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Private Rental Assistance Policy Supplement
Policy Last Amended: 11 December 2015
- Minor matters
- Eligibility criteria and evidence requirements for a Statement of Satisfactory Tenancy
- Conditions for becoming eligible for a Statement of Satisfactory Tenancy in the future
- Locations where Private Rental Brokerage is available
- Eligibility criteria for Private Rental Brokerage
- Definition and assessment of complex needs
- Support services
- Case plans
- Capacity to afford and sustain a private rental tenancy
- Gathering information about a client’s needs and expectations
- Evidence requirements for assessing private rental brokerage eligibility
- Tenancy Facilitation
- Monitoring a private rental tenancy
- Eligibility criteria for a Tenancy Guarantee
- Debts from a previous Tenancy Guarantee
- Determining the client’s need for a Tenancy Guarantee
- Potential risks to sustaining a tenancy
- Conditions which are necessary to activate a Tenancy Guarantee
- Responsibilities of the housing provider, the tenant and the landlord/real estate agent during the tenancy
- Circumstances where a client may require a second Tenancy Guarantee
- Timeframe for submitting a claim
- Protected entitlement prior 12 June 2012
- Eligibility criteria for Private Rental Subsidy assistance approved from 12 June 2012
- Evidence requirements for a Private Rental Subsidy
- Considerations for clients approved from 12 June 2012
- Private Rental Subsidy - Start Safely
- Exceptions to paying 25% of income towards rent
- Exceptions to calculating Commonwealth Rent Assistance at 100%
- Situations where Private Rental Subsidy assistance may be considered for rent above the benchmark
Minor matters are actions which might be a technical breach of the Tenancy Agreement, such as adding a small fixture to a property without FACS’s permission, but which do not justify classifying a tenant as ineligible for a Statement of Satisfactory Tenancy.
FACS will only provide a Statement of Satisfactory Tenancy if, apart from minor matters, they meet the following criteria:
- The tenant’s FACS accounts have a nil or credit balance and the tenant’s payment performance for the accounts was satisfactory for the 12 months before the assessment of the Tenancy Statement. FACS accounts include any former tenancy accounts linked to the current tenancy, or the immediate former tenancy.
- A current tenant has not breached their tenancy in the twelve months prior to FACS receiving their application for a Tenancy Statement, or
- A former tenant has not breached their tenancy.
FACS will consider the 12 month period as a whole when assessing whether the tenant made reasonable efforts to keep up to date with their payments and to repay any arrears in accordance with arrangements made.
FACS is not in a position to decide whether former tenants who had breached their public housing Tenancy Agreement have rectified the behaviour giving rise to that breach. Former tenants who are ineligible for a Tenancy Statement on the grounds of such breaches will remain ineligible. However, should they sustain a tenancy in the private rental market, then they may be able to ask for a tenant reference from the property owner or manager.
FACS will consider the material held on its tenancy management systems and tenant files in relation to the tenancy history of a tenant, including the history of other occupants in that tenancy, over:
- The 12 months prior to a current tenant’s application for a Tenancy Statement, or
- The duration of the tenancy for a former tenant, with the exception of rent and other payments, which FACS will consider over a 12-month period prior to receiving the application.
Clients of public housing who are ineligible for a Statement of Satisfactory Tenancy may become eligible in the future if they satisfy the following conditions:
- All of their FACS accounts (including accounts from linked former tenancies) have a nil or credit balance when FACS next assesses their eligibility for a tenancy statement and their payment performance was satisfactory in the 12 months before FACS’s assessment, and
- For current tenants, apart from minor matters, they have no breaches of their Tenancy Agreement for the 12 months before the Department of Family and Community Services (FACS) receiving their next application for a Tenancy Statement, or
- For former tenants, apart from minor matters, they had not breached their Tenancy Agreement.
The PRBS is available in the following FACS offices: Albury, Bathurst/Orange, Nowra, Queanbeyan, Burwood, Ryde, Sussex St, Coffs Harbour, Central Coast, Fairfield, Bankstown, Blacktown, Campbelltown, Mount Druitt, Hurstville, Lismore/Tweed, Liverpool, Tamworth/Moree (indigenous specific), Newcastle, Parramatta, Penrith, Wagga Wagga, Wollongong, and Wyong.
