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Rent Assistance

Last amended 
20 September 2023

Legislative Authority

Veterans' Entitlements Act 1986
Section 5N(1) to 5N(8) (definition)
Schedule 5(3) to 5(5)Savings and Transitional Provisions
Schedule 6, Module C

Stated Current Purpose/Intent

Rent assistance is a non-taxable amount payable to service pensioners, income support supplement (ISS) or veteran payment recipients with limited income to help cover the cost of private rental accommodation.

Current Eligibility Criteria

To be eligible, a service pensioner, ISS and veteran payment recipient must reside in Australia, pay rent (other than Government rent) above the applicable rent threshold, (generally) not be a home owner, and neither the pensioner nor the pensioner's partner may be in receipt of an incentive allowance from Centrelink, nor be a sub-tenant in public housing.

Rent assistance is paid at higher rates for pensioners with children and is paid by Centrelink with Family Tax Benefit.

Rent assistance is calculated separately and added to other entitlements before application of the income and assets tests.  

A blind pensioner is not subject to the income or assets test, but the rate payable does not include rent assistance. Some blind pensioners may be better off on a rate of pension calculated for a person who is not blind if rent assistance is payable.

Date of Introduction

Rent assistance was introduced in 1958 and was known as "supplementary assistance".  It was renamed rent assistance in 1985.

Original Purpose/Intent

The original purpose has not changed.

Significant Changes in Criteria or Purpose Since Introduction

Supplementary assistance for service pensioners introduced.


Extension of supplementary assistance (now rent assistance) to the spouse of a veteran.


Pensioners receiving rent assistance as government renters were no longer able to receive rent assistance. A savings provision was introduced which protected those pensioners already receiving assistance.


Savings provisions for government tenants were abolished.

Separate income test on rent assistance removed.


Enhanced rent verification procedures introduced.


Commenced twice-yearly indexation of maximum rate of rent assistance.


Single rent threshold was replaced with four new thresholds which are dependent on family circumstances.  These thresholds are indexed twice yearly.

The rate of assistance above the rent threshold was increased from 50 cents in the dollar to 75 cents in the dollar.

A savings provision introduced in 1993 protected those pensioners who were already receiving rent assistance at the time of implementation and who would have been entitled to a reduced rate as a result of the changes (i.e. changes in thresholds).


Rent assistance payable to students receiving the homeless rate of VCES benefits.


Income support supplement recipients became eligible, however, the rent assistance amount was included in their ceiling rate.


Rent assistance increased by $5.00 per fortnight for service pension or income support supplement recipients with dependent children.

Rent assistance threshold increased by $5.00.


Sub-tenants in public housing lost eligibility.

Pensioners in aged care facilities lost eligibility for rent assistance.


From 20 September 2000, rent assistance was made portable for a period of 26 weeks allowing it to continue to be paid for short term absences from Australia.


From 1 January 2005, rent assistance became paid in addition to the ceiling rate of Veterans' Affairs income support supplement paid to war widow and widowers.

2018From 1 May 2018, veteran payment was introduced.  As part of this income support payment, rent assistance could be considered.

From 1 January 2022, the Disability Income Rent Test was removed from the VEA.  This resulted in increased rent assistance (or rent assistance became payable for the first time) to those in receipt of disability income (VEA disability compensation payment, MRCA permanent impairment payment and for ISS, also MRCA SRDP) who pay private rent above the threshold and receive VEA income support.  Removal of the Disability Income Rent Test means that disability income no longer affects the rate of rent assistance.

From 29 June 2023 rent assistance may be payable beyond 26 weeks if the recipient is unable to return to Australia due to unforeseen or exceptional circumstances. The circumstances include serious illness, injury or death of the person or a family member, natural disaster, a public health crisis, social or political unrest, war, robbery or serious crime against the person or family member, and when there is a legal requirement for the person to remain outside Australia in connection with criminal proceedings. 
2023On 20 September 2023, the maximum rates for Commonwealth Rent Assistance were increased by 15 per cent (relative to the value of the 20 March 2023 maximum rates). This one-off increase was applied in addition to the regular indexation that occurred to Rent Assistance on 20 September 2023.