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If you are living in private rented accommodation and you cannot provide for the cost of your accommodation from your own resources, you may be able to get a Rent Supplement under the Supplementary Welfare Allowance Scheme. In general, you will qualify for a Rent Supplement if your only income is a social welfare payment and you satisfy the other rules - see 'Rules' below.
The amount of Rent Supplement you get will be calculated to ensure that your income after paying rent does not fall below a minimum level.
If your circumstances change you may no longer qualify for Rent Supplement or the amount of your payment may change. Read more about Rent Supplement and changes to your circumstances.
You can also read FAQs about Rent Supplement from the Department of Social Protection.
Revised rent limits for the Rent Supplement scheme were announced in June 2013 and came into effect from Monday 17 June 2013.
The Government has approved a plan for the transfer of responsibility for recipients of Rent Supplement with a long-term housing need from the Department of Social Protection to housing authorities using a new Housing Assistance Payment (HAP).
HAP is operational in several housing authorities (Cork County Council, Limerick City and County Council, Waterford City and County Council, South Dublin County Council, Kilkenny County Council, Monaghan County Council and Louth County Council). Find out where HAP is in operation. It will be rolled out to remaining housing authorities from 2015.
Different rules apply for Rent Supplement depending on whether you live in a HAP area or in an area where HAP is not yet in operation. See ‘Rules’ below for details.
Rent Supplement within Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) areas
If you live in a HAP area you are only eligible for Rent Supplement if you are a genuine (bona fide) tenant and meet one of the following conditions:
- You were getting Rent Supplement in the 12 months before the date of your application.
- You were living in private rented accommodation for at least 6 months (183 days) of the last 12 months, you could afford the rent at the beginning of your tenancy and you are unable to continue to pay the rent because of a substantial change in your circumstances which occurred after you started renting. You can combine time living in more than one rented accommodation to satisfy the 6 months (183 days).
- You were living in accommodation for homeless people for at least 6 months (183 days) of the last 12 months. If you have already been assessed as qualified for social housing support you will be referred to your local authority to have your housing needs addressed (rather than being assessed for Rent Supplement).
If you don’t meet these conditions you must contact your local authority to have your housing needs assessed. If you are eligible for and in need of housing support you may be able to access housing under the HAP scheme or local authority housing.
If you are currently getting long-term Rent Supplement (18 months or more) and you live in a HAP area you can be asked to apply for social housing support to your local authority. You must apply within 6 weeks of being asked to do so (if necessary an extra 6 weeks can be allowed). You may then be transferred to HAP or to another form of social housing support.
Rent Supplement in areas where HAP is not yet in operation
You may get Rent Supplement if you have been living for 6 months (183 days) out of the last 12 months in one, or a combination, of the following:
- Accommodation for homeless people.
- Private rented accommodation. You can combine time living in more than one rented accommodation to satisfy the 6 months (183 days). You must be able to show that you could afford the rent at the beginning of your tenancy and that you could have continued to pay rent but are unable to do so because of a change in your circumstances which occurred after you started renting.
- An institution, for example, a hospital, care home or place of detention.
- Have been assessed by a local authority as being eligible for and in need of social housing in the last 12 months. If you don't have a housing need assessment, you must go to the local authority to have your housing need assessed. The local authority must be in the area that you intend to live and claim Rent Supplement. Only when you are assessed as eligible for and in need of housing can you apply for Rent Supplement. Rent Supplement is not payable while the local authority is carrying out a housing needs assessment.
Rules for Rent Supplement in both HAP and non-HAP areas
Rent Supplement will only be provided if the accommodation is suitable for your needs. Rent Supplement is not generally paid if the rent is above the maximum rent limit set for your county (see ‘Rates’ below for the current limits and circumstances where these limits may be waived).
You must also:
- Pass a habitual residence test
- Pass a means test.
You won't qualify for Rent Supplement if you:
- Are in full-time employment(30 hours or more a week). However, if you are assessed as in need of housing under the Rental Accommodation Scheme and have been out of full-time employment for 12 months or more you may be entitled to the Supplement. (See 'Employment and Rent Supplement' below)
- Have refused a second offer of local authority accommodation in a 12-month period. In this case, you will not be eligible to claim Rent Supplement for 12 months
- Are leaving local authority housing without reasonable cause
- Have been excluded from social housing by a local authority for reasons of good estate management or anti-social behaviour.
