented accommodation or has been assessed by a local authority as eligible for or in need of a social housing within the previous 12 months.
A person in rental accommodation must be able to show that they were able to afford the rent at the beginning of the tenancy and have continued to pay it but are unable to do so because of a change in circumstances which has since occurred.
In the case of persons assessed for housing needs they should be assessed in the area where they should live and claim rent supplement.
Applicants must pass a means test and a habitual residence test.
A person does not qualify for a rent supplement if he is in full time employment of more than 30 hours a week. The supplement may be available for a person who has been assessed for housing under the rented accommodation scheme and has been unemployed for more than 12 months.
A person will not qualify if he has refused a second offer of local authority accommodation within 12 months. He will not be eligible if he leaves local authority housing without reasonable cause. He will not be eligible if he is excluded from social housing by reasons of good estate management or anti-social behaviour.
A person is not eligible if he is attending full-time education. However, persons receiving back to education allowance, participating in the back to education program and momentum programme may be entitled to rent supplement.
A person may not obtain supplement to help pay rent to a parent if living at home. This also applies the rent payable to a parent who owns a second property unless there is a bona fide tenancy and the person who has been assessed as having housing needs. Parents must be able to prove that there has been a history of renting this property.
Persons may retain rent supplement, if they have been unemployed for more than 12 months and participate in the community employment scheme, back to work enterprise allowance or back to work allowance. However, they are reassessed for the supplement and additional income will be taken into account.
Income taken into account for rent supplement includes
- net employment income
- social welfare payments subject to exceptions.
- family income supplement
- cash income,
- income from the value of property a person has deprived himself of , to qualify for supplementary welfare allowance.
Capital is assessed as in the same way as in relation to supplementary welfare allowance.
Certain social welfare payments are disregarded for rent supplement including
- child benefit,
- supplementary welfare allowance,
- mobility allowance,
- foster payments
- Gaeltacht Student income
- monies from certain compensation schemes.
In the case f persons over 65 years , or where one person is over 65 years, with combined household income greater than the supplementary welfare allowance rate, the difference between the maximum rate of state pension contribution appropriate to the circumstances and the rate of supplementary welfare allowance is disregarded.
A certain amount of household income may be disregarded. €75 of additional household income from part-time employment, self-employment, family income supplement community employment and certain other schemes is not taken into account.
25 percent of additional household income over €75 is disregarded.
Maintenance is assessed as additional household income for up to €95 a week. The household income disregard applies to maintenance above this level; the first €75 together with 25 percent of the balance.
Once rent supplement is calculated, there is a reduction of €30. This is the minimum contribution required towards accommodation. This will be increased if there are additional means above the supplementary welfare allowance rate. In the case of a couple claiming rent supplement, the contribution is at least €35.
Non-dependent household members who are not solely dependent on a personal social welfare payment must also contribute €30. This does not apply where they are subject to reductions on account to benefit\ and privileges.
Rent supplement is calculated by the Department of Social Protection’s representative. It is usually paid weekly, monthly, by cheque or electronic transfer. It is designed in such a way that income does not fall below a certain minimum. This is effectively the supplementary welfare/basic social welfare rate less €30 or €35 for a couple.
The rent paid to the landlord must not be above maximum amounts set per county. If the rent is higher than the local maximum, the officer may deny rent supplement entirely. However, there is discretion where the rent is over the limit. This may apply, for example,
- if the person has special housing needs and is for example disabled or in special accommodation.
- if the person may be able to pay rent within the short term for example in the case of taking up employment,
- in other exceptional circumstances
When the rent supplement is reviewed, the person is expected to renegotiate rent with the landlord. The application is made to the Department of Social protection’s representative. Part of the application is to be completed by the landlord.
A decision may be appealed. The is an appeal to the social welfare appeals office.
The 2010 Act also provides for a new condition for rent supplement payable under the Supplementary Welfare Allowance scheme which will require that from 1 January 2011, before rent supplement can be awarded, the landlord’s tax reference number must be supplied to the Health Service Executive (HSE).
The 2010 Act provides that the lower basic rate of Supplementary Welfare Allowance payable to people under 25 years will not, of itself, lead to any reduction in Rent or Mortgage Interest Supplements payable to people getting other social welfare payments.
The 2010 Act provides for a new condition for the Rent Supplement payable under the Supplementary Welfare Allowance scheme which requires that from 1 January 2011, before a claim for Rent Supplement can be awarded, the landlord’s tax reference number must be supplied to the Health Service Executive (HSE).
As certain landlords will not have such a tax reference number, e.g. non-resident landlords, confirmation from the landlord to that effect is required to be supplied in those cases. This section also provides that a landlord will be obliged to provide his or her tax reference number (or confirmation that he or she does not have a tax reference number) in respect of each tenancy for which a Rent Supplement is payable.
The 2013 Act clarified the operation of the income disregard which is used for the purposes of the Rent and Mortgage Interest Supplement schemes to ensure that this income disregard only applies to income arising from prescribed employment and training, Family Income Supplement and maintenance payments, but does not apply to any other means that the person may have, such as pensions, investment income etc.
The 2013 Act provided for the discontinuation of the Mortgage Interest Supplement scheme for new applicants with effect from 1 January 2014 and allowed for a winding down of the scheme for existing claimants over a 4 year period, i.e. by 1 January 2018.