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toppinup_survey A survey on the Housing Assistance Payment

toppinup_survey

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Summary

Prior to 2014, rent supplement was the key financial support available to households renting directly from a private landlord. Families and individuals in receipt of rent supplement were often caught in a poverty trap as a return to work could result in losing the full support of rent supplement regardless of their take home pay. It was also common practice for tenants in receipt of rent supplement to pay “tops ups” to landlords as rents were increased beyond the rent supplement caps. Paying these “top-ups” could push households into severe financial distress, with large portions of their income going toward their rent.

 

First piloted in 2014, Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) was designed to address the inadequacies of the rent supplement such as removing the need for such “top-ups” and addressing the issue of standards in the private rented sector. Anecdotal evidence collected by Threshold advisors indicates that unsanctioned “tops ups” and unaffordable “top ups” are becoming an increasing common feature for HAP tenants. Average rents across the country now far surpass the HAP caps, which were set in July 2016. 

 

Survey findings

In 2018, Threshold conducted a survey of its service users either in receipt of HAP or eligible for HAP. 

 

Almost half, 48% of respondents in receipt of HAP, paid a “top up” directly to the landlord with payments ranging from €20 to €575 a month. 

20% of those in receipt of HAP were paying more than 30% of their net incomes on rent top ups, despite being in receipt of HAP and

In 10% of cases, households were paying more than 40% of their net income on rent top-ups.

45% of those paying a top up stated that they struggle to pay utility bills, buy groceries and pay childcare and school costs.

Only 40% of tenants have had their home inspected by the Local Authority and 23% of these tenants stated that despite these inspections the landlord had not resolved any of the issues associated with minimum standards.

 

Summary of recommendations

  • The importance of 20% uplift cannot be underestimated. It is vital that all Local Authorities ensure this is paid where a household is in need of it.
  • Greater consistency and transparency in decision making and greater efforts to communicate with a tenant if a rental payment has stopped would all improve the HAP system.
  • Investigation into landlords’/agents’ refusal to accept HAP to determine the reasons for such refusal. Only with this information can effective solutions be devised. Landlords and agents may need to be educated on this matter and tenants encouraged and empowered to challenge such refusals.
  • A protocol similar to the ITSP is required for HAP as rents continue to rise
  • Recommend the undertaking of a cost-benefit analysis to determine the impact of removing HAP caps entirely
  • Recommend that a review of HAP and its interaction with the PRS be conducted