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Rental Rebates Manual Chapter 5: Rebate Applications January 2018

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Rental Rebates Manual

Chapter 5: Rebate Applications

January 2018

Department of Health

Contents

References6

Definitions7

Applying for a Rental Rebate8

New Tenancy8

Automatic Fixed Rent Review (AFRR)8

Six monthly (automated) contact reviews8

Income Confirmation errors and discrepancies8

Changes in Circumstances9

Request for further documentation9

No response to contact review, change in circumstances and request for further documentation letters9

Automatic rebate cancellation10

Standard procedure for staff processing rental rebate applications10

Check the rental rebate application for completeness10

Check the signature10

Request for further documentation11

Capturing the application in HiiP11

Assessing a rental rebate application in HiiP11

Sign up11

Automatic Fixed Rent Review (Income confirmation and non-income confirmation households)12

Manual assessments12

Rebate assessments requiring manager approval13

Rebate assessments for vacated accounts14

Manual rebate cancellation14

Age reviews14

Quality assurance of rebate assessments14

Specific Circumstances15

When a tenant, resident or a dependant of a tenant dies15

Household Member moves out separation of a couple in a joint tenancy16

Tenant or household member moves out16

Household member moves out and then returns16

Carers17

Overseas students17

Visitors17

Fraud is suspected18

Rental Subsidies18

Introduction18

Circumstances in which rental subsidies may be applied18

Property related rental subsidies18

Client related rental subsidies19

VCAT or the departments Legal Services Branch determinations19

Fire/Flood19

Estate improvement/minor property repair20

Market rents and tenant relocation20

Resident Liaison Officer21

Resident Caretaker21

Deferred rent payable (commencement of tenancy)21

Specific circumstances21

100 year old tenant21

Tenants under 18 years of age22

Sponsored migrants and those subject to the Centrelink two year waiting period22

Residents on a temporary or bridging visa22

Tenant or resident temporarily absent23

Temporarily absent parent24

Documentation required24

Tenant temporarily absent not returning24

Neighbourhood Renewal24

Neighbourhood renewal subsidy25

Transfers between properties25

General management of subsidies25

HSM/HM approved subsidies26

System applied subsidies26

Expiry of Subsidy26

Subsidy statuses26

Subsidy Status and Recommendations in HiiP26

Revision History

Version

Amended section

Effective

Details

1.0

September 2017

Incorporation of 'version control table'Accessible format

2.0

Rebate assessments requiring manager approval

Quality assurance of rebate assessments

January 2018

Update to staff delegations for credit backdate rebate assessments

Update to rebate audit procedure by local office

References

Symbol

Reference

AFRR

Automatic Fixed Rent Review

DOH

Director of Housing

The department

Department of Health and Human Services

FRED

Fixed Rent Effective Date

ICS

Income Confirmation Service

VCAT

Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal

Definitions

Acronym

Definition

HiiP

Housing integrated information program

FRED

Fixed Rent Effective Date

AFRR

Automatic Fixed Rent Review. This is the process that calculates rent and sends letter to the tenant confirming rent amount payable for the next fixed rent period.

IC

Income Confirmation

HSO

Housing Services Officer

HSM

Housing Services Manager

FSO

Field Services Officer

RLO

Resident Liaison Officer

VCAT

Victorian Civil Administrative Tribunal

RTA

Residential Tenancies Act

DOH

Director of Housing

DHHS

Department of Health and Human Services

NRA

Neighbourhood Renewal area

CJP

Community Jobs Program

Applying for a Rental Rebate

Eligibility for a rental rebate based on household income is determined via an application and assessment process. The process for applying for a rental rebate depends on the circumstances of the tenancy as outlined below.

Fundamental to being considered for a rental rebate is the obligation on the tenant/s to advise changes in household income and/or composition with supporting evidence at the time these changes occur.

New Tenancy

When an offer of housing is accepted, the Department of Health and Human Services (the department) will require current income and asset information for the household.

Subsequently, eligibility for a rebate will be assessed in the Housing Integrated Information Program (HiiP) as part of the sign up process.

Automatic Fixed Rent Review (AFRR)

Consent by a client to use the Income Confirmation Service from Centrelink is taken to include an ongoing application for assessment of eligibility for a rental rebate as outlined in the Income Confirmation Chapter.

Centrelink and the Department of Veterans Affairs change pensions, benefits, allowances and family payment rates at various times of the year.

The rebated rents of households receiving these payments are reviewed and adjusted by the department to reflect the new income rates.

The department requests a download of information from Centrelink on a set date, including income, assets and some household details for all clients who have given consent.

Tenants are notified by mail before increases in rent are applied and rent deductions are automatically adjusted for households who pay their rent by direct debit prior to the Fixed Rent Effective Date (FRED).

Six monthly (automated) contact reviews

The rent of some households rent cannot be determined solely using the income confirmation service, for example, where a household member is working or chooses not to use the income confirmation, and are required to lodge an Application for Rebated Rent form and provide supporting documentation identified in the Guide to completing the Application for Rebated Rent at least twice per year.

To assist tenants, an Automated contact review letter is issued by the department to the tenant along with an Application for Rebated Rent and a guide every six months. The letter advises the tenant has 28 days to respond and submit the required documentation.[footnoteRef:1][footnoteRef:2] [1: The Rebate/tenure task list and report TN023 display accounts that have been sent an automated contact review letter.] [2: Limited exclusions apply. For example, DVA clients with stable incomes may be excluded from the review process.]

Income Confirmation errors and discrepancies

When client income information between the department and Centrelink is inconsistent, an Income confirmation error discrepancy letter is automatically sent to the tenant requesting them to confirm their household details.

Limited exclusions apply. For example, DVA clients with stable incomes may be excluded from the review process.

The tenant has 28 days to respond and submit the required documentation.