To be eligible for the PRBS, clients must:
- Be an Australian citizen or permanent resident (for more information, go to Eligibility for social housing – residency), and
- Meet the income eligibility criteria for social housing (for more information, go to Income eligibility limits), and
- Be homeless or at risk of homelessness and have complex needs (for more information, go to Definition and assessment of complex needs), and
- Have a support service and case plan in place (for more information, go to Support services and Case plans), and
- Have the capacity to afford and sustain a private rental tenancy. In order to afford a private rental tenancy, the client must be in receipt of a regular weekly income. For more information, go to Capacity to afford and sustain a private rental tenancy.
Clients are eligible for the PRBS if they are homeless or at risk of homelessness. Homelessness includes:
- People living in the streets, parks, squatting, or in cars.
- People moving frequently from one form of temporary shelter to another, including:
- Emergency and transitional accommodation provided under the Supported Accommodation Assistance Program (SAAP).
- People staying with other people because they have no accommodation of their own.
- People staying in boarding houses on a short-term basis.
- People living in boarding house accommodation on a medium to long-term basis.
In addition to being homeless or at risk of homelessness, the client must have complex needs. Examples of complex needs include:
- Physical illness.
- Mental illness.
- Physical disability.
- Intellectual disability.
- Substance abuse issues.
- Domestic or family violence.
- Problem gambling.
- Criminal justice issues.
- Child protection needs.
- Family support needs.
For FACS to accept a client into the PRBS, they must be engaged with a support service. The primary support service must complete the Private Rental Brokerage Referral Form outlining the client’s support needs and housing status, and be committed to providing support to the client during the tenancy, according to the agreed case plan.
Support providers and clients are encouraged to contact FACS and discuss the appropriateness of the referral and the case plan prior to sending the final referral to FACS.
Clients who are not being assisted by a support service will not be accepted into the PRBS.
The support service completing the Private Rental Brokerage Referral Form must provide a case plan for the client. FACS must be confident that the support offered to the client will address issues identified and assist in sustaining the tenancy.
The case plan must cover:
- Details about the client’s support needs and issues they are facing, and
- Other support services involved or current referrals to other agencies, and
- Information about the nature of the support being provided and the frequency of contact with clients, and
- The agency/person responsible for providing support, and
- A timeframe for involvement/intervention, and
- A commitment by the support worker to continue working with the client to address the issues that may impact the client’s ability to pay rent and meet the conditions of the lease.
All forms of income are included in the household income calculation to determine affordability of rent, including maintenance, Family Tax Benefit Part A and Part B and other allowances that are not included in the income assessment for social housing eligibility. When assessing the client’s ability to afford private rental, FACS will consider:
- The client’s weekly household income, and
- Any debts that the client may have, and
- Weekly income when compared to the average weekly rental prices in the area being sought by the client, and
- Entitlement to Commonwealth Rent Assistance.
FACS must believe that there is a reasonable chance that the support offered to the client through the PRBS and the support service has the capacity to address any risks to the client’s ability to sustain a tenancy in the private rental market.
FACS will interview the client to gather information about their needs and expectations, and to determine eligibility. This information will include:
- The complexity of the client’s needs, and
- The support needs of the client and whether current support provided meets those needs, and
- The suitability of current housing arrangements, and
- The housing needs of the client.
During the assessment, FACS will:
- Talk to the client about their situation, and
- Explain the service and assistance to be provided if eligible, and
- Explore the client’s expectation of the service, and
- Detail what the client is expected to do, and
- Discuss past tenancies, why they ended and identify barriers to sustaining a tenancy, and
- Establish a tenancy history and possible references, and
- Identify what needs to change and what other help is required, and
- Confirm weekly income to ensure income eligibility.
FACS will consider the following evidence when assessing eligibility for the Private Rental Brokerage Service.
FACS will use the information provided by the client at interview and the details provided by the support worker when assessing complex needs.
Support service in place
This is demonstrated by the presence of a support provider who is willing to sign the Private Rental Brokerage Referral form and an appropriate case plan.
The written case plan provided to FACS.
FACS will also use evidence obtained from interviewing the client.
Tenancy Facilitation includes:
- Assistance to compile appropriate documentation.
- Help to search for suitable properties.
- Support to submit private rental applications.
- Coaching on how to interact with real estate agents and landlords.
- Information on the rights and responsibilities of renters.
- Assistance to address a listing on a tenant database.
When the client is successfully housed in the private rental market, FACS will monitor the client’s progress for a minimum of three, to a maximum of 12, months. The purpose of monitoring the tenancy is to ensure that the client is able to maintain the tenancy and that the support offered by the support provider is continuing.