- Are attending full-time education. However, if you are getting a Back to Education Allowance or participating in the Back to Education Programme you may be entitled to the Supplement.
Renting from a parent: You will not get Rent Supplement to help you pay rent to your parent if you are living in the family home. If your parent owns a second property, you will generally not get Rent Supplement to rent this property from them unless it is a bona fide tenancy and you are assessed as having a housing need. Your parent must also be able to prove that they have a history of renting this property.
Employment and Rent Supplement
You will not qualify for Rent Supplement if you are in full-time employment - that is, employment for 30 hours per week or more. (In the case of couples, if one of a couple is in full-time employment both are excluded from claiming rent supplement.)
Since June 2007, if you are accepted as being in need of accommodation under the Rental Accommodation Scheme by your local housing authority and you have been unemployed or not in full-time employment for at least 12 months before you start work, you may be entitled to retain Rent Supplement. You may also be entitled to retain Rent Supplement if you have been participating in a Community Employment Scheme or getting Back to Work Allowance immediately before you start work.
However, you will be reassessed for Rent Supplement and some of your additional income, including some of your income from employment, will be taken into account. As a result of the reassessment you may or may not continue to qualify for Rent Supplement. If you do still qualify for Rent Supplement you may get a different rate of supplement.
Income taken into account for Rent Supplement
- Net income from employment (this is gross income less PRSI and reasonable travel expenses. A child dependant aged 17 and under in full-time education does not have their income from employment assessed as means for Rent Supplement.)
- Social welfare payments (for exceptions, see 'Income not taken into account' below)
- Family Income Supplement
- Cash income (for example, maintenance)
- All income and the value of all property of which the claimant deprived himself/herself in order to qualify for the Supplementary Welfare Allowance Scheme
- Capital (for example, property except your own home, savings and investments)
The capital value of property (except your own home), savings and investments will be assessed on a weekly basis as follows:
|Capital||Weekly means assessed as|
|Next €10,000||€1 per €1,000|
|Next €25,000||€2 per €1,000
|Any capital over €40,000||€4 per €1,000.|
Income not taken into account when calculating Rent Supplement
Income from the following sources is disregarded or not taken in account when calculating the amount of Rent Supplement you will get:
- An amount equal to the Supplementary Welfare Allowance (SWA) rate for your household circumstances
- Child Benefit
- Mobility Allowance
- Foster care payments from the Health Service Executive
- Payments for accommodating children under the Child Care Act
- Income from Gaeltacht students
- Grants or allowances from schemes promoting the welfare of blind people
- Money received from charitable organisations, for example, St Vincent de Paul
- Compensation awarded by the Compensation Tribunal in respect of Hepatitis C contracted from certain blood products, to those who have disabilities caused by Thalidomide and to those receiving compensation under the Residential Institutions Redress Board
- Maintenance grants paid by a VEC or local authority for educational purposes (now replaced by the Student Grant Scheme)
- Domiciliary Care Allowance
- Respite Care Grant
- Guardian's Payment (Contributory) and Guardian's Payment(Non-Contributory)
- Pensioners: If you are aged 65 or over (or where one of a couple is of pensionable age) and have a combined household income greater than the rate of SWA appropriate to your household circumstances, the difference between the maximum rate of State Pension (Contributory) appropriate to your circumstance and the rate of SWA appropriate to your circumstances is not taken into account.
- Carers' payments: The half-rate Carer's Allowance is never taken into account.
- If you are getting Carer's Allowance, the amount of Carer's Allowance above the appropriate SWA rate for your situation (either the Qualified Adult rate for a couple or the personal rate of SWA) is not taken into account. So if you are one of a couple and getting Carer's Allowance, the amount of Carer's Allowance being paid less the SWA Qualified Adult rate is not taken into account and if you are single or a lone parent the amount disregarded is the rate of Carer's Allowance being paid, less the personal rate of SWA.