Refer to the Income Confirmation Service Chapter for more information regarding errors and discrepancies

Changes in Circumstances

When a tenant notifies the department or the department becomes aware of a change in household or income:

an Income verification letter can be sent requesting the tenant to confirm household details

a Request for further documentation letter can be sent when further documents are required where an incomplete Application for Rebated Rent has been received.[footnoteRef:3] [3: Where an Income verification letter is generated and sent via bulk mail, an Application for rebated rent and a guide will automatically be included in the envelope.When client income details are updated due to an Application for public housing, Eligibility confirmation questionnaire or Bond loan application HiiP will display a prompt asking the user if they want to send an Income Verification letter.The tenant has 28 days to respond and submit the required documentation.Rent deductions are not cancelled or updated following an automatic rebate cancellation. Rent deduction agreements are separate to an entitlement to rebated rent and are not affected when the rebate is cancelled. Subsequently, the account will fall into arrears.]

Where a tenant wishes to add a new household member or dependent to the household, in addition to the income and asset information required for a rebate assessment, the following documents should also be provided:

proof of identity documents for any new household member over 15 years of age who receives an independent income

where the new household member is a dependent child:

a Medicare Card, or Health Care Card, and

a copy of the birth certificate or extract.

where the dependents are not the children of household members, for example where the tenant has custody of their grandchild, documentation confirming the tenant is their guardian must be provided, that is, Centrelink documentation confirming that the tenant receives payments for the child, or a solicitors letters.

Request for further documentation

Where the department has previously sent correspondence requesting income information which provided a document due date and rebate cancellation date, a request for further documentation letter sent does not give the tenant an additional 28 days to submit documentation.

No response to contact review, change in circumstances and request for further documentation letters

Failure by the tenant to respond to the departments Automated contact review or Request for further documentation letters and submit the required documentation within 28 days results in a reminder letter being sent advising the tenant that they will be charged full market rent from the next FRED.

Automatic rebate cancellation

Where the tenant fails to respond to the departments letters prior to the commencement of the new fixed rent period, the rebated rent is cancelled and the rent payable is set to the market rent. A letter is sent to the tenant to advise them that the rebate has been cancelled.

Note: if an Income verification or Request for further documentation, for a tenancy that doesnt already have a document due date, letter is issued and the 28 day document due date falls within the next fixed rent period, the rebate cancellation date will be the future FRED, not the immediate FRED. When the documentation is provided, the rent charged will be reassessed retrospectively to the effective date of the change as per the fixed rent policy.

Standard procedure for staff processing rental rebate applicationsCheck the rental rebate application for completeness

After an Application for Rebated Rent has been received, date stamp the application, including every page of each supporting document, with the date it was received at the local office.

Date stamp and complete the customer receipt on the front page of the application and provide it to the client. If the client requests a copy of the completed application, photocopy the full application.

After receiving an application and before entering the data in HiiP make sure that:

the name, date of birth, type of income and amount of income received, Centrelink reference number (if applicable) has been recorded and relationship to the tenant sections for all household members have been completed

the reason for lodging the application has been completed

if someone other than a tenant has filled in the form they have filled in the relevant section on the application (Section B Q2)

the Statutory declaration has been witnessed by an authorised person

the Statutory declaration has been signed by each tenant or the tenant's representative

current documentation has been included with the application to confirm the income of all household members, showing the commencement date of the income received and any changes to that income received

the Centrelink Consent form has been completed by all eligible household members who wish to participate in Centrelinks Income Confirmation Service

Check the signature

All signatories to the Residential Tenancy Agreement are required to sign the Application for Rebated Rent.

The tenant(s) may require a representative to sign the application where:

the tenant is unable to read and write in English

the tenant has a disability that makes it difficult for them to fill in the form

the tenants financial and legal affairs are administered by State Trustees or an appointed guardian.

Under the Evidence Act 1958, and the Evidence (Affidavits and Statutory Declarations) Regulations 1990, Statutory Declarations may be witnessed by prescribed officers, for example, Justice of the Peace, Pharmacist, Police Officer or Medical Practitioner, some public servants VPS grade 2 and above; including Housing Services Officers (HSOs) are also able to act as witnesses to the Statutory Declaration.

Check the signature on the application with the tenants signatures on the previous rebate application (if there is one), and the tenancy agreement.

Where signatures do not match and there is no record of a representative of the tenant signing the application, contact the tenant and ask them to provide further identification.

Check whether the details on the application match the details provided on a previous rebate application. For example, check whether the tenant's new application includes a resident in the household who was not previously listed on a rebate application or if the resident listed is not the same person.

In addition, check whether the tenant's new application includes income that was not listed on the previous application. If there is no documentation indicating when the change occurred, contact the tenant and request further documentation to establish the effective date(s).

Request for further documentation

If the Application for Rebated Rent is incomplete in terms of the above criteria, any additional documentation or information required must be requested within 14 days of receipt.

Once all documentation has been provided, the rental rebate should be assessed within 28 days. That is, if all documentation was provided originally, the assessment should be completed within 28 days of the application being lodged.

Where additional information was required, the rental rebate should be assessed within 28 days of receipt of the last piece of requested documentation.

Capturing the application in HiiP

Following the receipt of an Application for Rebated Rent, enter the information from the application into HiiP then scan and upload the application form and all accompanying documents

Assessing a rental rebate application in HiiPSign up

Before commencing the sign up, reconfirm if there are any changes in income or household details. All changes must be made in the Housing application so eligibility for housing can be reassessed.

Once eligibility has been confirmed, commence the sign up process in HiiP and create the rebate application.

Confirm all necessary documentation and complete the HiiP checklist. Where additional information is required, contact the applicant prior to sign up to ensure all necessary income and asset documents have been provided.

Capture the income and asset details for each household member in HiiP client register and scan and upload the documentation against each client in HiiP.

Confirm income and household changes have been correctly loaded in HiiP.

Using the assess button HiiP calculates the rebate and rental charge.

