Social Housing Rent Policy

1. Purpose

The purpose of the Rent & Rent Management policy is to outline how BlueCHP calculates tenants’ rents and manages situations where a tenant’s income may change affecting the amount of rent they pay. The NSW Community Housing Rent Policy applies to the properties governed by an agreement between Housing NSW and a community housing provider for the provision of social housing.

2. Scope

This policy applies to all social housing tenants, ex-tenants and applicants of BlueCHP. For information regarding affordable housing rents, refer to the Rent & Rent Management Policy – Affordable Housing.

3. Definitions

Market rent – is the maximum rent a tenant will pay for a BlueCHP property. The market rent is based on how much the property could be leased for in the private rental market

Rent subsidy – is the difference between the market rent and the amount of rent a tenant pays, based on the household’s assessable income.  If a tenant receives a rent subsidy this means they will pay less than the market rent. Eligibility for Rental Subsidy will be assessed a maximum of twice a year.

Tenant –  is the person who signed the Residential Tenancy Agreement

Household members – are other people who have been authorised by BlueCHP to reside at the property

4. Policy statement

BlueCHP is committed to providing affordable social housing. BlueCHP requires all tenants living in a property owned or managed by BlueCHP to pay rent weekly, or fortnightly, in line with their Rent Payment Agreement.

Tenants can expect BlueCHP to:

  • Comply with the NSW Government’s Community Housing Rent Policy and requirements of the Residential Tenancies Act 2010
  • Be accountable for the way that rents are set and reviewed
  • Provide clear and straightforward advice if and when market rents or rent subsidies are changed
  • Ensure that market and rent subsidy reviews are fair and consistent
  • Comply with the requirements of Centrelink regarding client privacy and document control in respect of Centrepay contractual arrangements
  • Understand that even small changes in rent-subsidies can have a big impact on tenant’s budgets and capacity to meet living expenses

5. Rent and Rent Management

5.1 Market Rent

Market Rent will be shown on the Residential Tenancy Agreement signed between the tenant and BlueCHP. Market rent is the maximum amount of rent a landlord or real estate agent could charge each week if the property were rented in the private market. Market rent is determined using a number of sources including:

  • Property valuations and current trends in the private rental market
  • Median rent information provided by the NSW Rental Bond Board
  • The geographical location
  • The size, design and condition of the property

BlueCHP reviews the market rent of their properties every year, as a minimum, and will advise tenants of the outcome as per the requirements of the Residential Tenancies Act 2010. If your market rent changes, you will receive at least 60 days’ written notice.

5.2 Rent Management

At the commencement of the tenancy agreement, tenants will be required to pay two weeks subsidised rent in advance. Where a tenant is unable to meet this payment requirement, a payment arrangement may be negotiated.

When tenant payments are received by BlueCHP they will be allocated to tenant accounts in the following order: Bond, Water, Damages, Tenant Responsibility Assistance (TRA), Rent and Arrears, where payments types are applicable.

Tenants can pay their rent either weekly or fortnightly but at all times it should be paid on time and be 2 weeks in advance.

A written rent statement is sent to all tenants quarterly, in accordance with the Residential Tenancies Act 2010. A tenant may request an updated rent statement at any time, which will be provided within 5 working days.

5.3 Payment methods

In accordance with the Residential Tenancies Act 2010, BlueCHP will provide at least one free method for tenants to make rent payments.

Rent can be paid using any of the following methods:

  • Centrepay
  • Internet banking/Direct Deposit –
  • Money Orders & cheques

5.4 Rent Calculation

BlueCHP will apply the NSW Government’s Community Housing Rent Policy to all social housing tenancies in the portfolio. A copy of the policy will be made available to tenants on request.

BlueCHP tenants who are eligible for Commonwealth Rent Assistance (CRA), will be charged 100% of their entitlement, whether they are or are not in receipt of the payment.

