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5.1.1 Overview of Rent Assistance
Last amended: 12 January 2012
What is rent assistance?
Eligibility for rent assistance
What is rent for rent assistance purposes?
Rent can be broadly defined as amounts paid by a person as a condition of occupancy for a premises which is their principal home.
Where a person resides in a retirement village, a regular maintenance charge which must be paid as part of condition of occupancy of a retirement village unit can be regarded as rent. In some cases, rent may include gas and electricity charges, where a delegate is reasonably satisfied that these charges form part of the services that are provided by the retirement village and the person does not have a separate contract with a utilities provider.
Payment of rent assistance
Under the rules of payment:
- the rent paid must be verified, and
- the rent threshold reached.
The rate payable depends on the pension type and family situation.
Disability income rent test
Where the person receives disability income, the amount of rent assistance included in the calculation of their service pension or income support supplement may be reduced by the disability income rent test.
A person receiving rent assistance must notify within 14 days (28 days if receiving a remote area allowance) if the person:
- stops paying rent
- changes address
- starts paying government rent, including paying rent to another person who pays government rent
- travels overseas
- moves into a retirement village or other living arrangement
- changes units within the retirement village
- enters respite care
- starts to receive rent assistance with Family Tax Benefit for a dependant child, or
- starts paying a reduced amount of rent.
Rent Assistance is an allowance, which may be paid to a service pensioner or income support supplement (ISS) recipient to assist in meeting the cost of rental accommodation.
To receive rent assistance, a pensioner must be paying rent (other than Government rent) for accommodation in Australia, and the amount paid must exceed a certain threshold.
A service pension is an income support payment broadly equivalent to the social security age and disability support pensions. It may be paid once a veteran or partner has reached the nominated age or is incapacitated for work.
ISS is an income support payment that may be paid to eligible war widows and widowers under the VEA and persons receiving wholly dependent partners' compensation under the MRCA, and who satisfy the means tests. It is an indexed rate, increased twice-yearly in March and September in line with changes to the cost of living and/or average wages. Income Support Supplement (ISS) legislation commenced on 20 March 1995. It is a payment created to replace the ceiling rate income support age, carer, wife and disability support pensions, paid to war widows/widowers by Centrelink.
The principal home has the meaning given by subsection 5LA(1) of the VEA and subsection 5LA(2) of the VEA. The principal home of a person is generally the place in which they reside. In certain circumstances, however, the principal home of a person can be the place in which they formerly resided. The following property is regarded as part of the principal home.
- the residence itself (e.g. house, flat, caravan),
- permanent fixtures (e.g. stoves, built-in heaters, dish-washers, light fittings and affixed carpets),
- [glossary:curtilage:DEF/Curtilage] (i.e. two hectares or less of private land around the home where the private land use test has been satisfied, or all land held on the same title as the person's principal home where the extended land use test has been satisfied), or
- any garage, shed, tennis court or swimming pool used primarily for private purposes provided it is on the same title as the principal home.
According to subsection 5M(3) of the VEA, premises constitute a retirement village if:
- the premises are residential premises; and
- accommodation in the premises is primarily intended for persons who are at least 55 years old; and
- the premises consist of one or more of the following kinds of accommodation:
- self-care units;
- serviced units;
- hostel units; and
- the premises include communal facilities for use by occupants of the units referred to above.
For [glossary:service pension:DEF/Service pension/er/SP] recipients, disability income when calculating the rent assistance reduction amount (as set out in the table in [glossary:SCH6-C13 of the VEA) refers to:
- disability pension (as defined by section 5Q(1) of the VEA) including disability pension paid by foreign governments; and
- weekly permanent impairment compensation payments made under section 68, 71 or 75 of the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2004; and
- weekly amounts a person would have been paid if the person had not instead received permanent impairment compensation under section 68, 71 or 75 of the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2004 as a lump sum.
The disability income rent test is the method of calculating the amount by which a pensioner's rent assistance is reduced because of the disability income paid to them or their patner. The amount calculated is the RA reduction amount.
Note: The rent assistance free area and taper rate are identical to those that normally apply to the person's [glossary:income support payment:DEF/Income support payment] and family situation.
Remote area allowance is a supplementary payment added to the rate of income support pension where the pensioner's usual place of residence is situated in a remote area, and where the pensioner is physically present in the remote area.
Respite care is care provided for one member of a couple in a nursing home or hostel on a temporary basis so that their partner can have a break from providing care. For care to be recognised as respite care under the VEA, it must be Government subsidised care provided under the Aged Care Act 1997.
A pensioner receiving such care, and their partner (a respite care couple), are entitled to be paid the single rate of pension.
For the full definition of respite care, refer to subsection 5NC(8) of the VEA.