Check default rent effective date and set it to Next Sunday (as rent is charged from the Sunday following the tenancy start date). Save and finalise.

Check rent details, select Approve application and Save.

Automatic Fixed Rent Review (Income confirmation and non-income confirmation households)

For the Automatic Fixed Rent Review, the department requests from Centrelink, on a set date, a download of income, asset and some household details for all clients who have given consent.

Where the household details provided by Centrelink are consistent with the information held by the department, HiiP automatically applies the rental rebate assessment rules to calculate the household rent payable for the next Fixed Rent period. HiiP then generates a letter to these tenancies with details of the new rent payable, the date from which it is payable and stores these details to take effect from the FRED.

Households with clients who are not participating in or are not eligible to participate in IC have their rent recalculated based on the current household and income details, including any stored assessments resulting from a contact review.

Tenants are notified by mail before increases in rent are applied and rent deductions are automatically adjusted for households who pay their rent by direct debit prior to the FRED.

Manual assessments

For manual assessments there are 4 steps in the process and a HiiP screen to manage each of those steps.

Checklist: Confirm all necessary documentation has been provided. Where additional information is required generate a request via HiiP for further documentation.

Household: View and update household composition over time, capture income and asset details for each household member (which are entered in the HiiP client register) and scan and upload the documentation against each client in HiiP.

Income and household changes are entered on the date the change occurred.

Centrelink CPI changes that occur in January, March, July and September should also be entered. For example, Age Pension - pension reform income increased from 329.20 to 335.45 effective 20 March 2011.

The deemed interest calculator determines weekly amounts per client, not for a couple. Split the asset equally between the couple prior to using the deemed interest calculator.

Confirm income and household changes have been correctly loaded in HiiP.

HiiP determines rent assessment periods based on the changes entered and fixed rent effective dates. Changes prior to 1 October 2000 are assigned to Client Services and Programs branch via the HiiP rebate application workflow.

Using the assess button HiiP calculates the rebate and rental charge for each period.

A number of income and household Validation Checks occur.

Rent is calculated per client, for all tenants and residents aged 18 years and over, by adding all of assessable their incomes, applying rebate rates (25 per cent & 15 per cent) and rounding down to the nearest five cents. Each clients rent share is added to determine the rebated rent payable.

Check the default rent effective date is correct. The date differs depending on whether the change in circumstances resulted in an increase or decrease to the household rent:

a decrease in rent is applied rent from the Sunday prior to the change in circumstances.

an increase in rent is stored until the FRED following the change, except in the following circumstances as outlined in the Fixed Rent Chapter:

temporary absence

administrative error

work is resumed after a temporary break from an ongoing contract

Save and finalise.

Check rent details, including revised rent periods and adjustments enter comments if necessary and select Approve and Save.

Following the manual assessment, HiiP generates a letter advising of the new rent payable, any backdated rent charges and details of the household and income details used to calculate the rent.

Rent deductions are automatically updated following all manual and automatic rebate assessments, except in circumstances where the direct debit amount is greater than 35 per cent of the total household income; in these situations the direct debit amount remains unchanged.

Rebate assessments requiring manager approval

Refer: Account Reconciliation Chapter Tenancy Management ManualRefer: Transfer of Tenancy Chapter Tenancy Management Manual

HiiP complies with Government probity, rules and delegations. Rebate approval requests rely on the Instrument of Delegation to allow the correct senior delegate access to make a decision based on the amount.

Credit adjustment less than $1000

Backdated rebated rent assessments that result in a credit adjustment to the tenants account of less than $1000 can be approved by a Housing Services Officer (HSO).

Credit adjustment between $1000 and $5,000

Backdated rebated rent assessments that result in a credit adjustment to the tenant of between $1,000 and $2,000 must be approved by a VPS 4 in a local office.

Credit adjustment between $5000 and $15,000

Backdated rebated rent assessments that result in a credit adjustment to the tenants account of between $5,000 and $15,000 must be approved by a VPS 5 in a local office.

Credit adjustment between $15,000 and $50,000

Backdated rebated rent assessments that result in a credit adjustment to the tenants account of between $15,000 and $50,000 must be approved by a VPS 6 in a local office.

Credit adjustment greater than $50,000.

Backdated rebated rent assessments that result in a credit adjustment to the tenants account of greater than $50,000 must be approved by an Assistant Director in a local office, subject to the instrument of delegation.

Accounts resulting in a credit of more than rent in advance, for example, two weeks, the tenant(s) should be contacted to discuss reimbursement, using it for future payments or offset against any maintenance arrears, as outlined in the Account Reconciliation Chapter in the Tenancy Management Manual.

In HiiP, the rebate application is escalated for approval when:

The rebate assessment results in a credit adjustment that is above the users delegation approval limit.

Following approval by the delegate, an alert will be sent to the home page of the staff member who assessed the rebate application.

Rebate assessments for vacated accounts

Staff can perform rebate assessments on vacated accounts that were previously managed by their office. Rebate assessments resulting in a credit adjustment require the same delegation approval as current accounts.

Manual rebate cancellation

Consistent with the Fixed Rent Policy, requests for manual rebate cancellation are applied from the next FRED. The client must submit this request in writing.

Age reviews

Once a week, HiiP identifies all accounts that require age promotion. They are:

dependants and residents turning 18 years of age

dependants turning 25 years of age.

HiiP looks at all required promotions from Monday to Sunday of the following week.

Dependants turning 16, 18 or 25 years of age are promoted to a resident from the day of their birthday. The rent remains unchanged until a rent assessment is completed.

In situations where a client is turning 16 years of age, a letter is automatically sent advising the tenant to submit an Application for rebated rent if their household or income has changed.

In situations where a client is turning 18 or 25 years of age, a letter is automatically sent to the tenant advising that the amount of rent charged will increase from the start of the next Fixed Rent period. The letter also includes an Authority for Centrelink to release information to the Director of Housing form for 18 and 25 year olds who have an unknown IC indicator recorded in HiiP.