- Any amount of Carer's Benefit in excess of the basic SWA rate for your situation (either the Qualified Adult rate or the personal rate of SWA) is not taken into account.
- Rehabilitative earnings disregard: A certain amount of your income from rehabilitative work is not taken into account. If you are getting Disability Allowance or Blind Pension, €120 from rehabilitative training or employment is not taken into account in the assessment for Rent Supplement. Any earnings over €120 from rehabilitative training or employment will affect your Rent Supplement. If you are earning above €120 you can be assessed using whichever disregard is most in your interest - either the Rehabilitative earnings disregard or the Household income disregard (but not both).
- Household income disregard: A certain amount of your household income is not taken into account. €75 of any additional household income* above the SWA rate for your circumstances is not taken into account. Also, 25% of additional household income over €75 is not taken into account. There is no upper limit on the amount that can be disregarded.
Additional household income includes income from employment, maintenance payments in excess of €95.23, Family Income Supplement, Community Employment (CE), Back to Work Allowance, Back to Enterprise Allowance or FET (formerly FÁS) course.
If you were getting Rent Supplement before 5 June 2007 you can continue to have your income assessed using the old income disregards, unless the current income disregards ensure a more favourable assessment. However, if you do not claim Rent Supplement for more than 13 weeks you will be assessed using the current income disregards. Further information is available on how income was assessed for Rent Supplement before 5 June 2007.
Maintenance and Rent Supplement
Maintenance is assessed as additional household income (see above) and maintenance payments up to €95.23 per week are assessed in full. The household income disregard (see above) applies to maintenance payments above this amount. For example, if your only additional household income is maintenance, all of your maintenance payment up to €95.23 per week is assessed in full. The household income disregard of €75 applies to sums above this, so that any maintenance between €95.23 and €170.23 is not taken into account. 25% of all maintenance over €170.23 is also not taken into account.
Your contribution to rent (Household Contribution)
Once the amount of Rent Supplement you qualify for has been worked out, it will be reduced by €30 each week. This is because you must pay at least €30 weekly towards your rent. You may pay more than €30 because you are also required tocontribute any additional assessable means that you have above the appropriate basic Supplementary Welfare Allowance rate towards your rent. If you areone of a couple and are claiming Rent Supplement you must pay at least €40 weekly towards your rent.
Any non-dependent household members who are solely dependent on a personal social welfare payment must also contribute €30. However, if benefit and privilege has been assessed against your social welfare payment you donot have to contribute €30. If the non-dependent household members are a couple, their contribution is €40.
A couple over 65 with an income equal to or less than the State Pension (Contributory) for their situation will contribute €35 towards their rent. A couple who both have State Pensions (Contributory) and no other income will also contribute €35 towards their rent.
Calculating Rent Supplement
Calculating your Rent Supplement can be difficult. The Department of Social Protection's representative (formerly known as the Community Welfare Officer) will decide if you are eligible for Rent Supplement and calculate the amount you will get. More information is available on how to calculate Rent Supplement.
Appealing a decision
If you are not satisfied with a decision made in relation to Rent Supplement, you should first find out why the decision was made by asking Department of Social Protection's representative (formerly known as the Community Welfare Officer). You should provide any extra documentation to back up your case.
If the decision is not changed, then request an appeal form. Include as much detail as possible in your appeal and keep photocopies of everything.
If your appeal is unsuccessful, you are entitled to have the appeal referred to the Social Welfare Appeals Office. You may request a personal hearing and you can bring along a representative to help argue your case.
Rent Supplement is paid to you weekly or monthly by Electronic Fund Transfer or post draft, usually in arrears.
The amount of Rent Supplement will be calculated and will generally ensure that your income, after paying rent, does not fall below a minimum level. This level is the basic Supplementary Welfare Allowance rate for your circumstances minus €30 (or €40 for a couple). You must always pay at least €30 towards your rent. However,you may pay more depending on your means - see 'Rules' above.
