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Rent Assistance Eligibility

Last amended 
25 February 2022
Who is eligible for rent assistance?


To be eligible for rent assistance, a person must:

Rent assistance not payable for service rendered cases


Rent assistance is not payable where the person has been provided accommodation free of charge in return for services rendered. For example, where an income support pensioner receives accommodation for free in exchange for services as a housemaster and does not actually pay any rent, rent assistance is not payable.

Rent assistance and temporary accommodation

Rent assistance is not generally payable for temporary accommodation, such as holiday accommodation. However, rent assistance may be payable in cases where the person requires specific medical treatment that is unavailable in the area where their principal home is located. In this circumstance, rent assistance may be assessed based on the temporary circumstances if there is likely to be accommodation costs for this temporary period. This would only apply in cases where it is reasonable to regard the temporary accommodation as the person's principal home. Rent assistance is only payable on one residence at a time, so where rent assistance is paid for the temporary accommodation it is not payable on the person's permanent principal residence.    

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Rent assistance may also be payable where temporary accommodation is required because the principal home is not habitable due to damage or the requirement for repairs to be made. In these circumstances the person's inability to occupy the principal home means that they do not have reasonable security of tenure, based on continued occupancy, and so they are not regarded as being a property owner for rent assistance purposes.

Rent assistance eligibility for people in care

A person who is in care may, in some circumstances, be eligible for rent assistance. Their eligibility depends on whether or not the accommodation cost is subsidised under the Aged Care Act 1997 and  the type of care they are receiving.

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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.



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.



Australia is defined in the Acts Interpretations Act 1901 and includes the following territories and Islands:

  • Christmas Island
  • Cocos (Keeling) Islands

Subsection 5Q(1) of the VEA provides specifically that the definition of Australia includes the external territories for many VEA purposes including Part III, IIIAB, some parts of Part IIIB, Parts IIID, VIIA, VIIC and sections 52ZO, 58A, and 132.  Norfolk Island is currently the only external territory of Australia. For the above VEA sections, which cover service pension, [glossary:income support supplement:118], pension bonus, pension loans scheme, Veterans supplement, pension supplement and Commonwealth Seniors Health Card purposes it is considered to be part of Australia. The test of residing in Australia does not by itself satisfy the full definition of Australian Resident, as residency also requires Australian citizenship or the holding of a specified visa.

Papua New Guinea and Nauru have both previously been external territories of Australia.  Lord Howe Island and Macquarie Island, formerly regarded as separate islands, are now part of mainland NSW and Tasmania respectively.



According to section 5Q(1) of the VEA, incentive allowance has the same meaning as given in the social security act 1991 as in force immediately before 12 November 1991.

For definition see Social Security PAL.



Centrelink is a Government service delivery agency responsible for delivering a range of Commonwealth Government services (including social security pensions and allowances) to the Australian community through a network of more than 400 Centrelink offices.

Government Subsidised Care is care provided to persons in approved facilities.

The government subsidy (also known as “pensioner supplement”), is paid directly to the facility by DH&FS on the behalf of pensioners receiving this care.

Where a care resident pays an accommodation bond more than ten times the annual rate of social security age pension, the pensioner supplement paid by DH&FS to the aged care facility to replace rent assistance is no longer paid.



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.



An ineligible property owner is a property owner who is ineligible for rent assistance.

According to subsection 5N(1) of the VEA, these people are not regarded as ineligible property owners and therefore may be eligible for rent assistance:

  • a person who is a property owner by virtue of paragraph 5L(4)(c) (proceeds of sale of principal home disregarded for 12 months); or
  • a person who:
  • is absent from the person's principal home, in relation to which the person is a property owner; and
  • is in a care situation but is not residing in a retirement village; or
  • a person who:
  • is absent from the person's principal home, in relation to which the person is a property owner; and
  • is personally providing community-based care for another person; or
  • a person who pays amounts for the use of a site for a caravan or other vehicle, or a structure, that is the person's principal home; or
  • a person who pays amounts for the right to moor a vessel that is the person's principal home.



Family Tax Benefit A is a payment made by the Family Assistance Office to assist families with the cost of raising children. It replaces Minimum Family Allowance, Family Allowance, Family Tax payment Part A and Family Tax Assistance Part A.

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.