If the relevant income documentation is not provided, or IC authorisation is not obtained by the department prior to the next FRED, the appropriate Centrelink entitlement is imputed to recalculate the rental rebate entitlement for these accounts, from the next FRED.

Quality assurance of rebate assessments

To ensure a consistent approach to the assessment of rebates, the department has put in place a number of quality assurance checks and procedures:

all rebate documents are scanned into HiiP

each rebate is given a unique ID number

each local office is to audit a selection of existing rebates and new rebates.

Guide to rebate audits local offices

Each local office is to audit: (a) 10 per cent of sign-up rebates per month, and (b) 10 per cent of other rebates (on a weekly basis).

The mix of rebates audited should include credit backdates and reinstatement from market rent.

It is estimated that each audit should take around 30 minutes to complete. In acknowledgement that more in depth audits may be required where a rebate assessment is complex, an audit that takes more than 45 minutes will be considered the equivalent of two audits.

Rebate audits should be completed by a Team Manager (VPS grade4) or Senior HSO (VPS grade3). .

Specific CircumstancesWhen a tenant, resident or a dependant of a tenant dies

Refer: Transfer of Tenancy Chapter Tenancy Management Manual

When the department receives notification of a change in household circumstances resulting in a decrease in the total household income, the reduction to the rent is applied from the Sunday prior to the change.

However, when a tenant dies, the department must establish whether the remaining tenant(s) or resident(s) are eligible for a transfer of tenancy before re-assessing the rebated rent. This decision is made under the departments Transfer of Tenancy policy as outlined in the Transfer of Tenancy Chapter of the Tenancy Management Manual.

Consistent with the aim of maintaining housing affordability, this decision must be made as quickly as possible and must be approved by the Housing Services Manager (HSM) or equivalent before the transfer takes place.

Where there is a remaining Tenant

The rebated rent is reassessed based on the remaining households total assessable income. The recipient of either an Aged or Veterans Affairs pension or Newstart Allowance whose spouse dies receives a pension at the married couple rate for 14 weeks from the date of death.

The department does not assess their income at the married couple rate during this period. The rebated rent entitlement is assessed at the single pension or allowance rate from the Sunday prior to the date of death of the spouse.

Where the Tenant dies and there is a remaining care-giver

If a tenant receiving care dies, the department assesses whether the caregiver is eligible for a Transfer of Tenancy.

If the caregiver is approved, the department transfers the tenancy to their name and reassesses the households rebated rent entitlement based on the remaining household members.

Note: The Carers Pension continues to be paid to the carer for 14 weeks following the death of the person receiving care. The client should notify the department when their income changes so the rental rebate can be reassessed.

Where a Dependent of the Tenant dies

If a tenants dependant dies a lump sum payment of 14 weeks Family Payment for the dependant who has died is paid to the parent or guardian. The department does not include the lump sum payment as assessable income.

Household Member moves out separation of a couple in a joint tenancy

Refer to the Transfer of Tenancy policy as outlined in the Transfer of Tenancy Chapter of the Tenancy Management Manual.

The departing tenant may relinquish their tenancy rights by completing a statutory declaration stating the date they left the premises and that they wish to surrender their tenancy rights. They should also provide a forwarding address.

Where a tenant has not relinquished tenancy rights or a VCAT determination has not been provided, the tenant remains liable for the tenancy and associated rent but may be eligible to be considered under temporary absence policy while the ongoing tenancy is resolved. The departing tenant remains included in the rent assessment, however where the remaining tenant is receiving a single rate of payment, a subsidy can be applied to reduce the rent to reflect that they have moved out of the property.

Tenant or household member moves out

Refer to the Transfer of Tenancy policy as outlined in the Transfer of Tenancy Chapter of the Tenancy Management Manual.

Consistent with Fixed Rent Policy, when a tenant or household member is no longer a member of the household, the household income from the date the tenant or household member departs is reassessed, and if there is a reduction, this is applied from the Sunday prior to the event.

When a tenant has moved out of the property, a statutory declaration from the tenant who has left the property stating that they wish to relinquish their tenancy rights or a VCAT determination must be provided. They should also provide a forwarding address.

When a resident has moved out of the property, the tenant must provide the former residents new address in the Application for rental rebate form, and the date they moved into the new property. The tenant must also provide documentation to conclusively confirm these details. Examples of acceptable documentation include an initial utility bill or copy of a new lease agreement in the former residents name.

Where this information is provided, the department will adjust the rental rebate from the date the resident moved out. If the tenant is not able to provide this documentation, a statutory declaration confirming the residents new address and the date they moved out can be accepted. However, in the absence of conclusive documentation such as an initial utility bill or a copy of the new lease agreement, the department will only adjust the rental rebate from the date the tenant informed the department of the change, not from the date the tenant claims the resident moved out.

Household member moves out and then returns

Consistent with Fixed Rent Policy, when a household member is no longer a member of the household, the household income from the date the household member departs is reassessed, and if there is a reduction, this is applied from the Sunday prior to the event.

Where the tenant provides documentation that the resident intended to move out permanently but has subsequently returned, they would be considered a new household member and included in the rebate assessment at the next FRED.

Where a resident is living in the property for less than three nights in any one week (Sunday to Saturday), they are considered to be absent for the whole week and their income is not included when determining rebated rent entitlement.

Where a resident is living in the property for three or more nights in any one week (Sunday to Saturday), they are considered to be a resident for the whole week and their income is included when determining rebated rent entitlement.

Where a resident is temporarily absent from the property, refer to the Resident temporarily absent section below.

Carers

Rent is calculated for live in carers in the same way as for all other household members.

Where a sleepover arrangement with a rostered attendant carer is in place, the department does not include the income of these carers as assessable income.

Subletting

Household members are not permitted to sublet their property while they are temporarily absent from their property.

