Can you claim rent assistance for a motorhome?

Sandy wants to sell up at her over-50s village and travel around Australia in a motorhome and is keen to know if she will still be eligible for rent assistance.

Q. Sandy
I am a 69-year-old divorced age pensioner and currently live alone in an over-50s village (own the house but not the land and receive rental allowance). I have been seriously considering selling the house and buying a motorhome as I am not entirely happy here. I expect I would receive around $340,000 for the house and I imagine that when I sell, I will lose part of the pension as happened when I sold my previous house prior to buying here. I have around $100,000 in a bank account but no other assets other than furniture and a six-year-old car. I have had some bad experiences with Centrelink and don’t entirely trust the info they give out as I have found two different officers can give conflicting advice. I was also one of those hit with a robo-debt some years ago and knew I had done nothing wrong, so fought and won against them, so am quite distrustful anyway.   

My queries are:

  • If I buy a motorhome and travel around, will my pension be affected? And would I still be entitled to rental allowance? Or is that only if I live for long periods at van parks?
  • Can I put my $100,000 towards buying a house with my daughter so that I will have somewhere to live when I tire of travelling?
  • If I did buy with my daughter, will that mean, prior to settling down, I won’t be entitled to rent assistance?

Read more: CPI figures point to big pension increase

A. If you sell your home your pension will most likely be affected because the cash from the sale of your home will be treated as an asset, as you have already outlined.

That money will be considered an asset, whether you keep it as cash, or use some of it to buy a house with your daughter.

However, you may still be eligible for rent assistance once you have your motorhome and decide to start travelling (assuming you meet all of the other criteria), as long as you don’t move in with your daughter in the home that you purchase together before you start travelling.

Read more: One million Aussies to be excluded from Centrelink payments

If you purchase the home first and move in with your daughter, you will be considered a homeowner.

If you are a homeowner and are travelling around Australia, you won’t be eligible for Rent Assistance for the first 12 months, as the social security system considers you to be temporarily absent from your principal home.

After 12 months, your caravan or motorhome becomes your principal home, and your stake in the home will be classed as an asset.

Read more: The forgotten assets that could lead to pension denial

However, if you’re not a homeowner, you may be eligible for Rent Assistance if your main home is a motorhome.

It is also important to note that there is a minimum amount of rent that you need to pay each fortnight in order to receive rent assistance.

You also need to advise Centrelink on the day that you check in to each caravan site so that they can assess your rent assistance using the most current information.

Centrelink staff may give you multiple copies of the rent declaration forms so that you can fill them in on arrival at each check-in location.

These forms can be uploaded to an online account on myGov or can be lodged in person at a Centrelink service centre, access point or agent.

Centrelink has 350 agents and 240 access points across Australia, which are run by community or council centres on Centrelink’s behalf.

Have you ever considered selling up and moving into a relocatable home? Why not share your thoughts in the comments section below?

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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.

Written by Ben



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