The length of time that FACS will monitor the tenancy will depend on the needs of the client. Monitoring is likely to be fortnightly during the initial stages of the tenancy and decrease to monthly where appropriate. Monitoring involves regular contact with:
- The client, through telephone calls and/or home visits.
- The agent/landlord to:
- Assure the agent or landlord that the service is continuing and that they can contact FACS if they have concerns about the tenancy, and
- Confirm that the tenant is fulfilling the requirements of the Tenancy Agreement.
- The support provider in working with them to:
- Identify any potential risks to the tenancy, and
- Confirm that support provision is continuing according to the case plan.
Tenancy guarantees are available to clients who:
- Are an Australian citizen or permanent resident (for more information, go to Eligibility for social housing – residency), and
- Meet income eligibility criteria for social housing (for more information, go to Income eligibility limits), and
- Have already looked for private rental accommodation without success or are assessed as likely to experience difficulty in obtaining such accommodation, and
- Have been assessed as able to afford private rental accommodation, and
- Do not have a debt from a previous Tenancy Guarantee (for more information, go to Debts from a previous Tenancy Guarantee), and
- Do not have a current Tenancy Guarantee, and
- Have agreed to the conditions for receiving a Tenancy Guarantee.
Where a client has an outstanding debt from a previous Tenancy Guarantee, they are not eligible for another Tenancy Guarantee. In most cases, the client must make a repayment arrangement and repay the debt before the provider will consider them for a further Tenancy Guarantee.
The housing provider may waive the debt in cases of documented domestic violence, criminal activity or emergency, for example, a flood, fire or other similar circumstance outside the client’s control. Documentation may include police reports or statements, medical or hospital reports or reports from government departments or other welfare or support agencies.
As part of the assessment process, the provider will interview the client to determine the client’s need for a Tenancy Guarantee. This will include:
- Determining if the client needs a Tenancy Guarantee or if the client is able to obtain a private rental tenancy without a Tenancy Guarantee.
- Assessing the client’s eligibility for a Tenancy Guarantee.
During the assessment, the provider will:
- Talk to the client about their situation, and
- Explain the Tenancy Guarantee and assistance that will be provided, if eligible, and
- Explore the client’s expectation of the purpose of the Tenancy Guarantee, and
- Detail what the client is expected to do if a Tenancy Guarantee is offered, and
- Explore potential risks to sustaining a tenancy, including past problems, how the problems may have occurred, whether the client has made changes to address these problems, and whether referrals to other support services will address these risks.
Potential risks to sustaining a tenancy include:
- Tenancy breaches in the past.
- Listing on a tenant database.
- Limited independent living skills.
- Lack of support services to help sustain a tenancy.
- Outstanding debts.
- Lack of affordable or suitable accommodation in the client’s preferred location.
- Ongoing domestic violence.
- Ongoing drug use.
- Untreated mental illness.
When assessing whether there are any barriers or risk factors to the client being able to sustain a tenancy, the provider may contact other services and organisations to confirm the assessment.
The following conditions are necessary to activate a tenancy guarantee:
Determining maximum rent
The maximum rent for which a Tenancy Guarantee can be issued is 50% of the household’s gross weekly income plus 100% of any Commonwealth Rent Assistance received. When determining an affordable weekly rent, the provider will consider any outstanding debts and other financial commitments that impact on the client’s ability to pay rent.
A single Tenancy Guarantee can be issued for two clients’ who are seeking a shared household arrangement, as long as:
- Each client is named on the Tenancy Agreement and the Tenancy Guarantee, and
- There are no more than two people in the household.
If one client leaves the tenancy, the remaining client must sign a new Tenancy Agreement and Tenancy Guarantee.
If both clients wish to move, new Tenancy Guarantees can be issued to each client individually. In most circumstances, the record of a successful tenancy should be sufficient to allow the clients to secure a new tenancy without a Tenancy Guarantee.
If the names of the clients currently living in the rented property do not match both the names on the residential Tenancy Agreement and the Tenancy Guarantee, the Tenancy Guarantee is invalid.
The Tenancy Guarantee does not apply to agreements or premises that the Residential Tenancies Act 2010 does not cover.
