More than 3,000 households claiming the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) have fallen into rent arrears since the system was introduced in 2014, figures from the HAP Shared Services Center (SSC) show.
Of 106,701 HAP leases established between the start of the program and September 2022, 804 landlords had their HAP payments suspended due to a lack of rental income from tenants. A further 2,216 tenancies ended because tenants did not pay their rent.
The municipalities do not record the reasons for not collecting the rent.
Under the HAP program, a form of social housing subsidy offered by local government, eligible households pay part of the total rent of a privately owned property to their local government. This contribution is calculated like the rent paid by tenants in municipal real estate.
Private landlords then receive the full rent payment from the respective municipality. According to HAP, “If the tenant fails to pay that rent contribution, HAP will suspend and eventually stop making payments to their landlord. The tenant is then responsible for paying the full rent himself.”
In the final quarter of 2022, Dublin City Council recorded 86 households where landlords had suspended their municipal payments due to rent arrears. Elsewhere, Fingal County Council recorded 22 new cases of suspended landlord payments over the same period, including 37 in Limerick City and County Council.
During 2022 Clare County Council recorded 15 suspensions while South Dublin County Council recorded a total of 40 suspensions during the year.
Cork County Council had 33 HAP tenancies for 2022 due to non-collection of rent from tenants. This was an increase from 17 in 2021.
The HAP SCC, operated by Limerick City and County Council, handles the money transfer on behalf of all local authorities in the state.
As part of the HAP debt process, four separate letters will be sent to tenants with at least three weeks of unpaid rent. The third letter signals the landlord to stop paying, while letter four signals the end of the tenancy.
At the end of September last year, 2,339 active HAP leases — or 3.93 percent — were in the debt process.
“The approach taken by HAP SSC has been very effective, as tenants have had minimal rent arrears,” said a spokesman for the housing ministry. “In the third quarter of 2022, the program had a different rental collection rate of 99 percent. As a result, very few tenants got into trouble with their differential rent.
“The differential rent collection rate of 99 percent of tenants is not directly comparable to the number of tenants in arrears, as it measures the differential rent collection rate in 2022.
“The HAP SSC has a clear communication policy when problems with rent arrears arise. This policy includes regular and timely written communication with tenants, landlords and the relevant local authority.”
In 2020, rental income from HAP receivers fell to 92 percent in the third quarter of the year. In March 2020, the debt management process was suspended during the Covid-19 pandemic and partially reinstated in October.
According to a Housing Department spokesman, “This meant that failure by a tenant to pay the differential rent during this period did not affect payments to HAP landlords. However, tenants were expected to continue paying their rent with support available for those financially affected by Covid.”
The debt management process, including suspension of payments to landlords and termination of leases, was reinstated in September 2021. Tenants who fell into arrears during the pandemic were given extra time to settle them, as well as access to payment plans not typically offered to debt-ridden tenants.
As part of this winter’s ban on evictions, which the government announced it would be lifted on Tuesday, later this month, an extension of the debt administration process was introduced to prevent people leaving the HAP system for non-payment of rent.
Up to 600 properties are available for rent in Dublin, corresponding to a range of residential locations. There are 209 houses and a further 325 apartments listed in the greater Dublin area on daft.ie.
Three-bed apartments are on offer in Lucan and Bluebell for €3,000 per month. A house with the same number of beds in Killester costs 3,750 euros.
At the lower end of the price scale there is another one-room apartment in Lucan for 1,875 euros. At the top end of the one-bedroom rental apartment in Dublin 1 is €2,400. A studio apartment in Dún Laoghaire is available for €1,880.
In Galway prices are significantly lower for a bed with a €1,250 property in Salthill according to myhome.ie. Lower rates are available for shared rooms, with double beds in such properties falling under €1,000 per month.
There are other shared rooms in Meath where a bed in a quad room in Meath is €600 on myhome.ie. A similar arrangement in Bray is available for €750 per month.
In Cork there are 20 apartments listed on daft.ie, with one-bed apartments costing between €1,000 and €1,750. Two bed apartments in Bantry and Bandon are available from €1,200 and €1,600 respectively. A three bed house in Bantry can be found for €1,800, one of 47 available in the county on Daft.
Property.ie lists a five bedroom house in Castletroy, Co. Limerick for €3,500 a month in one of the few listings for a property of this size. Another five bedroom house can be found in Waterford for €2,500.
https://www.irishtimes.com/ireland/housing-planning/2023/03/10/more-than-3000-hap-households-in-rent-arrears-since-establishment-of-scheme/ More than 3,000 HAP households in rent arrears since the system was launched – The Irish Times