Under the RTA (s.83), the Director of Housing (DOH) may withhold consent for a sublet.

If a household member advises that a friend or relative will reside in their property while they are away, they must add this person to their rental rebate as a resident. The rent is calculated on their income and the existing household income.

Overseas students

The relevant Centrelink income is imputed for overseas students on temporary (student) visas residing in departmental properties. Any board and lodgings paid to the household member is not included as household income.

Where an overseas student is working, the wages received are included on the rebate. Where this income is less than the relevant Centrelink income, the difference is imputed.

Visitors

The department does not include visitors aged 18 years or over when assessing a household's rebated rent, where:

the visitor is only staying in the household for less than a four-week period and can prove they have accommodation elsewhere

the visitor is in the country on a restricted visa (except students) for example, as a tourist

the visitor is living in the household for less than three nights per week.

The department accepts that there may be special circumstances where a visitor is required to stay for longer than four weeks. These circumstances are:

the visitor is providing support during illness or pregnancy of the tenant

the visitors accommodation has been damages by a natural disaster, such as fire or flood.

the visitor is a home sharer with a valid Homeshare agreement under the Homeshare Program.

Where special circumstances do not apply, the department includes visitors as residents from the expiration of the four-week period.

The department verifies the following:

confirmation that the visitor has permanent accommodation elsewhere , for example, driver's licence, recent gas, electricity or telephone account in their name

temporary entry permits in their passport, for example, tourist visa

statutory declaration by the tenant that the visitor is living at the property for less than three nights a week, together with documentation confirming the residents place of residence for the remaining nights of the week.

Fraud is suspected

The department considers whether a tenant has acted fraudulently in order to gain a higher rental rebate when contradictory information has been provided or when it is apparent that it has been intentionally withheld.

For an alleged offence to be considered fraudulent, a deliberate intent to deceive must be proven by the person making the allegation.

If a household member does not advise of a change in income and they receive a higher rebated rent than they are entitled to receive, the department does not consider this to be a fraudulent action.

Rental SubsidiesIntroduction

In exceptional circumstances, the department may wish to further discount the rent charged to a tenant. Typically, this discounting is applied in a declared emergency or where an increase in the market rent could cause hardship to a group of tenants.

The discounting of the rent payable is achieved by applying a subsidy to reduce the rent charged after any entitlement to a rebated rent has been applied.

A subsidy is generally time limited. The value of subsidies is a measurable cost to the department.

The approval of subsidies is based on circumstance and is a matter of discretion, on a case by case basis. With the exception of a number of system applied subsidies, the Housing Services Manager (HSM) or Housing Manager (HM) has the delegation to approve a subsidy.

Circumstances in which rental subsidies may be applied

Rental subsidies are applied in three broad situations:

to reduce the net rent payable due to a property related event

to reduce the net rent payable to address a clients circumstances

by determination at VCAT or DHHS Legal Services Branch, resulting in the application of a rental subsidy.

Rental subsidies are approved under delegation.

Property related rental subsidies

The department recognises the inconvenience to tenants while repairs to their accommodation are being undertaken that impact on the amenity of the property. These include:

fire damage

flash flooding

estate improvement

minor property repair

Tenants are entitled to a negotiated subsidy amount of up to 100 per cent of net rent payable, generally for up to six weeks. The subsidy may include service charges where the service that is being charged for has been affected.

Subsidies are negotiated with the tenant and approved by the HSM or HM.

In instances where there are concerns for the householders health and safety, or repairs will take longer than six weeks, the tenant is generally relocated to another public housing property immediately (either temporarily or permanently) rather than applying a rental subsidy.

Client related rental subsidies

The intent of client related rental subsidies is to respond to affordability issues for clients with specific circumstances, by further reducing the rent payable. These include:

Resident Liaison Officer

Resident Caretaker

rent payable deferred (at commencement of tenancy)

compassionate tenancy

100 Year Old Tenant

tenant Under 18 years of age

Sponsored Migrants

Temporary Absence

Neighbourhood Renewal

VCAT or the departments Legal Services Branch determinations

From time to time VCAT or the departments Legal Services Branch may determine that the rent for a tenancy should be reduced or a lump sum be paid as compensation. Considering the circumstance, an appropriate adjustment to rent is made via a subsidy.

A rental account may be debited or credited if a VCAT determination orders the department to adjust a rental charge. For example, a compensation payment to a tenant for failure to undertake maintenance repairs or compensation by way of reducing outstanding rental arrears on an account.

Fire/Flood

The purpose of this subsidy is to minimise the need to relocate tenants and to reduce inconvenience to them while repairs to their accommodation are being undertaken. To be eligible, the following criteria must be met:

the damage to the property must reduce the use of a major service or area (such as cooking facilities, hot water, bath/shower, or the use of a bedroom or lounge)

the tenant chooses to either remain in the premises, or relocate to a friends/relatives dwelling without incurring any expense to the department.

Example 1: A small kitchen fire that causes smoke damage only, which can be cleaned, would not constitute a subsidy. However, a kitchen fire that resulted in the short term loss of kitchen facilities would constitute a subsidy.

Example 2: Water damage from flooding to the lounge room, which can be cleaned by steam cleaning the carpets, would not constitute a subsidy. However, water damage from flooding that resulted in the need to replace all the carpets and reduce the use of various rooms would constitute a subsidy.

The repairs to the damaged property will be completed within six weeks.

The department determines the nature of works required and whether a temporary (or permanent) transfer is needed rather than the tenant remaining in the property and a subsidy being paid.

If the tenant is to remain in the property, the HM/HSM will negotiate the appropriate rental subsidy amount of up to 100 per cent of net rent payable, generally for up to six weeks. The subsidy may include service charges where the service that is being charged for has been affected.

In cases where a permanent transfer is the preferred option, arrangements with the tenant are negotiated by the local office.

