Tuesday, 16 June 2020
Department of Housing, Planning, and Local Government
Covid-19 Pandemic Supports
1089. To ask the Minister for Housing, Planning, and Local Government if a greater level of support will be ensured for tenants accruing arrears due to a loss of income experienced by many during the Covid-19 pandemic; if further support will be ensured for HAP and rent allowance tenants who are paying top-ups to their landlords; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11568/20]
Tenants are required to pay rent to their landlord during the COVID-19 emergency period and, in the event of tenants having difficulty doing so, they are encouraged to engage with their landlords at the earliest opportunity. They should also engage with the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection (DEASP) as income supports and Rent Supplement are available to assist them. Further information on these supports can be found by calling the DEASP Income Support Helpline for Covid-19 on 1890 800 024 or by visiting the DEASP website at:
My Department and the RTB urge landlords to consider the negative impacts of COVID-19 on their tenants and to show forbearance where temporary rent arrears might arise. I have asked my Department to undertake a piece of research on the potential accumulation of rent arrears during the emergency period in conjunction with the ESRI as part of the established Department/ESRI housing research programme. The research will have regard to the range of rental and income supports being made available to those affected by COVID-19, and will assess the combined impact that these supports together with the changed consumption patterns have on the incidence of arrears.
My Department recently published a Guidance Document on COVID-19 supports for landlords and tenants, which sets out the emergency rental measures and income and other supports available to tenants and landlords during the emergency period. The Guidance document is available at:
and a list of Frequently Asked Questions has been developed and is available at:
The RTB is encouraging all customers who may require assistance or advice, including in relation to any threatened eviction, to contact them via their web chat service as there may be delays to their phone lines during the emergency period. The webchat service can be accessed at the following link: .
Under the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) scheme, a tenant sources their own accommodation in the private rented market. The tenancy agreement is between the tenant and the landlord and is governed by the Residential Tenancies Act 2004, as amended. HAP supported tenancies are afforded the same protections as all private rented tenancies. The accommodation sourced by tenants should be within the prescribed maximum HAP rent limits, which are based on household size and the rental market within the area concerned. Each local authority has statutory discretion to agree to a HAP payment up to 20% above the prescribed maximum rent limit in circumstances where it is necessary, because of local rental market conditions, to secure appropriate accommodation for a household that requires it. It is a matter for the local authority to determine if the application of the flexibility is warranted on a case-by-case basis.
My Department is aware that some HAP recipients are making payments directly to their landlords, beyond the amount of HAP being paid on their behalf. There is no legislative provision precluding HAP supported households contributing towards the monthly rent to their landlord beyond that of their HAP payment. However, decisions in relation to HAP, including the suitability of HAP accommodation, is solely a matter for the local authority concerned and local authorities have a responsibility to ensure that tenancies are sustainable and are advised not to provide HAP support to tenancies where the household would not be in a position to meet the rental costs being sought.
Where HAP tenants are not financially impacted by the COVID-19 measures, they are expected to continue to pay their HAP differential rent. However, if tenants’ circumstances change, the local authority should reassess those tenants and adjust their differential rent accordingly. Local authorities have been requested to ensure that HAP tenants newly in receipt of Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection (DEASP) supports be facilitated in remaining in their HAP tenancies. If amendments cannot be made immediately to a tenant’s differential rent amount, any arrears accumulating from the date of approval of the new DEASP support should be rectified at a later date.This will not affect the HAP payment to the landlord.
The DEASP Rent Supplement scheme continues to play a key role in supporting families and individuals in private rented accommodation, with the scheme currently supporting approximately 21,150 recipients. The scheme provides short-term income support to eligible people living in private rented accommodation whose means are insufficient to meet their accommodation costs and who do not have accommodation available to them from any other source. The scheme ensures that renters experiencing a temporary loss of employment during the COVID-19 emergency can continue to meet their rental commitments.
Since the introduction of the Government’s COVID-19 emergency response approximately, 6,400 customers have been provided Rent Supplement support; in addition, there are currently, approximately, 1,500 pending applications awaiting a decision or in the process of providing the necessary documentation to the officer dealing with their claim. The DEASP response to the COVID-19 emergency has ensured the flexibility of the Rent Supplement scheme via specific measures to prevent undue delays in processing applications despite the large number of new cases received over a relatively short timeframe. The 2/3 day turnaround of applications ensures that customers do not build up rent arrears and officers attempt to ensure that a person's rental obligations are met in full.
The DEASP Supplementary Welfare Allowance (SWA) scheme offers a safety net within the overall social welfare system by providing assistance to those whose means are insufficient to meet their own needs and those of their dependents. The main purpose of the scheme is to provide immediate and flexible assistance to those in need who do not qualify for payment under other State schemes. There are several payments within the scheme including once-off exceptional needs payments (ENPs) which can cover rent arrears.
Where a person has a change of circumstances, such as a loss of income, they should notify the relevant local authority in the case of a HAP claim, or the DEASP for Rent Supplement to assess the level of any payment that can be made.