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Married Couples Living Apart
Last updated: 24 April 2008
Assessment of married couples living apart
The assessment of whether married couples who live apart are both treated as homeowners depends on the reason for separation.
A person, including a person who is a member of a couple, may only have their right or interest in one property disregarded for assets test purposes.
Married couples living apart (not due to estrangement or illness)
Where only one member of a couple resides in the home property, but there is no estrangement their homeownership status is not affected by their living apart. Each member of the couple has the married homeowner assets limit applied and the value of the home is disregarded.
Where a married couple own more than one home and live in both houses separately, for administration purposes, the most expensive home is considered to be the principal home. The home of lesser value is assessable under the assets test.
Married couples living apart due to estrangement
If married couples are living apart due to estrangement, they are each treated as separate entities. A separated person living in a home which he or she owns solely or jointly is a single homeowner. A separated person who owns a house solely or jointly but is no longer living in it has the value of his or her share of the house assessed as an asset.
Married couples living apart due to illness
Special rules apply where the couple is an illness separated couple. Rent assistance may be payable when one party has paid an entry contribution in return for accommodation rights in a special residence, or has entered non-government subsidised care.
If a couple own more than one home and live in both houses separately due to illness (but neither live “in care”) for administration purposes, the most expensive home is considered to be the principal home. The home of lesser value is assessable under the assets test.
A person is a homeowner if he or she has a right or interest, which gives reasonable security of tenure in the principal home. A person is also considered to be a homeowner if they have sold their home in the previous 12 months and intend to use part or all of the proceeds to purchase another home.
- legally married to another person and is not living separately and apart from the other person on a permanent basis; or
- living in a prescribed registered relationship with the other person (whether of the same sex or a different sex) and is not living separately and apart from that other person on a permanent basis; or
- all of the following conditions are met:
- living with another person, whether of the same sex or a different sex;
- not legally married to that person;
- in a de facto relationship with that person; and
- not in a prohibited relationship
The term “partnered” is also commonly used.
An illness separated couple is a couple who cannot share a home because of the illness or infirmity of one or both partners. Illness separated couples may be paid the higher single rate of pension. Refer to subsection 5R(5) of the VEA for the full definition.
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.
An entry contribution is the amount paid or agreed to be paid by a person for the right to live in a:
- retirement village; or
- granny flat.
If a person lives in a home subject to a sale leaseback agreement, the entry contribution is the balance of the amount still to be paid by a buyer, at the date of a sale leaseback agreement.
According to subsection 5MC(2) of the VEA a special residence is:
- a retirement village; or
- a granny flat; or
- a sale leaseback home.
Non-Government Subsidised care applies to the following groups:
- pensioners residing in nursing homes or hostels that are not approved facility;
- pensioners who are residing in a nursing home or hostel but who are not approved care recipients. For instance, a person may be residing in a nursing home or hostel to be near to their partner who is receiving care (known as co-habitees) or a person may be in a multi purpose service (MPS) unit; and
- pensioners residing in an approved facility but who receive accommodation only, require no care and therefore are not receiving Commonwealth Government subsidised care.
No Commonwealth Government subsidy, including pensioner supplement, is payable to the facility in respect of their places.