Estate improvement/minor property repair

A subsidy is available in circumstances where the department is upgrading an occupied dwelling for a limited period of time that may cause inconvenience to the tenant, under the Estate Improvement Program.

In addition to providing a subsidy the department may also be required to hire necessary equipment to reduce inconvenience to tenants.

Example: Where a kitchen is being upgraded, and the tenant cannot use the stove during the day, a portable stove/hot plate could be hired at the department's expense.

To be eligible for an Estate Improvement subsidy, the following criteria must be met:

the nature of the work being undertaken must reduce the use of services (such as cooking facilities, hot water, bath/shower, or the use of a bedroom/s or lounge)

the works to the property will be completed within six weeks

a community flat or temporary alternative accommodation has not been provided.

In consultation with the Field Services Officer, determine the nature of works required and whether a temporary (or permanent) transfer is needed rather than the tenant/s remain in the property and a subsidy being paid.

Example: Where a property's kitchen/bathroom is being upgraded and results in the tenant being unable to use the kitchen/bathroom during the day a subsidy can be negotiated. The appropriateness of the householders remaining at the premises whilst the work is being carried out should be discussed in consultation between the Housing Services Officer, Estate Improvement Project Officer and the tenant.

If the tenant is to remain in the property the HM/HSM will negotiate the appropriate rental subsidy amount of up to 100 per cent of net rent payable, generally for up to six weeks. The subsidy may include service charges where the service that is being charged for has been affected.

Where it is necessary to temporarily relocate the tenant (to a motel for example), the department would meet the cost of the accommodation while the tenant pays rent as normal. This is to ensure that they are not adversely affected by a move that is beyond their control.

In cases where a permanent transfer is the preferred option, the local office will negotiate arrangements with the tenant.

Market rents and tenant relocation

When a tenant is paying a market rent and is relocated due to a redevelopment or stock management to a property with a more expensive market rent, the previous tenancy market rent value is charged. This subsidy type is referred to as tenant transfer/relocation.

Resident Liaison Officer

A Resident Liaison Officer (RLO) was a tenant living at an Elderly Persons Estate who performed a community care and service role to the tenants of that estate. As of 2006, no further Resident Liaison Officers were to be approved.

RLOs received a gratuity of approximately $20.00 per week, had their telephone rental paid by the department, and was eligible for a subsidy whilst engaged as a RLO. The weekly rent payable for a tenant undertaking RLO duties was $1.00. The subsidy allowed was the difference between rebated rent/market rent and one dollar per week. The subsidy included service charges and parking bay charges where applicable.

Existing RLOs have their eligibility for rebated rent and subsidy reviewed every six months. They are assessed for their eligibility under the rebated rent policy, and a determination is also made about whether they are continuing to fulfil their role as an RLO.

Resident Caretaker

A Resident Caretaker is a person who is employed by the department as a cleaner, who lives on a housing estate, and as part of their employment contract is entitled to a 100 per cent subsidy including service charges and parking bay charges where applicable.

As from 2006, no further Resident caretakers are to be approved. Existing caretakers must have their eligibility for rebated rent and subsidy reviewed every six months. They should first be assessed for their eligibility under the rebated rent policy. It should then be determined if they are continuing to fulfil their role as a Resident Caretaker.

Deferred rent payable (commencement of tenancy)

In unusual circumstances a 100 per cent subsidy may be provided for a tenant whose commencement of tenancy has been unavoidably delayed due to hospitalisation for example. The period should generally not exceed 14 days.

Specific circumstances

During times of a state or local emergency, such as bushfires, where there is significant loss of housing, or any other special circumstances, the Director of Housing may determine to make a significant reduction in the rent charged to those tenancies. The net rent to be paid is managed via a subsidy.

Also, when an administration error in a previous rebate assessment has been discovered and resulted in charging a lower amount of rent, the rebate is reassessed as normal, with the increase in rent payable being effective from the FRED following the actual change in income. A specific circumstances subsidy is then applied to reduce the rent for the period of time from the FRED following the actual change in income and the Sunday following the discovery of the error.

100 year old tenant

Where a household contains a tenant aged 100 years or older, the rent charged on the income of the tenant is included in the rebate assessment but excluded from the rent chargeable via the application of a subsidy, from the Sunday following the tenants birthday.

When a tenant turns 100 years of age, the household rent payable continues to be assessed on the entire households income. A rebate assessment must be completed prior to applying a subsidy. The subsidy is applied as follows:

for a sole occupant, to reduce the net rent payable including services charges to $0 per week

for a joint occupancy, to remove the value of the rent that the tenant who turned 100 years of age is incurring in the rebated rent calculation. This subsidy is 100 per cent of the net rent payable for that tenant.

The subsidy is not granted to a household where the person who is 100 years old or over is a resident.

Note: Confirm all birth dates prior to processing these subsidies.

Tenants under 18 years of age

Tenants under 18 years of age are charged a flat rate of $15.00 per week per person if they receive an independent rate of Centrelink benefit, or $7.00 per week if they receive a dependent rate.

A rebate assessment is completed based on the actual household income and a subsidy applied to reduce the net rent payable. The subsidy is applied automatically by HiiP. The subsidy start date is the Sunday prior to the date the client became eligible for this subsidy.

If a household member receives a part benefit due to wages or other income, or if they have dependants, all assessable income is assessed in the same way as for other tenants and a subsidy is not applied.

The subsidy ends on the FRED following the clients eighteenth birthday or when their income or marital status changes and they are no longer eligible for a subsidy.

Sponsored migrants and those subject to the Centrelink two year waiting period

For clients who are under an assurance of support or sponsorship agreement and those who are subject to a Centrelink waiting period prior to being granted an income, rent reduction is managed by imputing an income equivalent to the Centrelink income they would otherwise be entitle to receive and then applying a subsidy to the household rent. A rebate assessment must be completed prior to applying a subsidy.[footnoteRef:4] [4: Apply an imputed subsidy income type to the sponsored migrant at the rate of the minimum statutory income entitlement.]

