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More than 3,000 households receiving Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) in rent arrears

Figures from the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) Shared Services Centre (SSC) have shown that more than 3,000 households availing of the scheme in Ireland have fallen into rent arrears.

The scheme, established in 2014, is a social housing support for those who have a long-term housing need. The HAP is available in all local authority areas, and is set to eventually replace long-term Rent Supplement.

The scheme is administered by local authorities, who pay the landlords directly. The rent being charged for the accommodation must be within the limits for the household type in that local authority’s area, and tenants pay a weekly HAP rent contribution to the local authority, based on income and ability to pay.  Under the scheme, people can take up full-time employment and keep their housing support. 

Tenants must be on the local authority’s housing list to qualify for the assistance – which means that you qualify for social housing support.

However, new figures have shown that more than 3,000 households availing of the payment have fallen into rent arrears. 

The figures reveal that out of the total 106,701 HAP tenancies established between the start of the scheme in 2014 and September 2022, 804 landlords have had their HAP payments suspended due to a lack of rent collection from tenants. An additional 2,216 tenancies have ended because of tenants failing to pay their rent contribution, it was also revealed, however local councils do not record the reasons for a failure to collect rent.

HAP says that “if the tenant does not pay this rent contribution, HAP payments to their landlord will be suspended and eventually stopped. The tenant is then responsible for paying the full rent themselves.”

As detailed in a report in today’s Irish Times, in the final three months of last year, Dublin City Council recorded 86 households where landlords had their local authority payments suspended because of tenant rent arrears. 

In Limerick, there were 37 households in this position, while Fingal County Council recorded 22 new cases of suspended landlord payments. South Dublin City Council saw 40 total suspensions during 2022, whilst 15 suspensions were recorded in Clare County Council. Elsewhere, Cork County Council recorded 33 HAP suspensions due to non-collection of rent for tenants, marking an increase of 17 on 2021.

In the situation where an tenant is in HAP debt, four separate letters are sent to tenants within three weeks or more of total unpaid rent. The third letter indicates that payment has been suspended to the landlord – whilst letter four signals an end to the tenancies.

In September 2022, 2,339 active HAP tenancies, equating to almost four per cent, were in the debt process.

A spokesperson for the Department of Housing told the Irish Times that the scheme has s very high rent collection rate, as he noted that only a small number of tenants had fallen into difficulty overall.

“The approach taken by the HAP SSC has been very effective with minimal levels of rent arrears arising for tenants,” he said. “At Q3 2022, the scheme had a 99 per cent differential rent collection rate. Therefore, only a very small number of tenants have fallen into difficulty with their differential rent.

“The 99 per cent tenant differential rent collection rate is not directly comparable to the number of tenants in arrears as it measures the collection rate during 2022 for differential rent.

“The HAP SSC follows a clear communication policy if rental arrears issues arise. This policy includes regular and early written communication with tenants, landlords and the relevant local authority.”

Following the lifting of this winter’s eviction ban, which was announced this week by Government, an extension to the HAP debt management process has been brought in to stop exits from the HAP scheme owing to the non-payment of rent.

Ireland’s rental crisis continues, with figures released by last October finding that there were only 716 homes listed for rent across Ireland in August 2022 – a fifth of the number of homes on the market between 2015 and 2019.

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