Centrelink Q&A: Will land put pension in peril?

Trent lives on acreage and is unclear how that affects an Age Pension.

Will land put pension in peril?

When your ‘house block’ is several hectares rather than a few hundred square metres in the suburbs, how does Centrelink assess your eligibility for an Age Pension?

Q. Trent
We are on a part Age Pension and live on nine acres (3.64 hectares), land which is not improved, except the house. I heard that we are allowed five acres (2.02 hectares) without pension cuts. Recently, I was told that the remaining four acres are not listed as assets after 20 years. Six months ago, I sent off all relevant documents to Centrelink and have had no reply, which I think is disgusting. Any clues, please?

A. Normally, only two hectares of land on the same title as your main home are exempt from the assets test, although all the land on the title may be exempt if you or your partner:

  • have reached age pension age
  • are getting an Age Pension, Carer Payment or Pension Bonus Bereavement Payment from Centrelink, or a service pension from the Department of Veterans’ Affairs
  • have lived there for the past 20 years in a row
  • pass the land use test.

To meet the extended land-use test, you need to be using the land to make an income, if possible. This could mean:

  • you or a family member are running a farming business on the land
  • you are leasing the land to someone else for a commercial rate of return
  • have little or no scope to earn income from the land.

Centrelink considers:

  • where the land is
  • your family situation; for example, caring responsibilities
  • your health
  • if any family members have their own house on the land
  • if the land supports you and your family or a younger generation of your family
  • any commercial use or scope for commercial land use
  • environmental issues, such as a drought
  • if the land combines two or more blocks or titles.

Centrelink offers the following case studies to illustrate the rules.

Example 1
Bob is single and 65. He owns 30 hectares on a single title. He’s lived there all his life and runs it as a dairy farm. As long as Bob keeps working the farm to its potential, the whole property is exempt from the assets test. Any other business assets are not exempt, such as stock and sheds.

Example 2
Betty and Jim moved to their five- hectare, single title rural residential block 21 years ago. The block is scrubby, with no water. There’s not much scope to earn income from it and the council won’t let them subdivide it. This means the whole property is exempt from their assets test.

Example 3
Jenny is 85 and has lived on her 100-hectare single-title farm for the past 40 years. She can’t run the farm on her own any more. Her son John and his family live in another house on the land. John earns his living from running the farm. The whole property is exempt from Jenny’s assets test.

With regard to Centrelink’s non-response, I would suggest that you request a meeting with a Financial Information Services officer to advance your claim.

If you have a Centrelink question, send it to newsletters@yourlifechoices.com.au and we’ll do our best to answer it, or find someone who can.

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    COMMENTS

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    1st Oct 2018
    11:19am
    We had a block of just under 10'000 square metres (a bit more than 2 acres). Our house was in one corner of it. We were advised to sell up and leave for somewhere with less land and a higher priced house. Were told the land was building land and could be sudivided with not much trouble and we would not get any pension.
    McDaddy
    1st Oct 2018
    3:10pm
    That was terrible advice, who told you that?
    Anonymous
    1st Oct 2018
    6:57pm
    The council already had a plan in place for 11 house blocks and obviously wanted an extra 10 ratepayers. Had a look on Google Map, the place is still as it was and no one has ever built anything on it - it is a city council and not a shire administration.
    Gypsy
    2nd Oct 2018
    12:22am
    We're on 8 acres & on the DSP, not OAP. We were asked what our land would be used for. We said (truthfully), lifestyle. We make no money from the land, we don't farm in any way, just live on it. Never had an issue with CL over it.
    Anonymous
    2nd Oct 2018
    6:32pm
    Well Gypsy - if it's not building land you are quite alright, no problem. Just look at your rate notice and you will see the difference.


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