2.2.13.20 RA - Verification Required

Summary

RA recipients, who are not exempt from providing verification of accommodation details, should verify the amount of rent paid by providing:

  • a current 'lease' or tenancy agreement, or
  • a Rent Certificate, or
  • a Rent Declaration (these are acceptable in limited circumstances only).

This topic sets out information on verification and connected issues, covering:

  • lease or tenancy agreements,
  • members of religious orders,
  • Rent Certificates,
  • Rent Declarations,
  • community housing rent verification arrangements,
  • Electronic Verification on Rent (EVoR),
  • short-term travellers,
  • exemptions to verification rules,
  • financial hardship, and
  • change of circumstance including rent increase or decrease.

Act reference: SSAct section 13 Rent definitions

Policy reference: SS Guide 6.2.7.10 RA Reviews, 3.8.1.40 Notification, Verification & Recipient Obligations for RA

Lease or tenancy agreements

A recipient is considered to have a formal renting arrangement in place if they are able to verify their rent details by means of a current written lease or tenancy agreement. This agreement must be in accordance with state or territory requirements and may be known by different names across states and territories (exceptions apply - see below).

Example: Where recipients are renting residential premises, the tenancy agreement may be known as a:

  • General Tenancy Agreement in Queensland,
  • Residential Tenancy Agreement in Victoria,
  • Moveable Dwelling Tenancy Agreement (both short and long term) for caravan park residents in Queensland, and
  • Standard Residential Service Agreement for residents of boarding houses, supported accommodation or aged rental accommodation in Queensland.

When provided for verification purposes it is preferable that the whole lease document should be sighted by the Centrelink customer service adviser and relevant details documented on the recipient's record. At a minimum the schedule and/or pages that contain the following information must all be sighted:

  • name of the tenant/s - must include the recipient,
  • the address of the premises the lease relates to,
  • name and address of the landlord/s,
  • amount and frequency of the rent liability, and
  • signatures of tenant/s and landlord/s.

Note: In some states or territories tenancy agreements have been introduced for recipients who live in exempt accommodation. This does not change the exempt status of this accommodation type (i.e. while recipients may present their lease document, they are not required to do so) - see 'Exemptions to verification rules' below.

Recipients who have a formal lease agreement also complete part of the Rent Certificate in order to provide information about the household and type of rent paid, however the landlord's confirmation is not required.

Members of religious orders

A member of a religious order (e.g. priest, nun, brother) may verify their rent with a specialised tenancy agreement that does not contain all the information included in state or territory approved documents. The document should be signed and dated by the recipient and a representative of the religious order (the 'landlord') and include details relating to the following:

  • name of the recipient,
  • name and address of registered office of religious order,
  • accommodation details (often board and lodging),
  • amount of rent (or board and lodging) liability,
  • name of person authorised to sign on behalf of the religious order, and
  • the address of the premises the rent relates to (if different to the registered office of the religious order), if known - see below.

The tenancy agreement may not have a specific address for the recipient. It may include instead a broad statement that the recipient's principal home is any premises owned, rented or subject to any other agreement with a third party by the religious order.

Rent Certificates

Where a RA recipient does not have a formal written lease or tenancy agreement or the recipient is not named as a leaseholder or tenant on a formal written lease or tenancy agreement, the recipient is considered to have an informal renting arrangement in place.

As a rule, such recipients are required to establish their rent liability by means of a Rent Certificate (issued by Centrelink) at the time of lodging a new claim or change of accommodation circumstance (i.e. rent amount varied and/or change of address).

Exception: See 'Short-term travellers' below.

The Rent Certificate must be signed by the landlord or the person who receives rent payments.

Example: A real estate agent, a caravan park manager, a head tenant, a parent or the head of the household.

Explanation: A head tenant would be either the leaseholder or the person in a shared arrangement to who the recipient pays rent.

Rent Declarations

Income support recipients are expected to first approach their landlord or agent to have them sign a Rent Certificate. However, in some cases (e.g. if a recipient has tried unsuccessfully to have the landlord sign the Rent Certificate, or a customer service adviser considers it unreasonable to expect a recipient to approach the landlord/agent), a Rent Declaration (issued by Centrelink) may be submitted instead of Rent Certificate as acceptable evidence to verify rent paid. In most cases a Rent Declaration should be accompanied by:

  • 3 or more recent rent receipts in the recipient's name that are not more than 6 weeks old, or
  • a consecutive sequence of 3 or more bank deposit slips relating to the rent payments, or
  • a bank statement in the recipient's name over the most recent month, showing rent deductions made to the landlord, or
  • Centrepay may be used as another form of rent verification. Care should be taken as the deduction amount may not equal the amount of the recipient's liability to pay rent (e.g. arrears may be included in the deduction).

