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The cost of housing is generally one of the biggest expenses facing Australian households - particularly in recent years as housing supply has failed to keep up with demand. 

There’s often not a lot a tenant can do to reduce their housing costs. Fortunately, however, there is a government payment designed to help take the edge off of paying rent. 

If you’re a renter who is receiving certain other forms of government benefit, you might also be eligible for rent assistance. 

What is rent assistance?

Rent assistance is a government payment provided to renters receiving certain other forms of government support, like the Age Pension, Youth Allowance, or the JobSeeker Payment. 

It’s available to eligible Australians paying:

  • Rent

  • Fees to a retirement village

  • Lodging and/or board

  • Site or mooring fees for a caravan, boat, or portable home

How much rent assistance an eligible individual or household may receive depends on how much rent they pay and the size of their household. 

Am I eligible for rent assistance?

To be eligible for rent assistance a person must be paying rent or another form of housing payment (listed above) and receiving one or more of the below government payments:

  • Age Pension

  • Carer Payment or Disability Support Pension

  • ABSTUDY Living Allowance

  • Austudy or Youth Allowance

  • Special Benefit

  • Family Tax Benefit (must be receiving Part A of the Family Tax Benefit) 

  • Parenting Payment 

  • JobSeeker Payment

  • Farm Household Allowance

You might also be eligible for rent assistance if you receive one of the above payments and live in community housing, such as housing for students, people with special needs, or defence housing. 

There are also special rules around receiving rent assistance as a young person, particularly one who lives with parents or guardians.

If you’re unsure if you’re eligible for rent assistance, it might be worthwhile reaching out to Services Australia (the department that delivers government payments and services) to find out.

Who isn’t eligible for rent assistance?

However, you can’t get rent assistance if:

  • You own the home you live in (unless it's relocatable) 

  • You’re travelling away from a home you own for less than 12 months

  • You live in an approved residential aged care facility the Australian Government pays a subsidy to

  • You’re leasing from a state or territory housing authority 

You also won’t be eligible for rent assistance if you have a partner who already receives rent assistance alongside Family Tax Benefit A or with their own pension. 

How much rent assistance can I get?

How much rent assistance you might be eligible to receive will depend on your relationship status, whether or not you have dependent children (and how many you have), and how much rent you pay each fortnight.   

Individual situations are broken down into categories, each with its own minimum amount of rent a person must pay to receive rent assistance. For every dollar you spend on rent above that minimum amount applicable to your situation, you’ll receive 75 cents of rent assistance up to a maximum fortnightly payment, which is also dependent on your situation. 

How much rent assistance can I get if I don’t have dependent children?

If you don’t have dependent children, here’s how much rent assistance you could be eligible to receive: 

If you’re:

And your fortnightly rent is more than:

You could be eligible to receive rent assistance of up to:

You might get the maximum payment if your fortnightly rent is more than:

Single 

$143.40

$184.80

$389.80

Single and living in shared housing

$143.40

$123.20

$307.67

A couple (combined)

$232.40

$174

$464.40

One of a couple and separated due to illness

$143.40

$184.80

$389.80

One of a couple and temporarily separated

$143.40

$174

$375.40

How much rent assistance can I get if I have dependent children?

Here’s how much rent assistance you might be eligible to receive if you get the Family Tax Benefit Part A or another payment and you have dependent children:

If you’re:

And your fortnightly rent is more than:

You could be eligible to receive rent assistance of up to:

You might get the maximum payment if your fortnightly rent is more than:

Single with one or two children

$188.44

$217.28

$478.15

Single with three or more children

$188.44

$245.42

$515.67

A couple with one or two children

$278.46

$217.28

$568.17

A couple with three or more children

$278.46

$245.42

$605.69 

One of a couple separated due to illness or temporary separated with one or two children

$188.44

$217.28

$478.15

One of a couple separated due to illness or temporary separated with three  or more children

$188.44

$245.42

$515.67

How do you apply for rent assistance?

Applying for rent assistance is easy! In fact, you don’t even have to. If you’re eligible for rent assistance it will automatically be tacked onto your regular government payments. 

When you make a claim to receive another form of payment from Services Australia as a renter, you’ll be asked to provide a copy of your tenancy agreement. If you don’t have one, the department will send you a Rent Certificate to fill out and return.

After that, it will check whether you’re eligible for rent assistance based on how much rent you pay and will provide it to you if you are.

Services Australia will also check whether you’re eligible for rent assistance if you move or your housing situation changes while you’re receiving a payment. That’s one reason why it's important to keep your details up to date with the government service provider. 

Rent assistance for Age Pensioners

If you receive the Age Pension and pay rent or housing fees, you might also be eligible to receive rent assistance. 

If you live in a retirement village, however, you might find that your housing costs are considered differently from those of a person renting in the traditional sense. How much you pay to enter a retirement village will likely be key to your eligibility for rent assistance.

Can you get rent assistance if you live in a retirement village?

A retirement village is typically a group of residences built with the purpose of housing those aged over a certain number of years. For the most part, retirement villages offer services and facilities designed to support residents’ changing needs.

If you have bought a house or unit in a retirement village, Services Australia will use the size of your entry fee to determine whether you are treated as a homeowner or a renter when it comes to rent assistance. This is where it gets a bit complicated.

When you apply to receive the Age Pension, you will face an ‘asset test’. The asset test determines whether you’re eligible for the Age Pension and how much you might be eligible to receive. Those who don’t own their own home have a higher asset test limit than those who do – the difference between the two limits is deemed the ‘extra allowable amount’. 

Back to retirement villages. If you paid more than the extra allowable amount to enter a retirement village, you’re deemed a homeowner. 

If you paid less, you might be eligible for rent assistance to help cover ongoing fees and charges related to living in a retirement village. 

When does rent assistance increase?

Rent assistance is updated twice a year, on 20 March and 20 September. On those dates, it is increased in line with the consumer price index (CPI) – Australia’s inflation measurement. 

As part of the 2023 Federal Budget, rent assistance was increased by 15%. That change was implemented in September 2023. 

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Image by Evelyn Paris on Unsplash.