Tenancy Guarantees do not cover accommodation in:
- A boarding or lodging arrangement, or
- Institutional care, or
- Holiday accommodation, or
- Accommodation covered by the Residential Parks Act or The Retirement Villages Act, or
- Other agreements or premises to which the Residential Tenancies Act does not apply (see sections 7 and 8 of the Residential Tenancies Act 2010 for further detail on agreements excluded from the Act).
Where a property is excluded and the Tenancy Guarantee cannot be used, the provider will assure the client that the Tenancy Guarantee offer is still valid and that they should continue looking for appropriate accommodation.
A property is ineligible if:
- The rent exceeds the maximum rent in the Tenancy Guarantee letter, or
- The landlord/agent is not prepared to grant a Residential Tenancy Agreement, or
- The landlord or agent has been excluded from the product for previous misuse.
Where a property is ineligible, the provider will inform the client. The provider will assure the client that the Tenancy Guarantee offer is still valid and that they should continue looking for appropriate accommodation.
6. Responsibilities of the housing provider, the tenant and the landlord/real estate agent during the tenancy
Social housing provider
The provider has a role in assisting the tenant and the landlord or agent as required during the operation of the Tenancy Guarantee. The involvement of the provider will vary from tenant to tenant but includes:
- Monitoring the tenancy monthly for the first three months and then bi-monthly to the end of the tenancy.
- Liaising between the tenant and landlord or agent to discuss and defuse problems that threaten the tenancy.
- Checking at the end of the Residential Tenancy Agreement and the expiry of the Tenancy Guarantee if the tenancy is continuing.
In signing the Landlords/Agents Acceptance of Tenancy Guarantee, landlords/agents agree to exercise their responsibilities to mitigate loss. This means that the landlord/agent should take prompt and appropriate action to avoid or minimise loss should the Residential Tenancy Agreement be breached, even if the expectations are in excess of the Residential Tenancies Act.
The landlord/agent should contact the provider if:
- There are changes to a shared household that is subject to a Tenancy Guarantee.
- The landlord/agent is aware of any problems likely to affect or already affecting the sustainability of the tenancy.
- The tenant has breached the Tenancy Guarantee.
- The tenant fails to rectify tenancy breaches.
The tenant is responsible for:
- Abiding by the conditions of the Residential Tenancy Agreement.
- Informing the landlord/agent and the provider of any changes to shared households.
- Seeking assistance and working with support services, if needed.
- Informing the provider:
- When there is a problem threatening the tenancy.
- If they are made an offer of social housing.
- If they are leaving the tenancy.
A client may need a second Tenancy Guarantee because of factors outside their control. For example, when the property covered by the Tenancy Guarantee is sold before they have been able to establish a successful tenancy record.
A provider may grant a client a second Tenancy Guarantee if:
- The client is still eligible, and
- There was no claim against the first Tenancy Guarantee.
A landlord/agent must notify the provider of a claim against a Tenancy Guarantee before it expires.
The provider will only consider a claim valid if the agent/landlord has notified the provider within seven days of becoming aware of a breach of the Tenancy Agreement and can show that they have taken all steps to mitigate the loss.
A landlord/agent must:
- Notify all claims to the provider within seven days of the Tenancy Guarantee expiry.
- Commence any NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal action within seven days of the Tenancy Guarantee expiry.
- Lodge all claims within three months of the Tenancy Guarantee expiry.
Where the agent/landlord cannot gain vacant possession to assess damage or arrears, they should notify the provider immediately and commence NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal action within seven days.
New policy rules were introduced affecting clients approved to receive Private Rental Subsidy assistance, effective from 12 June 2012.
Clients approved prior to the new policy taking effect retain all of their existing entitlements under the Private Rental Subsidy - Disability and Private Rental Subsidy - Special, as long as they remain eligible for a Private Rental Subsidy. For more information, go to the Private Rental Assistance Policy.
For a client to be approved to receive the Private Rental Subsidy assistance, applicants must meet the following eligibility criteria:
- eligible for social housing, and
- approved for priority status on the NSW Housing Register, and
- have a recognised disability or medical condition, and
- be able to demonstrate they are also ‘at risk of harm’ in their current housing which is not suitable for them to live in while they are waiting for social housing.
Priority status on the NSW Housing Register
To be eligible for priority housing status on the NSW Housing Register, applicants must meet all three of the following criteria:
- Be eligible for social housing, and
- Be in urgent need of housing, and
- Be unable to resolve that need themselves in the private rental market due to their urgent housing need and/or complex life circumstances.
