What is Rent Assistance?
According to the Guide to Social Security Law:
“Rent Assistance is a supplementary payment added on to the pension, allowance or benefit of income support recipients and low-income families in the private rental market, in recognition of the housing costs they face.”
Put simply, it is an additional payment of up to $130.60 per fortnight paid to age and service pensioners who are paying private rent or board and lodgings.
Using the term “simply” is probably a little misleading. Similar to most government benefits, before a payment can be made there is a long list of eligibility conditions and other factors that need to be considered.
For example: are you single or a couple; do you share the rent; are you paying board and lodging or just board; how much rent do you pay? All of these factors will have a bearing on your eligibility and how much rent assistance you will be entitled to.
As a single person to receive the maximum rent assistance of $130.60 per fortnight you need to be paying more than $290.33 per fortnight in rent and to receive any portion of the payment you need to be paying at least $116.20 per fortnight.
However, before you get too excited; if you are paying rent of only $120.00 per fortnight, as rent assistance works on a sliding scale of 75 cents for every dollar in excess of the minimum up to the maximum payable, you are only entitled to $2.85 per fortnight.
If you happen to be paying an amount of money every fortnight for board and lodgings, it will only be that portion of money you pay for lodgings which will be used to assess your entitlement for rent assistance. If you are unable to identify how much of the money paid every fortnight is to cover your lodgings, then the 2/3rd rule will apply. For example, if you are paying board and lodgings of $300 per fortnight then under the 2/3rd rule $200 would be assessed as lodging.
For all those “grey nomads” whose home is a caravan, mobile home or boat; site fees and mooring fees can also be classified as rent, meaning that depending on how much you are paying, you may also have an entitlement to rent assistance.
My mum lives in an over 50’s relocatable home park and pays a site fee. Now her home does not have wheels and is bolted to stumps concreted into the ground so I would not be keen on trying to relocate her home, however, because she is paying site fees she is entitled to rent assistance based on the amount she pays every fortnight.
However, if mum were to move to a retirement village and pay more than $200,000 as an entry fee, the weekly maintenance fee she may have to pay would not be seen as rent and she would not be eligible for rent assistance as she would be classified as a home owner. Where this situation gets even more complicated is if she were to pay an entry fee of less than $200,000, she would be viewed as a non-homeowner, the entry fees would be assessed as an asset and she may be eligible for rent assistance based on the amount of the weekly maintenance fee she is paying.
Now for the more adventurous retiree, in receipt of an age or service pension, who thinks maybe I could be entitled to rent assistance when I do decide to move to Italy or France for a few years and pay rent for my small “pensione” overlooking the Mediterranean. Unfortunately, the answer is no. There are rules and regulations associated with the payment of your pension overseas and they do not include rent assistance.
For the pensioner who is a resident of public housing and paying rent to a state government housing authority you, in most cases would not be eligible for rent assistance.
Complicated and confusing, I agree, so do make sure if you think you may have an entitlement to rent assistance you do talk to someone who understands your entitlement.
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