Where a special benefit is paid to the household member, or the household member is in receipt of any other income, rebated rent is assessed the same as for all other household members.

When a sponsorship agreement has ended, the department assesses sponsored migrant residents in the same way as for other household members. The following documentation must be provided to support the ending of a sponsorship agreement:

copy of migrant sponsorship agreement, including the date on which sponsorship ends.

Centrelink statement confirming that a Special Benefit is now being paid to the client and evidence of all other incomes, for example, wages.

Residents on a temporary or bridging visa

Where households include residents who are on a temporary or bridging visa and are not receiving a Centrelink income as they are ineligible due to their temporary residency status, rent reduction is managed via the application of a subsidy to the household rent. A rebate assessment must be completed prior to applying a subsidy, where an Imputed subsidy income type is applied to the client at the rate of the minimum statutory income entitlement.

The tenant must provide documentation from Centrelink confirming that the resident is not entitled to any Centrelink payments due to their temporary residency status.

If the resident acquires permanent residency, the department imputes the Centrelink income that they would be entitled to receive, according to the policy for sponsored migrants.

For any client who is subject to a Centrelink waiting period prior to being granted an income, rent reduction is managed via the application of a subsidy to the household rent. A rebate assessment must be completed prior to applying a subsidy. The subsidy is applied:

for a sole tenant who has been incorrectly signed up as a tenant to reduce the net rent payable including services charges to $15 per week.

for all other households to remove the value of the rent that the client who is subject to the Centrelink waiting period is incurring in the rebated rent calculation. This subsidy is 100 per cent of the net rent payable for that client.

Tenant or resident temporarily absent

If a tenant or resident is temporarily away from their home, for example, being admitted into hospital or travelling overseas, the department continues to assess the rebate entitlement as if they are residing in the property. The rebated rent does not change during their absence.

However, if a tenant or resident is temporarily away from home and is required to pay accommodation costs, a subsidy can be applied to reduce the rent charge after the entitlement to a rebated rent has be assessed.[footnoteRef:5] The department will only apply a subsidy for the following circumstances: [5: Apply an imputed subsidy income type at the rate of the minimum statutory income entitlement (if the client doesnt have an income).]

tenants or residents in geriatric nursing homes

tenants or residents in rehabilitation or respite care

tenants or residents in jail

The tenant or resident is required to provide documentation to confirm where they are and when they will be returning to the property:

a letter confirming the time they will be absent. This could be from the rehabilitation centre, solicitor, nursing home or social worker from the jail

a letter confirming the amount they will be paying during the period they are staying at the other property

a completed Application for rebated rent form

a completed Temporary absence form

A subsidy to further reduce the rent in these circumstances only applies where the tenant is required to pay accommodation costs for their temporary accommodation.

If a sole tenant resides in a property that has a weekly service charge for amenities such as heating and hot water, this is waived for the period of their absence, when applying the subsidy.

Temporarily absent tenants retain all tenancy rights and responsibilities. The maximum permissible period for a sole tenant or entire household to be temporarily absent from their home for one of the above reasons is six months.

When a tenant or a resident is temporarily absent, the household rent payable continues to be assessed on the entire household income. A rebate assessment must be completed prior to applying a subsidy. The subsidy is applied as follows:

for a sole tenant, to reduce the net rent payable including services charges to $15 per week

for all other households, to remove the value of the rent that the client who is temporarily absent is incurring in the rebated rent calculation. This subsidy is 100 per cent of the net rent payable for that client.

When a tenant or resident returns to the property, rent is increased from the following Sunday.

Temporarily absent parent

In the situation where a person moves in to care for children while the parent (tenant) is temporarily absent, for reasons mentioned in the tenant or resident temporarily absent section of this chapter, and the person can demonstrate that their usual place of residence is elsewhere, the person caring for the children is added to the household, but they will not have an income included when assessing the rebate entitlement.

The sole tenant is charged a net rent payable including service charges of $15.00 per week, or assessed on Family Tax Benefit where it is received and this would be higher than $15.00 per week.

Where the absent parent has no income, an imputed income is applied at the rate of the minimum statutory income entitlement for the absent parent, which allows the rebate assessment to be calculated and a rent share applied to the absent parent.

Where Family Tax benefit is received, this is applied to the absent parent

The subsidy is then applied to further reduce the rent as follows:

To reduce the net rent payable including services charges to $15.00 per week, or

To reduce the net rent payable to the equivalent amount based on Family Tax Benefit where it is received and this would be higher than $15.00 per week.

When the absent parent returns to the property, rent is increased from the following Sunday.

Documentation required

documentation confirming that the visitor has permanent accommodation elsewhere, for example, driver's licence, recent gas, electricity or telephone account in their name

temporary entry permit in their passport, for example, tourist visa

statutory declaration made by the tenant that the visitor is living at the property temporarily and for the purpose of looking after the tenants children, together with documentation indicating their permanent place of residence.

Tenant temporarily absent not returning

If a tenant who is not residing in the property, advises the department that they do not wish to return to the property and there are other tenant/s or household members remaining, as detailed in the Transfer of Tenancy chapter in the Tenancy Management Manual.

Neighbourhood Renewal

The departments Neighbourhood Renewal Areas (NRA) program provides a 16-week grace period from rent increases for tenants and residents in Neighbourhood Renewal Areas who obtain employment or participate in the Community Jobs Program (CJP).

It applies to current tenants and residents, including self-employed tenants, tenants in Aboriginal Housing and Community Housing living in Neighbourhood Renewal Areas who participate in the Community Jobs Program or who obtain other employment (and they have been unemployed for at least 6 months in the last 12 months).

The provision of a period of grace from rent increases was introduced to better assist newly employed tenants and residents. It provides an opportunity for them to get ahead before their new income is included in rent assessment, and also recognises the additional costs that may arise when commencing employment.