The rent paid to your landlord (that is, your contribution plus your Rent Supplement) must not be above the maximum rent limit set for your county or area. The maximum rent limit for your county is set by the Department of Social Protection (DSP). However, the Community Welfare Office may set lower rates within these limits. There is a maximum rent limit for each area. If your actual rent is higher than the local maximum, you may be refused Rent Supplement entirely.
Cases where rent is over the relevant limit
In some cases Rent Supplement can be paid at the discretion of the DSP'srepresentative (formerly known as the CWO) where the rent is over the relevantlimit:
- If you or a member of your household has special housing needs (for example, a disabled person in specially adapted accommodation).
- If you will be able to pay the rent yourself within a short period, if, for example, if you are taking up employment. In this case Rent Supplement at a higher rate can be paid for a short period of 6-8 weeks.
- If you have additional income to pay the balance yourself (Rent Supplement is still based on the maximum rent limit)
- If there are other exceptional circumstances. (Special provisions apply if you are at risk of becoming homeless.)
Rent Supplement and lease agreements
If, when your Rent Supplement claim is reviewed, the rent you pay is above the relevant limit and your lease is not due for renewal, you will be expected to re-negotiate your rent with your landlord. If the landlord insists that the terms of the current lease are not negotiable and does not reduce the rent to the new limits, the DSP representative will discuss your options with you. These may include seeking other accommodation. If this occurs you will continue to be paid Rent Supplement for a reasonable period of time while you secure new accommodation.
Maximum rent levels for each county
These are the maximum rent levels from 17 June 2013 (lower rates can be set for areas within each county).
|County||Single person in shared accomodation||Couple in shared accommodation||Single person||Couple with no children||Couple with 1 child or one-parent with 1 child||Couple with 2 children or one-parent with 2 children||Couple with 3 children or one-parent with 3 children|
|Dublin - Fingal||€300||€350||€520||€700||€850||€900||€950|
|Dublin - other local authorities||€350||€400||€520||€750||€950||€975||€1000|
|Wicklow (Bray Area)||€275||€300||€520||€680||€850||€925||€1,000|
SI 221/07 sets down that the maximum amounts of Rent Supplement payable for tenants in voluntary housing developments (funded through the Capital Assistance Scheme) are €55 for a single person and €60 for a couple. The minimum contribution set out above also applies (€30 for a single person and €40 for a couple).
To apply, fill in an application form for Rent Supplement (pdf). The Department of Social Protection's representative (formerly known as the Community Welfare Officer) or your local Citizens Information Centre can help you fill in these forms. Your landlord will need to provide their tax reference number (normally their PPS number) to the Department of Social Protection (DSP). If your landlord does not wish to fill in the form a separate form (SWA 3C) (pdf) is available. If your landlord does not have a tax reference number, they should state this in writing to the DSP and explain why this is the case. Your Rent Supplement may not be paid if your landlord has not given their tax number to the DSP or has not explained why they do not have one.
Another part of the form may need to be filled in by your local authority, to confirm you are on their housing list and have a housing need, that is, if you are not exempt from this rule.
You will also need to bring the following documents:
- Identity documents for you and your dependants, such as full Birth Certificates, passports, driving licence, work permit, immigration (GNIB) card, etc.
- Documents to show your income and financial situation, such as payslips, P45, P35, P60, bank statements, etc.
- Documents to prove where you live, such as electricity, gas or phone bills, etc.
- Documents relating to your tenancy, such as your rent book, lease or tenancy agreement.
The Department of Social Protection's representative (formerly known as the Community Welfare Officer) will usually visit you to confirm your circumstances.
To apply for Rent Supplement you should contact the Department of Social Protection's representative (formerly known as the Community Welfare Officer) at your local health centre. However in some areas new Rent Supplement applications are processed by centralised Rent Units. To see if your area is dealt with by a central Rent Unit you can view the central rent unit list.
If you live in one of these areas you can get a rent pack from your local health centre. This pack contains detailed information (including a list of documentation you will need) and all the relevant application forms. You should read the information in the pack carefully. If you are satisfied that you have all the necessary documents ready you can forward your application to the relevant Rent Unit. The processing of your application may be delayed if you do not supply all the information requested in the pack. The Unit will contact you if they need any further information. If they do not need any more information they will tell you when your application will be processed.