Explained: Rent assistance

While rents have not increased as quickly as other prices over the past couple of years, such as energy and health insurance, the fact remains that if you are a tenant and not working or retired, your housing cost will be high.

In Victoria alone, the latest statistics show that the median, state-wide rent for the June quarter was $395 a week.

Centrelink Rent Assistance can help tenants with housing costs, although unless you are living in cheap, substandard accommodation, the payment is only going to go part of the way.

For starters, you need to be paying at least $60.60 a week in rent to qualify for the assistance. If you are single and live alone, for every $1 of rent you pay above this amount, you’ll get 75c, up to a maximum of $67.90 a week. You can’t get more than the maximum amount.

Under this scenario, if your rent was, for instance, $250 a week, you pay the first $60.60, leaving $189.40 to which the subsidy applies. If the full amount were to be subsidised to the tune of 75c per dollar, the payment would be $142.05. But because the maximum assistance is $67.90, you would still be $74.15 a week out of pocket, plus the initial $60.60 on which you receive no assistance.

Thus, instead of paying $1000 a month, assistance would reduce your rent to $539.

If you are part of a couple, you must pay the first $98.10 of your weekly rent. If your weekly rent is $300, for example, that leaves $201.90 for which you can receive a maximum weekly rebate of $64 combined. That leaves $137.90 for you to cough up in addition to the initial $98.10.

Your weekly out-of-pocket rent of $236 becomes $944 a month compared with the landlord’s charge of $1200.

See below to understand how rent assistance could help you, but be aware that the figures in the table are stated as fortnightly payments.

Centrelink may adjust your Rent Assistance if your rent increases or decreases, if you move house, your income fluctuates or your family circumstances change; for example, if you separate from your partner.

The Government uses a Rent Certificate to confirm individuals’ rent details. To obtain this certificate, request an SU523 form online, fill it out and resend online.

If you live in community housing, ask the organisation managing your housing community if they use the Electronic Verification of Rent (EVoR) scheme.

Rent Assistance for maintenance, accommodation or service fees is available to lodgers and to those paying to occupy or moor at a site.

If you are receiving Rent Assistance and your circumstances change, you must alert Centrelink immediately. If you deliberately do not explain any changes, the Government can force you to pay back any overpayment and potentially charge you with fraud.

Do you rely on Rent Assistance to pay for your housing? If so, how adequate or inadequate is this payment for your circumstances?

Written by Olga Galacho

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