If your family lives in the same city as where your university is located, you can often choose to stay to minimize your financial burden. However, if you’re from the country or your preferred university is in another city, you might not be able to get away from having to pay rent.
For many people, rent is the biggest regular expenditure. That’s why getting rent assistance from Centrelink could be a big help if you’re eligible.
Am I Eligible for Centrelink Rent Assistance?
To qualify for rent assistance from Centrelink, you obviously have to live away from home. You can’t live with your parents or guardians. You also can’t have a partner who gets rent assistance payments related to his or her pension or Family Tax Benefit.
The property you’re renting have to be a private residence — meaning: not provided by a state or territory housing authority. If you signed your lease contract with a state or territory housing authority, it’s unlikely that you can get Centrelink rent assistance. However, you should contact Centrelink directly to get personalised advice.
Your rent amount has to be over the minimum amount set by Centrelink. These minimum rates change over time, so check with Centrelink before you claim rent assistance.
Unless you live in a mobile home, you can’t own or be in the process of obtaining ownership of the property you live in. You also won’t be eligible for Centrelink rent assistance if you already own a home and you’re just living away from it for less than 12 months.
You also have to already be receiving other Centrelink payments, such as those under the Youth Allowance, Austudy or Abstudy programs.
Centrelink Rent Assistance Payment Rates
The Centrelink rent assistance rates vary depending on the type of home you live in, the amount of rent you pay and your relationship with the people you live with.
As of January 2013, a rent assistance payment ranges between $80.67 and $160.44 payable every two weeks. It’s difficult to determine exactly how much rent assistance you will receive because the maximum rates change every six months and the amount you actually receive is determined on a case-by-case basis.
Changes in Your Circumstances
Because there are very specific eligibility requirements, a slight change in your circumstances could affect your Centrelink rent assistance payments.
For example, your payment rates may change if your rent goes up or if you leave the country. Other events that could change your payment rates include your income level, marital status and living arrangement.
Always report changes in your circumstances to Centrelink because failure to do so can lead Centrelink demanding the overpaid money back, charging you with fraud or bill you with a recovery fee.
To make sure rent assistance goes to those who need it, Centrelink conducts regular reviews of rent assistance recipients. Centrelink does this by choosing some rent assistance recipients for review and asking for their rent details by mail.
If you are chosen, you can provide the required information online here or by phone on 136 240. Be sure to respond before the due date on the letter because otherwise you could risk losing your right to rent assistance payments.
How to Claim Rent Assistance
To start receiving rent assistance, you don’t have to do much. There are no additional forms or claims to submit to Centrelink. Instead, Centrelink will automatically check if you’re eligible when you collect another Centrelink payment or when you update your rent details.