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7.2.6 Lawn Mowing for Rural or Semi Rural Properties
Two AAT cases, Keefe and Dept of Defence (1988) and Ryan v Telstra (1995) have specifically dealt with lawn mowing request from client living on rural and semi rural properties. The AAT found that a household service (such as lawn mowing and gardening) should be reasonably construed as referring to the entire domestic establishment, comprising both the house and curtilage.
In general terms curtilage can be defined as that “area, usually enclosed, encompassing the grounds and buildings immediately surrounding a home that is used in the daily activities of domestic life.”
Under the VEA, DVA applies a specific definition for the term curtilage in determining a veteran's Income Support Assessment specifically for assets testing. The area that is defined as the curtilage for this purpose is:
- the land adjacent to the veteran's principal home, and
- is not more than 2 hectares, and
- is primarily used for private and domestic purposes in association with the dwelling-house.
In the AAT cases noted above, a generous approach was taken as to what could comprise a curtilage in a rural or semi rural setting, as opposed to that in crowded suburbia, with the AAT narrowing the requested maintenance of a large (5.06h) block to a smaller defined curtilage while all of a low maintenance smaller (1.25h) block was included.
This outcome focuses on the area that comprises the immediate household and curtilage that is used in the daily activities of domestic life of the client. This home area in semi rural or rural areas can be identified through the rehabilitation or activities of daily living assessment process and more detailed knowledge of the property and maintenance requirements.
Delegates considering requests for mowing assistance for rural or semi-rural properties should take into consideration, as well as the usual tests for household services:
- the area requested for the provision of mowing services;
- the definitions or application of the curtilage in similar cases such as the AAT rulings and similar legislation such as the VEA; and
- the need for an independent assessment around the level of mowing being requested.
Another matter which may arise in relation to semi rural or rural areas is that of the client's capacity to maintain the property due to other issues – such as where undulating topography is too dangerous for them to use a conventional grass slasher/tractor and requires a contracted provider to undertake the services. In such cases, the inability to mow the property may not due to a compensable injury.
Delegates are also required to consider whether it is reasonable to provide an increased level of lawn mowing assistance if the client has moved from an urban to a rural block, or to a larger block within a rural areas, knowing that they will have difficulties in managing the maintenance of the increased area of land due to their service related injury or illness. When making a decision about whether it is reasonable to approve an increased level of lawn mowing assistance, delegates must utilise a whole-of-person focus and ensure that they consider issues that may be relevant to why the person chose to move to a rural location. For example, a delegate may consider that an increased level of service can be approved if the client has moved to the rural location to assist them to manage their accepted conditions more effectively; or the client has a strong family or community support network in the rural area that they have moved to. Any assessments conducted to determine an appropriate level of household services assistance for the client's new property must therefore include discussion of these issues.
The policy guidelines on consideration of ride on mowers for clients living in rural areas can be found in section 10.7.11 of this Guide.