5.5 Proof of Income

Tenants must declare all assessable income (refer to Community Housing Rent Policy) and must provide proof of income for themselves and other household members aged 18 years or over.

Tenants are responsible for declaring any changes to their income and that of all household members within 21 days.

Proof of income can include the following:

  • Income statement from Centrelink or Department of Veterans Affairs
  • Payslip, letter or statement from an employer detailing the gross wage, applicable tax, deductions, pay period and payee details for salary or wages
  • Profit and loss statement completed by an accountant or taxation return for self-employed clients
  • Letter or statement from an Overseas Government detailing the amount received
  • Letter or statement from an investment organisation about savings/investments etc providing details of the amount received
  • Letter from another organisation or income provider (not listed above) detailing the amount and type of income received

5.6 Rent arrears

Tenants are required to always be 2 weeks in advance with their rent (or 1 week if paying weekly). Refer to the Arrears Management policy for further information.

5.7 Rental fraud

In cases where rental fraud is suspected (eg. a tenant has intentionally not declared changes to household income), BlueCHP may cancel a rental subsidy and charge market rent pending proof of income. Refer to Rental Fraud Policy.

5.8    Review of rent subsidy

Rent subsidy reviews are an essential part of BlueCHP’s operations to ensure that assistance continues to go to those households who are most in need. There are two types of rent subsidy reviews:

Tenant-initiated reviews:

Tenants who receive a rent subsidy must advise BlueCHP when their household income changes. Tenants should advise BlueCHP within 21 days of their income, or the income of one of their household members has changed.  Where there has been a change in income, BlueCHP will recalculate the rent subsidy as per the Community Housing Rent Policy. Tenants will be required to provide sufficient evidence/proof of income in these circumstances and specific details as to when their income changed.

Tenants who fail to advise BlueCHP of an increase in household income within 21 days may have their rent subsidy cancelled and backdated in accordance with BlueCHP’s Rental Fraud Policy.  Pending the outcome of a rent-subsidy review, the new rent will come into effect as detailed below:

  • A “New Rent Effective” date will be determined as part of the Rent-subsidy outcome
  • An increase in rent will begin 6 weeks from the date the income changed
  • A decrease in rent  will be Backdated to date income changed – maximum of 6 weeks
  • A failure to submit income change details or acceptable proof of income/household complement will result in market rent being charged, 6 weeks from date the income changed or documentation was due

Where a tenant accrues a rental debt as a result of a rental subsidy recalculation, BlueCHP will seek to reach a payment agreement on a suitable repayment plan to address the outstanding debt.

BlueCHP initiated reviews:

As per the Community Housing Rent Policy, BlueCHP will review a tenant’s eligibility to receive a rent subsidy at least every six months. These are usually done in May and November each year. Tenants will be advised in writing when BlueCHP is commencing a rent subsidy review and be given 21 days to submit the required proof of income information for all household members.

Pending the outcome of the review, the new rent will come into effect as detailed below:

  • A “New Rent Effective” date will be determined as part of the Rent-subsidy outcome
  • An increase in rent will begin 6 weeks from the date the income changed
  • A decrease in rent  will be Backdated to date income changed – maximum of 6 weeks
  • A failure to submit income change details or acceptable proof of income/household complement will result in market rent being charged, 6 weeks from date the income changed or documentation was due

If a rent subsidy review reveals that a tenant’s household income has increased and the tenant has failed to notify BlueCHP within the 21 day period, the tenant may have their rent subsidy cancelled or backdated in accordance with BlueCHP’s Rental Fraud Policy. Where a tenant does not provide the information required to assess their ongoing eligibility to receive a rebate, the rebate will be cancelled and full market rent applied until such time as the information is provided.

Where a tenant or household member, who is older than 18 years, is not in receipt of any income, BlueCHP will, for the purposes of rental assessment, assume that the household member is in receipt of the standard Centrelink rate of pension or benefit. This will be reassessed if appropriate evidence of ineligibility is provided.

