Millions of older Australians live solely on the Age Pension while also paying private rent. It’s a precarious position, but some government help is available in the form of Rent Assistance.
Rent Assistance is an extra payment paid to anybody receiving an eligible government pension, while also paying rent to a landlord.
The eligible government pensions are the Age Pension, Carer Payment, Disability Support Pension, ABSTUDY Living Allowance, Special Benefit, Family Tax Benefit, Parenting Payment, JobSeeker Payment and Farm Household Allowance.
The official Rent Assistance rates were given a 15 per cent bump in the most recent Federal Budget, with the new rates coming into effect from 20 September. This was the largest increase to Rent Assistance in more than 30 years.
Minister for social services Amanda Rishworth said at the time the increase was announced that the changes were aimed at easing cost-of-living pressures on some our most vulnerable citizens.
“Increasing Rent Assistance is the government’s most effective lever to quickly provide assistance to those payment recipients who are renting,” she said.
What you’ll need before getting Rent Assistance
You’ll need to provide Centrelink with proof of your rental agreement. As well as paying to a private landlord, ‘rent’ also covers fees paid to a retirement village, lodging arrangements and site or mooring fees if your main place of residence is a caravan, relocatable home or a boat.
The amount of Rent Assistance you receive depends on what you pay. The amounts in the table below are for people without dependent children.
Rent Assistance rates
|No payment if your fortnightly rent is less than
|Maximum payment is paid if your fortnightly rent is more than
|The maximum fortnightly payment is
|one of a couple separated due to illness
|one of a couple temporarily separated
You can’t get Rent Assistance if:
- you own or are buying the home you live in, except relocatable homes
- you’re travelling away from the home you own for less than 12 months
- if the government pays a subsidy to the approved residential aged care facility where you live
- your partner gets Rent Assistance with the Family Tax Benefit
- if you get an allowance and your partner gets Rent Assistance with his/her pension
- if you’re leasing from a state or territory housing authority.
If you live in a retirement village
There are special rules when it comes to claiming Rent Assistance while living in a retirement village.
Like all Centrelink payments, Rent Assistance is subject to the assets test. As part of this test, you will be assessed as either a ‘homeowner’ or a ‘non-homeowner’.
Your homeowner status in a retirement village is based the entry fee you paid when entering the retirement village. This fee can sometimes be up to the full market value of the unit.
If you’re assessed as a non-homeowner, you can get Rent Assistance, which will be based on the ongoing fees you’re paying to the operators.
If you’re assessed as being a homeowner, you will be ineligible for Rent Assistance, regardless of any ongoing fees or your Age Pension eligibility status.
How to get Rent Assistance
If you’re eligible, Centrelink will ask you to provide proof of your rental arrangements when you apply for your support payment, and you will be paid Rent Assistance automatically.
If you are already receiving a support payment and move into a living situation where you would qualify for Rent Assistance, updating your address and accomodation details with Centrelink through myGov will trigger an automatic Rent Assistance review.
What do you think about the increased rate of Rent Assistance? Has it kept pace? Have your say in the comments section below.
Also read: How to choose the right Centrelink payment