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Government Rent and Rent Assistance Eligibility
Last amended: 1 August 2014
Government rent – full subsidy
Rent assistance is not payable to a person receiving income support pension who resides in rented premises, where:
- the state housing authority is the lessee and sublets the premises to the pensioner,
- the state housing authority pays the rent to the agent in its entirety, or
- the pensioner pays the state housing authority an income tested amount.
In these circumstances, rent assistance is not payable to the person as it is government rent.
Tenants who rent housing from community housing organisations may be eligible for rent assistance. This may include those living in community housing accommodation specifically provided for targeted groups such as Indigenous people, people with disabilities, and refugees.
Community housing organisations are regarded as legally separate entities to state or territory government housing authorities. Community housing providers are responsible for the day-to-day management of their housing stock, including the setting of rents, and are accountable to the relevant state or territory government regarding the use of State and Commonwealth funding provided for community housing.
A community housing organisation may reach agreement with a state or territory housing authority for that authority to continue to act as its agent, such as in the periodic maintenance of the stock of property owned by the organisation, collecting rent, or in exercising other of the community housing authority's functions. However, where the tenants are liable to pay rent to the community housing organisation they are not classified as paying “government rent” and so may be entitled to receive rent assistance if the other criteria for payment are met.
Community Housing organisations with delegated responsibility
Rent assistance eligibility will not occur if the community housing organisation is only delegated the legal right to rent out government housing authority properties on behalf of the government authority. In these cases, the separate legal entity of the community housing organisation will have no bearing. If the rent collected is directly payable to the state or territory housing authority, it is classified as “government rent” and rent assistance is not payable.
In all cases, the legal and working relationship between the community housing organisation, the state or territory housing authority and the tenant should be carefully examined before determining whether the rent payments should be excluded from the definition of “government rent”.
Government rent – partial government subsidy
Rent assistance is payable to an income support pensioner who is renting and part of the rent is government-subsidised. That is:
- part of the rent is paid by the state housing authority,
- the state housing authority pays a subsidy directly to the agent, and
- the pensioner pays the rest of the rent privately to the agent.
In these circumstances, the rent payable for rent assistance purposes is the net rent paid by the tenant, i.e. post subsidy. This is because the amount of rent assistance paid should reflect the amount the person actually pays. Since the person is already receiving a government benefit in the form of a rent subsidy, if this subsidy was taken into account in calculating the person's rent assistance, the person would effectively benefit twice.
Sub-tenants in public housing
Rent assistance may be payable to an income support pensioner who is a sub-tenant in a state housing authority dwelling. That is, the pensioner pays rent to a person named on the state housing authority agreement. A sub-tenant in public housing is eligible for rent assistance only if:
- the primary tenant is paying at or, above market rent to the state housing authority, or
- the state housing authority has been notified of their presence and their income has been taken into account in calculating the amount of rent payable by the primary tenant.
In these circumstances, the rent payable for rent assistance purposes is the net rent paid by the sub-tenant. Confirmation of the sub-tenant arrangement should be requested, such as a statement from the primary tenant that the housing authority has been notified and that additional rent is being paid to the authority.
Section 5N VEA
Rent Assistance is an allowance which may be paid to a service pensioner, income support supplement (ISS) or veteran payment 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.
Income support pension is:
- a social security pension
- a service pension;
- an income support supplement.