Older Australians who rent their home should know these strategies, says Centrelink expert Glenn Smith-Cameron.
YourLifeChoices’ 2019 Insights Survey found that 13.2 per cent of the 6731 respondents rent their home. If you are one of this group, are you making the most of the benefits that are available to assist you financially?
A key concern of YourLifeChoices members is that government benefits and allowances are sometimes not widely known. The following strategies are available to help age pensioners who rent – the Cash-Strapped Tribes.
The maximum fortnightly Rent Assistance payment for a single is $137.20; for a single who shares, it is $91.47, and for a couple combined, it is $129.20. The amount of Rent Assistance will depend on the fortnightly rental costs. For a single, the maximum will be paid only if the fortnightly rent is at least $302.27; for a single sharer when the rent is at least $241.91 and for a couple combined, when the rent is $366.87.
No Rent Assistance is available for retirees in public housing, but cheaper fixed rent makes this an attractive option. However, the waiting times can be lengthy and you may have no say in where you are allocated a house.
Moving to a regional area
The rents are likely to be cheaper, but careful consideration should be given to the availability of public transport and medical facilities.
1. Two people sharing accommodation are able to get a total of $182.94 a fortnight in Rent Assistance when paying $500 a fortnight in rent.
2. Family members who share can take advantage of a quirk in the system. Consider this example of a woman living with and paying board to her brother and his partner. All are receiving an Age Pension, but the sister is also able to claim Rent Assistance for the amount paid to her brother (assuming she is paying at least $302.27 a fortnight). The rental payment is not considered as income for the brother from a Social Security assessment.
3. People often live together for care and companionship. A student or pensioner might live with another pensioner for free or for reduced board in exchange for such duties as care, companionship and housework.
This involves paying for the right to live in a specific home for life.
The property must belong to someone else. It is not a description of the type of property.
It must be:
- all or part of a private residence
- your principal home
- not owned by you, your partner or a trust or company you control.
The right lasts only for your lifetime and is not part of your estate when you die.
If the payment for the life interest is under the extra allowable amount (the difference in the assets threshold for a homeowner and non-homeowner) – $207,000 as at January 2019 – a person can qualify for Rent Assistance if rent is paid.
Use of a site or structure for a caravan, relocatable home or a boat
A person in a caravan, relocatable home or boat is considered a homeowner but not a non-eligible homeowner and therefore is able to claim Rent Assistance, irrespective of the value of the caravan, relocatable home or boat.
Are you eligible for an Age Pension? Do you know your rights? The PensionChecker™ tool has all the information you need.
This article first appeared in the March 2019 Retirement Affordability Index.
Disclaimer: All content in the Retirement Affordability Index™ 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 the 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 financial planner, lawyer or tax agent in relation to any aspects that affect your financial and legal circumstances.
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