3.8.1.90 Temporary Accommodation & RA

Summary

RA is generally not payable for temporary accommodation (1.1.T.50), except in special circumstances. This topic covers:

  • when temporary accommodation is regarded as rent,
  • specific medical treatment,
  • temporary accommodation following a natural disaster,
  • holiday accommodation,
  • principal home during temporary accommodation period, and
  • respite care.

When temporary accommodation is regarded as rent

An amount paid or payable may only be regarded as rent if it is paid for accommodation that is regarded as the income support recipient's principal home. However, the principal home is not well defined in the SSAct and there are circumstances where RA is payable for temporary accommodation.

A situation where an RA income support recipient is likely to have increased accommodation costs for a temporary period may entitle them to RA on the basis of rent paid for the temporary accommodation. This would only apply in cases where it is reasonable to regard the temporary accommodation as the person's principal home. As a general rule, this applies only in cases where the recipient:

  • requires specific medical treatment that is unavailable in the area where their principal home is located (this does not include respite care (see 'Specific medical treatment' below), or
  • is temporarily living somewhere in order to personally provide a substantial level of care to someone else, or
  • temporarily moves away from the area where their principal home is located to undertake training or education that may help them return to the workforce, or
  • has a student child attending school away from the area where their principal home is located because of unavailability of appropriate schools and does not receive any other form of Commonwealth assistance for the same purpose, e.g. a 'second home allowance' under the AIC scheme, or
  • must leave their principal home temporarily because it is uninhabitable, e.g. the home is being extensively renovated, possibly but not exclusively, due to lack of regular maintenance or damage caused by fire, flood, vandalism, or
  • lives in a refuge - while a refuge does not fit strictly within the definition of 'temporary accommodation' because, in a lot of cases, the income support recipient does not return to the former principal home. RA is payable while the recipient lives at the refuge.

Specific medical treatment

The definition of a care situation should be used to determine whether specific medical treatment is required. That is, whether the income support recipient needs or has been receiving care for at least 14 consecutive days.

Example: A recipient who leaves their usual place of residence to enter a detoxification clinic, rehabilitation centre, mental health facility or similar institution may be eligible for RA.

If someone is paying to occupy premises in order to personally provide a substantial level of care (1.1.C.15) to another person, they may be eligible for RA. The person receiving care must need that level of care for at least 14 consecutive days.

Act reference: SSAct section 13(2) Amounts are rent in relation to a person if…, section 13(9) A person is in a care situation if…

Policy reference: SS Guide 1.1.C.15 Care definitions, 3.8.1.60 Payments That May be Treated as Rent

Temporary accommodation following a natural disaster

RA may be payable to income support recipients (including ineligible homeowners) who are renting temporary accommodation because their own home has been made uninhabitable. This may, or may not, be caused by a natural disaster (flood, fire, earthquake etc). In these situations, the temporary accommodation is regarded as the recipient's principal home.

Note: There can be only one principal home at any given time and rent for separate residences cannot be added together for these purposes.

RA may be available for up to 2 years to homeowners displaced by a natural disaster, while their homes are being repaired or rebuilt. Homes that are lost or damaged may be excluded from the assets test for up to 2 years if certain criteria are met.

If an accomodation subsidy is provided by an insurance company (or any other source) this will be taken into account when assessing if RA is payable. See the table below.

Where a recipient is unable to provide rent verification via a formal lease or Rent Certificate signed by a landlord or real estate agent, as a last resort and when all other avenues have been pursued, a Rent Declaration may be accepted without supporting documentation (2.2.13.20).

Examples of some scenarios following natural disasters:

Following a natural disaster a… Effect on RA Policy reference
Recipient is living with friends while seeking alternative rental accommodation.
  • If the accommodation is provided free, RA is not payable.
  • If the recipient is paying an amount for 'rent' or 'board & lodging' for the accommodation, RA may be payable.
  • Sharers rules may apply to single people.
  • Net rent rules may apply to the household.
  • RA paid on the previous (now uninhabitable) accommodation will be cancelled.

3.8.1.10 Qualification for RA

3.8.1.70 Board & Lodging for RA

3.8.1.110 Sharers Provisions for RA

3.8.1.109 Net Rent Rules

Recipient's temporary accommodation is totally, or partially, paid (subsidised) by an insurance company while their home is being rebuilt.
  • If the insurance company provides free accommodation or covers the total cost of the accomodation, RA is not payable.
  • If the rent amount is partially paid by an insurance company, the amount of RA payable is assessed on the:
    • gross rent amount if the regular insurance payment is assessed as income for income/assets purposes, OR
    • net rent amount if the regular insurance payment is NOT assessed as income for income/assets purposes.
3.8.1.10 Qualification for RA

3.8.1.108 Assessing RA payable

4.3.2.30 Income exempt from assessment - legislated

Holiday accommodation

RA is paid for accommodation that is regarded as the recipient's principal home and is not payable for temporary holiday accommodation. However, if an income support recipient remains away from their usual home for more than 12 months, they may be eligible for RA assessed on the accommodation used while travelling.

Explanation: Under the assets testing rules, in general, a recipient may vacate their principal home for a period of up to 12 months before the home is classified as an asset. During this time, the recipient remains an ineligible homeowner and is not eligible for RA. However, if the recipient continues to be absent from their home for longer than 12 months, the home ceases to be exempt under the asset testing rules, i.e. it is no longer their principal home. The recipient may then be eligible for RA.

Example: An ineligible homeowner couple leave their home to travel in a caravan. They are not eligible for RA for 12 months. However, if they are still travelling after the completion of the 12 month period, they may be eligible for RA for the site fees paid in respect of their caravan, which would then be classified as their principal home.

Principal home during temporary accommodation period

In these situations, an RA recipient's principal home is excluded from the assets test during temporary absences, but usually for no longer than 12 months.

Exception: Where the home is lost or damaged the exemption can be extended to up to 24 months if certain criteria are met.

While the temporary accommodation can be regarded as the recipient's principal home in these circumstances, there can be only one principal home at any given time and rent for separate residences cannot be added together for these purposes.

Act reference: SSAct section 11A(9) A residence of a person is to be taken to continue to be the person's principal home during…, section 13(1) Rent definitions, section 13(9) A person is in a care situation if…

Policy reference: SS Guide 4.6.3.60 Exempting the Principal Home - Temporary Vacation of Property

Respite care

Respite fees are not rent within the meaning of the SSAct. RA is payable only in respect of any rent that continues to be payable in respect of an RA recipient's principal home as long as the recipient is in approved respite care for 52 days or less and was receiving RA immediately before being admitted to respite care.

The formal definition of respite care (1.1.R.250) is 'care provided for the permanently disabled, to give respite to their normal carers'. If there is any confusion over whether someone is in respite care, the facility they are entering into would be an approved respite care facility. Such a facility is eligible for a respite care supplement under Aged Care Act 1997 section 44-12.

Act reference: SSAct section 13 Rent definitions, section 13(8B) Without limiting subsection (8A), a person is taken not to be an aged care resident…

Last reviewed: 20 March 2017