The Rental Accommodation Scheme (RAS) is a housing initiative introduced in 2004 and is managed by the local housing authority. The scheme provides the option for quality rented housing for those who have been in receipt of Rent Supplement for 18 months or more. It provides a greater security of tenure in that most contracts are for four years duration and at a more affordable rent.

Each local authority has a RAS application form available, some may be downloaded on line from the local authority website. Complete the form and return to the local authority for assessment. There is an application form for tenants and one for landlords.

If you are living somewhere you would like to stay then maybe you could talk to your landlord to see if they are interested in participating in the scheme. The landlord must be willing to enter into a contract with the local authority and the authority must assess the property as of a good standard that meets your family needs. The landlord must also be tax compliant, willing to register with the Private Residential Tenancies Board and have a building energy rating (BER) certificate for the property. The landlord would need to apply to the local authority for the property to be assessed for the scheme. If your landlord is not interested in the scheme then you can still apply and once your application is assessed and accepted then you may be placed on a waiting list until accommodation becomes available.

It is important when applying to the local authority to choose the areas you would consider living in or when accepting an offer of housing that you are sure it is right for you. You can turn down an offer but if you turn down a second offer then you may lose your rent supplement so it is important to check with your local authority. The scheme is aimed at providing affordable quality accommodation so being able to move area or accommodation is unlikely.

The benefit of RAS is that you will have the opportunity to have longer term secure housing at a more affordable level of rent than the current Rent Supplement assessment therefore enabling you to work either full or part time. The benefit is that more of your earned income remains in your pocket then it would if you were in receipt of Rent Supplement.

Rent is based on the differential rent scheme of the local authority. In DCC, for example rent is assessed as 15% of the net income. So whilst with rent supplement when you work your contribution increases and the CWO payment decreases under RAS your contribution is assessed as 15%, regardless of how much you earn. Whilst you pay your rent to the local authority the landlord is responsible for maintenance and repairs so in this instance you would contact your landlord.

Some local authorities allow RAS tenants to remain on the housing list whereas others may not, once you are housed. Check with your local authority for their policy on this.