A 16-week grace period reflects the maximum length of the Community Jobs Program projects, which are likely to be the main employment option for tenants and residents in Neighbourhood Renewal Areas.

each household member is entitled to a maximum of 16 weeks grace per year. The 12 months in the per year is from the date the first grace period started. For example, if the 16-week grace period commenced on 1 July 2007, the next 16-week grace period cannot commence prior to 1 July 2008.

the 16 weeks may be taken non-consecutively.

for the purposes of determining the 16-week entitlement, part-time employment would be considered to be full-time, that is, one week of part-time employment would equal one grace week.

a newly-arrived migrant who is subject to the Centrelink two-year waiting period may be entitled to the 16-week grace period if they are in a NRA and they are participating in a CJP, or they can demonstrate that since arriving in Australia they were unemployed for at least six months during the previous 12 months. For the 16-week grace period, the Centrelink income they would otherwise be entitled to would be imputed. If the resident does not move on to further employment, the rebate is reassessed on the actual income received.

other changes to household circumstances, such as changes in Centrelink income, age changes or increases in household members, should still be applied to the rebate during the grace period.

The changes above are effective from 1 December 2002, however as the Community Jobs Program has operated since August 2000, this grace period should be applied retrospectively to accounts where household members have participated.

The 16-week grace from rent increase applies only to current NR sites. It does not apply to tenants and residents in former NR areas.

Neighbourhood renewal subsidy

Where a tenant and or resident residing in a Neighbourhood Renewal Area gains employment, a rebate assessment must be completed in accordance with normal rebate rules prior to applying a subsidy.

Usually when the grace period falls entirely within the Fixed Rent period, the increase in rent payable is applied from the following FRED.

However, if the grace period crosses over a FRED the increase in rent is not applied until the expiry of the 16 week grace period. The subsidy is applied to the total rent payable from the FRED to the expiry of the grace period and excludes the increase in rent based on the wages.

The subsidy is applied to the total rent payable from the FRED to the expiry of the grace period and excludes the increase in rent based on the wages.

Transfers between properties

Where a tenant or resident is eligible for the Neighbourhood Renewal 16-week grace period and they are transferred to another property that is either in a Neighbourhood renewal area or not, the 16-week grace period continues after the transfer. The grace period can be managed via a subsidy.

General management of subsidies

A rebate assessment should be completed prior to applying a subsidy.

In order to apply a client related subsidy, the client must have a rent share for the period of time that the subsidy will apply. Rent share is calculated as part of the rebate assessment.

A resident who moves in during the current fixed rent period has their income stored until the next FRED. A subsidy can only be applied from that FRED.

The delegation to approve or not approve a rental subsidy is determined by the HSM/HM (if not automatically applied by HiiP).

HSM/HM approved subsidies

The HSO or TM ensures that the correct rental rebate assessment has been determined and recommends to the HSM, via HiiP, that a rental subsidy be applied on the basis of the current circumstances.

If a HSM is assessing and recommending the rental subsidy, it will be approved by the HM.

Applying a subsidy requires determination of the rent to be paid, whether additional charges (such as water, energy, car parking) are to be waived or reduced via subsidy and the duration of the subsidy.

When the decision to approve or not approve is entered into HiiP by the HSM/HM, the subsidy is applied and the appropriate letter to the tenant is generated.

System applied subsidies

HiiP will automatically apply certain subsidy types. These currently include:

tenants under 18 years of age subsidy - automatically applied following rebate assessment.

Expiry of Subsidy

All subsidies expire automatically where a subsidy end date has been entered.

The following subsidies are automatically cancelled when rebated rent is cancelled:

tenants under 18 receiving Centrelink at home rate (from the FRED following their eighteenth birthday)

tenants under 18 receiving away from home rate (from the FRED date following their eighteenth birthday)

100 year old tenant sole occupant

100 year old tenant joint occupancy

Sponsored migrant/Temp visa sole occupancy

Sponsored migrant/Temp visa joint occupancy

Neighbourhood Renewal

Subsidy statuses

There are different subsidy statuses in HiiP which indicate the exact process that has occurred:

Pending: Indicates that a subsidy is waiting for approval

Current: Indicates that a subsidy is currently applied to the tenancy

Expired: Indicates that a subsidy has ended (reached the subsidy expiry date)

Not applied: Indicates that a subsidy has never been applied to the tenancy because the subsidy was not approved

Future: Indicates that a subsidy has been approved and will be applied on a future date

Reversed: Indicates that a subsidy was applied to the tenancy and reached the expiry date, but has been entirely reversed

Cancelled: Indicates that a partially created subsidy record has been cancelled or that the recommendation to cancel a future subsidy record has been approved.

Subsidy Status and Recommendations in HiiP

List of recommendations available depending on the subsidy status

Subsidy Status

Recommendation

Pending

Action Pending

Cancel application

Raise subsidy for approval

Raise subsidy for rejection

Current

Reverse subsidy

Amend subsidy details

Future

Cancel Subsidy

Amend Subsidy details

Expired

Reverse Subsidy

List of subsidy status and recommendation status relationships

Subsidy Status

Recommendation status

Pending

New

Escalated

Current

Approved

Automated

Expired

Approved

Automated

Not applied

Not approved

Cancelled

Approved

Reversed

Reversed

Cancelled

Cancelled

To receive this publication in an accessible format, contact your local office using the National Relay Service 13 36 77 if required.

Authorised and published by the Victorian Government, 1 Treasury Place, Melbourne.

State of Victoria, Department of Health and Human Services July 2017.

ISBN 978-1-76069-130-1

Available on the Department of Health and Human Services providers website

< https://providers.dhhs.vic.gov.au/rental-rebates-manual-rebate-applications-word >

Page 26Rebate Applications

Rental Rebates Manual: Chapter 5

Rebate Applications

January 2018