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Dublin City Council overpaid almost €15,000 to one landlord in ‘error’ – The Irish Times


Dublin City Council (DCC) overpaid nearly €15,000 to one landlord as a result of an “error”, where it continued to pay the Housing Assistance Payment (Hap) to support a tenant after they had moved into social housing.

Under the Hap scheme, local authorities pay up to a certain amount of a tenant’s rent in the private rental market, if they qualify for housing supports.

The Dublin Region Homeless Executive (DRHE), who co-ordinate homeless services across the four Dublin councils, discovered an issue with DCC overpaying Hap to landlords in February.

In an initial case, a tenant on Hap supports had moved into social housing offered by the council, with someone else moving into the rental property.

The council continued to make Hap payments to the landlord, with the issue only coming to light when the landlord contacted DCC about the new individual in the rental property.

A February 3rd DRHE report said due to a “human error” the council’s Hap unit was “not notified of the social housing offer” made to the tenant by its housing allocations unit.

“This absolutely should not have occurred and there are procedures in place to ensure that this does not happen, on this occasion the procedure was not correctly followed,” it said.

The report, released to The Irish Times on foot of a Freedom of Information Act request, said there was no “interconnectivity” between the different systems used by the Hap and social housing allocations units.

“Many of the processes used are manually administered by the staff. This unfortunately can result in human errors due to the significant amount of applications and paperwork,” the report said.

In response, the council introduced an extra “verification” check to reduce the risk of future overpayments, while starting a review of other Hap tenancies.

In total, the review identified six cases where tenants moved from rental properties into social housing but Hap payments worth €29,840 were “not ceased in error”.

In one case, the council overpaid a landlord €14,850, after the tenant had moved into social housing but it seemed was subletting their previous rental home.

The tenant did not notify the landlord that they had left the property and continued to pay their portion of rent to DCC, with the council continuing to make Hap payments to the landlord.

In a February 22nd email, DRHE said staff were investigating “the full circumstances of what happened in this case”, including whether the property was being sublet by the original Hap tenant.

The agency stated it was also planning a further look-back review of older cases where Hap tenants were moved into social housing.

Mary Hayes, DRHE director, told DCC chief executive Owen Keegan in a February 23rd email that staff were “making every effort to ensure there is no repeat” of the overpayments.

In response, Mr Keegan said the overpayments were “unfortunate” but only a small amount of money when compared with overall spending on the Hap scheme.

The council chief executive raised the possibility of asking landlords to return the overpayments. He said “there may be a possibility of getting the money back” if tenants had informed landlords their tenancy was ending.

When asked if DCC had sought repayments from landlords, a council spokesman said actions taken in response to the review of Hap tenancies were “ongoing”.

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