Before RA is paid on the basis of a Rent Declaration, the landlord or agent may be contacted by Centrelink to confirm the landlord or agent is unwilling to sign the Rent Certificate and to attempt to verify the details on the Rent Declaration.

Note: If there are concerns about contacting the landlord due to violence or possible loss of tenure, the Rent Declaration may be accepted. This is only considered possible in extreme cases.

As a last resort and when all other avenues have been pursued, a Rent Declaration may be accepted without supporting documentation mentioned above.

Information provided on the Rent Certificate & Rent Declaration

The Rent Certificate and Rent Declaration are used to gather information about the accommodation circumstances of the recipient as well as for rent verification purposes. Information provided includes the type of rent paid and whether the home is shared with others. This information determines the amount of RA that can be paid.

Community housing rent verification arrangements

RA recipients who rent their home from a community housing organisation should have a formal agreement (lease) setting out what they will pay to the organisation and what assistance will be provided. For the purposes of rent verification, RA recipients living in community housing are generally required to verify their rent liability by either means of a Rent Certificate or by EVoR. This is because the actual amount of rent paid by recipients may fluctuate, as it is dependent upon the recipient's income and may be assessed as frequently as fortnightly.

Electronic Verification on Rent (EVoR)

EVoR is a secure, automated process that allows community housing organisations to verify and update their tenants' rent amounts electronically with Centrelink each time there is a change in rent. This process is used by participating community housing organisations instead of a Rent Certificate to verify rent.

The community housing organisation obtains the tenant's consent to use EVoR and they advise tenants when information is sent to Centrelink. EVoR is used to provide rent updates only. The recipient must advise Centrelink of other changes in circumstances, e.g.:

  • change of address,
  • if a sub-tenant, boarder, or lodger moves into the premises,
  • if becomes partnered or separates from a partner,
  • income changes,
  • if children leave home or return to live in the home.

Short-term travellers

Income support recipients who frequently move from one address to another may submit a Rent Declaration once a fortnight. This Rent Declaration must be accompanied by rent receipts that relate to the given fortnight.

Example: Where a recipient lives in a caravan or a relocatable home and moves from one caravan park to another.

Note: This does not remove the requirement that recipients advise Centrelink of each change of circumstances, such as a new address, within the required notification period. Failure to do so may result in a loss or reduction in payments.

Example: A recipient with a general obligation to notify of a change in circumstances notifies Centrelink of a change in address and is assessed as being eligible for RA in respect of their new accommodation situation. RA date of effect rules stipulate that this recipient's RA be paid from the date of event (i.e. the date they moved into the new accommodation) or the date of notification (i.e. the date they advised Centrelink of their new address), whichever is later.

Policy reference: SS Guide 3.8.1.55 Date of Effect & Arrears of RA

Exemptions to verification rules

Recipients are exempt from having to verify the amount of rent paid whilst they are:

  • living in exempt accommodation (1.1.E.168) (e.g. boarding style accommodation),
  • living in a refuge (e.g. crisis or supported accommodation of generally not more than 3 months duration (short term)),
  • full-time residents in non-Commonwealth funded beds in nursing homes and other aged care facilities, and
  • residents of retirement villages.

Financial hardship

In certain circumstances RA may be paid without documentary evidence as long as acceptable evidence is produced within 4 weeks of the claim. Provided an amount of rent is payable by the recipient, the recipient is not required to actually make payment before RA can start.

Change of circumstance including rent increase or decrease

RA is reassessed whenever the recipient's circumstances change, such as a change of address and/or change in amount of rent paid. Regardless of whether the rate of RA will be affected, the correct rent details should always be recorded to ensure that accurate and up-to-date information is stored. Re-verification of rent details may be required.

Acceptable verification of a rent change during the term of a tenancy agreement or when the agreement has become periodic, would be a written notice to the tenant of the rent change. The notice should be signed and dated by the landlord or agent and include their address.

Explanation: When a change of residential address is recorded and new accommodation details are not verified, the recipient is allowed 14 days to supply verified details before payment of RA is cancelled. At the end of the 14-day period, RA is cancelled automatically. Normal review procedures apply if a recipient provides subsequent verification.

Policy reference: SS Guide 3.8.1.55 Date of Effect & Arrears of RA

Last reviewed: 3 January 2017