What to do if you disagree with a Centrelink assessment

Suzanne lives on a big property and thinks the excess land has been overvalued.

What to do if you disagree with a Centrelink assessment

Suzanne lives on a big property and thinks the excess land has been overvalued. She is keen to know whether she can challenge the decision.

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Q. Suzanne
My partner and I live on a 2.304-hectare property, 30km north of Kingaroy, and we have lived here for eight years. We are both pensioners, and in 2016 we added to our home to create an apartment that we rent out though booking.com. All of this has been declared to Centrelink. The land is not suitable for farming, has poor soil and we have been in a drought for two years. Recently I received an inheritance after my mother passed and that has changed our Centrelink status from income tested to assets tested.

We discovered in the process of declaring all our assets that the excess land over the 2.2-hectare limit has been valued by Centrelink at $45,000, which is making a severe impact on our pension. A financial adviser at Centrelink explained that the estimated value of the excess land was determined by a property valuer. As we have sought to clarify the situation, no-one seems confident to give us a clear answer, or explain how this tiny, useless strip of land could be valued at $45,000, in an area where you can purchase 2.5 acres (about 1 hectare) for $56,000. Can you offer any insight on the matter?

A. The limit for land that can be included as part of your principal place of residence and exempt from the assets test is actually 2 hectares, not 2.2 hectares. That said, with the information that you have provided it doesn’t seem like Centrelink has provided an accurate valuation of your land. You can ask for a reassessment of the land value at any time. If you disagree with the valuation decision, you have the right to ask for a review. A request for a review is the same as an appeal. If you request a review of a decision, you are expressing your dissatisfaction with the decision and appealing against it.

Your request for review must:

  • be made within three months of receipt of the letter about the decision
  • be in writing (there is no special form)
  • set out your reasons for requesting the review.

If a request for review is made in accordance with these conditions, the decision must be reviewed. The decision of the review officer will be to either affirm (agree with) or set aside (disagree with) the decision under review. The review officer may also ask you for more information.

If you are not happy with a decision of the department concerning your Age Pension, you can also request an authorised review officer to take a fresh look at your case. Authorised review officers are examiners who have had no prior involvement in the case. They look at disputed decisions and may set aside, vary or affirm a decision.

If you are not happy with the authorised review officer’s decision, you can appeal to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) for a review of that decision.

An application to the AAT for a first review of a decision by an authorised review officer can be made at any time after the decision is made. However, it is best to appeal to the AAT within 13 weeks of being notified of the authorised review officer’s decision. This is because back pay may not be payable if a successful application for review is lodged more than 13 weeks after the authorised review officer's decision.

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Disclaimer: All content on YourLifeChoices website is of a general nature and has been prepared without taking into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. It has been prepared with due care but no guarantees are provided for ongoing accuracy or relevance. Before making a decision based on this information, you should consider its appropriateness in regard to your own circumstances. You should seek professional advice from a Centrelink Financial Information Services officer, financial planner, lawyer or tax agent in relation to any aspects that affect your financial and legal circumstances.





COMMENTS

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tisme
1st Jun 2020
10:15am
i was cut off single parent payment accused of living defacto , if anyone had bothered ( from social security ) to investigate they would have found i was living with mum dad and my brother , just because they had a different surname to me ( i assume that was why they did it but they never said ) so wasnt I being accused of soc sec fraud? if so am I not innocent till proven guilty by a judge?? evidently not . I was accused/tried /convicted before I even knew anything about it. I was cut off again for they said getting child support and not declaring it, same again . ( even with a useless court order id never gotten a cent , some (*&*(& in the office just picked me to pick on . Wasnt I being accused for soc sec fraud?? again accused etc without knowing what was going on , and without ever even seeing a lawyer let alone a court judge
AutumnOz
1st Jun 2020
10:42am
You need someone from Centrelink to come out and look at the excess amount of land, tell them they need to view it properly not make an estimate from viewing the house block.
We have more than 2 hectares and the only way Centrelink would do an assessment was by a drive through, fortunately part of our property accessible by road is obviously not suitable to cultivate or build on BUT we still lost a lot of our pension by Centrelink's valuation.
Centrelink refused to consider the valuation by a real estate agent and kept to their own valuation which was three times higher. As a result out pension payment was below the poverty line and still remains there.
Good luck dealing with Centrelink.
Fluffy Duck
1st Jun 2020
1:21pm
It’s been a few years, but I seem to remember valuing our 8 acres for my husband’s disability support pension. I just used the govt land valuation that comes every year - divided it by the number of acres and declared the value of 3 acres since 5 acres isn’t means tested. It was never questioned.
Eddy
1st Jun 2020
3:30pm
A relative of mine was in a similar situation, the valuation by Centrelink was quite high. Fortunately a neighbour who had a similar property sold up by auction and my relative was able to go to Centrelink with an actual market valuation for a similar property. Centrelink accepted the market valuation without any issue and his pension was increased accordingly.
Grateful
1st Jun 2020
4:41pm
Hi, I am the Suzanne in this story. I thought it might be helpful to update my story. I am very grateful for the help I received from Your Life Choices, which gave me the confidence to take the matter back to Centrelink and I discovered quite a few things.
1. I find the Centrelink people are by and large really wonderful, but it's not their job to do everything for us. I found that if you ask questions they will help you as best they can.
2. It's not fair to expect them all to know everything, the extent of the laws relative to Centrelink are enormous and so they tend to specialize, or be a general advisor. In some matters you are really better off to speak to FIS, or a Complex Assessment person, which you can request. I have had to explore a number of issues relative to my change in status with Centrelink since inheriting and I have found them really genuine and very helpful. They can't do things for you, but they really help you through the proceedure.
3. There is a dedicated telephone line just for pensioners, which at times like this make things much easier. The number is: 132300
4. I have learnt to use the MyGov website and while it was sometimes a lot of work, because I have been buying shares etc., it is really good to know now that I can use it comfortably. When I get in a bind, I call the number above.
5. What the answer from Your Life Choices taught me, is that there is always a logical channel available to you, you just need to ask questions and find out the best course of action.
6. In most cases it is my fear, or fear of inadequacy that gives me grief, and if I work through logically, there are no monsters in the cupboard, just people doing their job with no bias or agenda.
7. I had some really big hurdles to cross to get our finances and pension straight, but I feel really relaxed and safe now the other side of it all.
8. Most of all, I am grateful that I live in a country that provides a pension. I am in contact from time to time with people in developing nations and it makes me so aware of how blessed I am.
Thanks again, Your Life Choices for the work you do answering peoples queries and last of all, I only had to follow the very first instruction in your answer, put my case for a review, upload my rates notice that has our land value on it, and there was a major adjustment to my total assents within a week, that resulted in a change of $60 in our pension.


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