For further information on the Priority Housing eligibility criteria, go to the Eligibility for Social Housing Policy.
FACS considers a person disabled if their ability to function is impaired, or they have a medical condition that:
- Is due to an intellectual, psychiatric, sensory or physical condition, or combination of conditions, and
- Is permanent or likely to be permanent, and results in:
- A substantially reduced capacity of the person for communication, learning or mobility, and
- The need for ongoing support services, or
- An inability to obtain housing from the private rental market.
FACS’s focus is on the effect the disability has on the individual’s ability to find and keep suitable and affordable housing located near necessary health or support facilities. Having a disability does not automatically guarantee access to the Private Rental Subsidy.
Risk factors in current accommodation
There are many situations in which the personal safety or the mental health of a client or another member of their household may be at risk of harm. To be eligible for the Private Rental Subsidy, clients must demonstrate they are at risk of harm due to their current accommodation which places the client and/or a family member at risk of physical or psychological harm relating specifically to a medical condition or disability. The client must demonstrate that it is no longer suitable for them to live in the accommodation while they are waiting for social housing.
To help determine which clients should be approved for a Private Rental Subsidy, FACS will also consider whether:
- The risk is serious and ongoing.
- The risk means the client cannot remain in the current dwelling and/or location beyond a medium length of time.
- The property and/or location significantly increases the risk and reduces the client’s safety.
- The property and/or location significantly increases the risk to the clients ability to manage their specific medical condition.
- Apart from moving, there are no practical steps that can be taken by the client to lower or remove the risk.
- Moving from current accommodation will help or resolve the situation and remove or significantly decrease the risk.
Clients must provide suitable documentary evidence to:
- Support their eligibility for social housing, and
- Satisfy the priority assistance criteria, and
- Provide details of their medical condition and how it affects their accommodation needs and/or ability to satisfy those needs in the private rental market.
- Provide evidence to support their risk in their current accommodation.
If a client receiving Private Rental Subsidy assistance refuses a reasonable offer of social housing, they will no longer be entitled to receive the subsidy. In this case, clients will be expected to be able to meet their own housing needs until they receive an additional offer of social housing. If they cannot, they will need to consider relocating to a more affordable property.
Benchmark rents are capped at the median rent of the middle ring of the Sydney suburbs. If the rent increases above the benchmark amount a client is approved for, they may be required to find another suitable property.
Clients will receive a subsidy only for the same type and location of property which they are likely to be allocated in social housing.
Things considered when assessing the suitability of a property are:
- That it is similar to the type of property which the client is likely to be allocated in social housing
- That social housing is available in the same location of the property
- Whether the property has additional features that are not standard in social housing, or whether the features are required to support the management of a medical condition.
- That a client’s support services can be transferred between suburbs or to another provider within an allocation zone once they are housed in social housing.
Clients who do not secure a private tenancy within 3 months of approval will have their circumstances reassessed to determine the ongoing urgency of their housing need.
From 5 June 2006, the assessment rate increased from 20% to 25% of income (not including Commonwealth Rent Assistance). All new clients who receive a Private Rental Subsidy on or after 5 June 2006 will contribute 25% of their income towards the rent. Existing Private Rental Subsidy clients will continue to pay 20% of their income in rent until FACS conducts their next Private Rental Subsidy review, on or after 5 June 2006. When this occurs, FACS will increase the client’s rent contribution to 25% of their income.
Before 24 August 1998 clients contributed only 20% of their CRA in rent. These clients continue to contribute 20% of their CRA in rent while they stay at the same address. If they are required to relocate because the landlord terminates the tenancy for a reason other than a breach of the Tenancy Agreement (for example, property sale or redevelopment), they will continue to contribute only 20% of their CRA in rent for a new tenancy. If a client is required to move because of a breach of the Tenancy Agreement, FACS will assess their CRA at 100%.
7. Situations where Private Rental Subsidy assistance may be considered for rent above the benchmark
Where a client finds a property and the rent is above the benchmark, or when an existing client’s property rent is increased putting the property rent above the benchmark, FACS may, in exceptional circumstances approve payment of the subsidy based on this market rent. FACS may provide approval for above the benchmark rent if the client can demonstrate that:
- They cannot find a property at or below the benchmark that meets their special needs, for example, a modified property, and
- This rent reflects the current market rent, and
- The rent is affordable, and
- If they have been assisted with a Bond loan, that they have the capacity to maintain the rent as well as the bond loan repayments.