5.9 Casual or irregular wages

Where a tenant receives casual or irregular wages, rent subsidies are calculated on the basis of average earnings from the previous 12 weeks or on the basis of annual earnings. In the case of significant fluctuations of income, the wage may be averaged over a 6 month period, initiated by tenant request or BlueCHP.  Where a tenant commences work for the first time, BlueCHP will assess the new rent subsidy after the first 12 weeks. This ‘grace’ period is applicable only once to each tenant.

5.10 Hardship and special circumstances

A tenant can apply for consideration of hardship based on special or exceptional circumstances. Such an application must be made in writing detailing the reasons for hardship. Tenants can expect BlueCHP to deal with such situations sensitively; however, sufficient evidence will be sought by BlueCHP prior to determining any special circumstances.

No income:

Where a tenant or household member has no income or receives a reduced statutory income, BlueCHP will assess the rent subsidy based on the statutory income the person would normally receive.

In exceptional circumstances, a minimum rent of $5 per week may be applied for a temporary period. The Head of Property Services or Chief Executive Officer must approve such a decision.

Approved absences:

Tenants must continue to pay their current rent during any period of absence from the property. A tenant may apply for a temporary reduction in rent for up to 12 weeks if they or household members are:

  • Receiving treatment in a rehabilitation facility (e.g. drug & alcohol or mental health)
  • A sole occupant who is in a nursing home
  • In hospital for long-term care
  • In respite care
  • In prison
  • In a refuge or alternative accommodation due to escaping domestic or family violence or being at risk.

The following principles apply when determining any temporary reduction in rent:

  • tenants/household members will only be eligible for a reduction in rent if they are required to pay fees during the absence such as accommodation expenses or are not entitled to receive income during the absence
  • evidence must be provided detailing the commencement and end dates as well as the expenses incurred

A tenant’s application for temporarily reducing their rent to a minimum amount will be assessed taking into account the following factors:

  • tenant’s need for the rehabilitation or medical service
  • previous tenancy history and the impact of not approving the application on other household members, particularly children
  • tenant’s capacity to pay their rent and the services required
  • where relevant, the nature of incarceration and length of custodial sentence
  • financial implications for BlueCHP.

Usually approved minimum rebates will apply for a period of 6 weeks and rent can be reduced to a minimum amount of $10 per week.

Longer periods, up to 3 months may be approved. However, where periods in excess of 3 months are requested, a more detailed assessment will be required and be rehousing on termination of rehabilitation/incarceration under a Tenancy Reinstatement process may be a more appropriate option to ensure efficient use of BlueCHP’s housing portfolio.

Refugees or sponsored migrants:

A household member who is a refugee will be assessed for the purpose of a rental subsidy at $10 per week. BlueCHP will review the rental subsidy every 3 months and will require evidence in the form of updates from the Immigration Department on the refugee status as part of the assessment. Failure to provide such evidence will result in the rental subsidy being cancelled. The Head of Property Services or Chief Executive Officer must approve this subsidy.

A household member that is a sponsored migrant, and is not receiving an income will be assessed for the purposes of rental subsidy as though they receive the appropriate statutory benefit for their age and household composition. Commonwealth Rent Assistance (CRA) will not be included in this calculation.

5.11 Checking assessments

The assessment of all rental subsidies (100%) will be checked and approved by a second officer from BlueCHP.  Approval will be noted on the assessment retained by BlueCHP. During the bi-annual Rent Subsidy Review, a second officer from BlueCHP will approve a minimum of 50% of rent subsidy reviews.

5.12 Legislative and Regulatory Framework

  • Residential Tenancies Act 2010
  • Community Housing Rent Policy – NSW

5.13 Complaints and Appeals

Tenants may appeal decisions made regarding their rent and rent subsidy assessments. Decisions made by BlueCHP regarding rent subsidy assessment are not a matter that can be determined by the NSW Administrative & Civil Tribunal (NCAT). Refer to BlueCHP’s Complaints or Appeals Policy for further information.