RA recipients, who are not exempt from providing verification of accommodation details, should verify the amount of rent paid by providing:
Rent Declarations are acceptable in limited circumstances only.
This topic sets out information on verification and connected issues, covering:
Act reference: SSAct section 13 Rent definitions
A recipient is considered to be in a formal renting arrangement if they are able to verify their rent details by means of a current written lease or tenancy agreement. This agreement must be in accordance with State or Territory requirements and may be known by different names across States and Territories (exceptions apply - see below).
Example: Where recipients are renting residential premises, the tenancy agreement may be known as a:
When provided for verification purposes it is preferable that the whole document should be sighted by the Centrelink customer service adviser and relevant details documented on the recipient's record. At a minimum the schedule and/or pages that contain the following information must all be sighted:
Note: The introduction of a tenancy agreement for recipients in exempt accommodation does not change the exempt status of this accommodation (i.e. while recipients may present these arrangements, they are not required to do so) - see 'Exemptions to verification rules' below.
Exception: A member of a religious order (e.g. priest, nun, brother) may verify with a specialised tenancy agreement that does not contain all the information included in state or territory approved documents. However, the document should be signed and dated by the recipient and a representative of the religious order (the 'landlord') and include details relating to the following:
The tenancy agreement may not have a specific address for the recipient. It may include instead, a broad statement that the recipient's principal home is any premises owned, rented or subject to any other agreement with a third party by the religious order.
Where a RA recipient does not have a formal written lease or tenancy agreement OR the recipient is not named as a leaseholder or tenant on a FORMAL WRITTEN lease or tenancy agreement, the recipient is considered to be in an informal renting arrangement.
As a rule, such recipients are required to establish their rent liability by means of a Rent Certificate at the time of lodging a new claim or change of accommodation circumstance (i.e. rent amount varied and/or change of address).
Exception: See 'Short-term travellers' below.
The Rent Certificate needs to be signed by the landlord or the person who receives rent payments.
Example: An agent, a caravan park manager, a head tenant, a parent or the head of the household.
Explanation: A head tenant would be either the leaseholder or the person in a shared arrangement to who the recipient pays rent.
RA recipients in community housing should have a formal agreement setting out what they will pay to the organisation and what assistance will be provided. For the purposes of rent verification, RA recipients in community housing are considered to be in informal renting arrangements and are required to establish their rent liability by means of a Rent Certificate. This is because the actual amount of rent paid by recipients may fluctuate, as it is dependent upon the recipient's income and may be assessed as frequently as fortnightly.
Note: Recipients in disability housing that have a formal agreement are considered to be in a formal rental arrangement.
The majority of RA recipients will fall into either formal or informal renting arrangements. Some groups may fit into either category. Certain recipients will be exempt from having to verify the amount of rent paid.
Formal or informal
- Recipient has a written tenancy agreement with a real estate agent or independent private landlord.
- Recipient renting from a private landlord without a written tenancy agreement,
- Recipient living with friend/relative as their landlord with no written tenancy agreement,
- Recipient sharing accommodation with other people (e.g. head tenants) who hold a written tenancy agreement,
- Boarders and lodgers in private homes, State/Territory Housing Authority sub-tenants, and Community housing residents.
- Recipient in temporary accommodation may or may not have a written tenancy agreement,
- Recipients in caravan parks - will vary - short term residents more likely to be in informal situation, and
- Recipients paying mooring fees for a vessel.
- Recipients in refuges,
- Recipients living full-time in non-Commonwealth funded beds in residential care facilities, and
- Recipients in retirement villages.
Note: This group is required to provide proof of EC to determine homeowner status.
Income support recipients are expected to first approach their landlord or agent to have them sign a Rent Certificate. However, in some cases (e.g. if a recipient has tried unsuccessfully to have the Rent Certificate signed, or a customer service adviser considers it unreasonable to expect a recipient to approach the landlord/agent), a Rent Declaration may be submitted instead of a Rent Certificate as acceptable evidence to verify rent paid. In most cases a Rent Declaration should be accompanied by:
Normally, before RA is paid on the basis of a Rent Declaration, the landlord or agent should be contacted to confirm the landlord or agent is unwilling to sign the Rent Certificate and to attempt to verify the details on the Rent Declaration.
Note: If there are concerns about contacting the landlord due to violence or possible loss of tenure, the Rent Declaration may be accepted. Care should be taken to ensure this is only considered in extreme cases.
As a last resort and when all other avenues have been pursued, a Rent Declaration may be accepted without supporting documentation.
Income support recipients who regularly move from one address to another may submit a Rent Declaration once a fortnight.
Example: From one caravan park to another.
This Rent Declaration must be accompanied by rent receipts received over the given fortnight.
Note: This does not remove the requirement that recipients advise Centrelink of each change of circumstances, such as a new address, as soon as possible. Failure to do so may result in a loss or reduction in payments.
Example: A recipient with a general obligation to notify of a change in circumstances (i.e. non-stimulus) notifies Centrelink of a change in address within the required notification period (generally 14 days) and is assessed as being eligible for RA in respect of their new accommodation situation. RA date of effect rules stipulate that this RA be paid from the date of event (i.e. the date they moved into the new accommodation) or the date of notification (i.e. the date they advised Centrelink of their new address) WHICHEVER IS THE LATER.
Policy reference: SS Guide 18.104.22.168 Date of Effect & Arrears of RA
Recipients are exempt from having to verify the amount of rent paid whilst they are:
The Rent Certificate and Rent Declaration require the recipient to indicate whether the amount of rent paid is for:
Explanation: RA is calculated for boarders and lodgers using the two-thirds rule (22.214.171.124) if the meals component cannot be separately identified. It is important to correctly record the true accommodation circumstances of the recipient.
The Rent Certificate and Rent Declaration require that people who share accommodation include details of:
Explanation: Recipients sharing accommodation may not be able to provide a lease or tenancy agreement in their name as the tenancy agreement may be held in the name(s) of another resident(s) or a previous resident. Where several people have signed a lease or there are informal arrangements to share the costs of particular accommodation, RA is calculated ONLY on the amount actually contributed by the recipient and NOT the whole amount paid by the household (see 126.96.36.199 Net Rent Rules).
In certain circumstances RA may be paid without documentary evidence as long as acceptable evidence is produced within 4 weeks of the claim. Provided an amount of rent is payable by the recipient, the recipient is NOT required to actually make payment before RA can start.
RA should be reviewed whenever evidence suggests that circumstances may have changed, such as a change of address and/or change in amount of rent paid. Regardless of whether the rate of RA will be affected, the correct rent details should always be recorded and verified to ensure that the most accurate and up-to-date information is stored.
Acceptable verification of a rent change during the term of a tenancy agreement or when the agreement has become periodic, would be a written notice to the tenant of the rent change. The notice should be signed and dated by the landlord or agent and include their address.
Explanation: When a change of residential address is recorded and new accommodation details are not verified, the recipient is allowed 14 days to supply verified details before payment of RA is cancelled. At the end of the 14-day period, RA is cancelled automatically. Normal review procedures apply if a recipient provides subsequent verification within 13 weeks.
Policy reference: SS Guide 188.8.131.52 Date of Effect & Arrears of RA
Last reviewed: 20 March 2013