Private Rental Assistance Policy
Last published 19 Jun 2020
Social housing providers recognise that establishing a tenancy in the private rental market can be difficult. To help people to access and maintain a tenancy in the private rental market, social housing providers can offer or facilitate access to the following private rental assistance products:
- Statements of Satisfactory Tenancy (public housing tenant only)
- Private Rental Brokerage
- Brokerage Funds
- Bond Extra
- Private Rental Subsidies
The intent of this policy is to outline the various forms of private rental assistance available from the social housing sector in NSW. The Private Rental Assistance Policy Supplement provides further information to support this document.
Social housing providers can also offer or facilitate access to Rentstart assistance products, to assist with costs to establish and maintain a tenancy in the private rental market through the provision of a bond, assistance to pay rental arrears or short term assistance for homeless people. For more information, go to the Rentstart Assistance Policy.
This policy applies to all applicants for private rental assistance products and applicants who may be eligible to receive a Private Rental Subsidy or Rent Choice product.
Under Housing Pathways, participating community housing providers deliver or facilitate access to private rental assistance products.
3. Policy statement
To access any of the private rental assistance options, households must meet the relevant eligibility criteria, which vary for each product. Clients will be advised in writing of the outcome of a private rental assistance assessment.
If the client is not eligible for a certain product, eligibility for other types of assistance will be considered.
Private Rental Assistance Products
3.1 Statements of Satisfactory Tenancy
A Statement of Satisfactory Tenancy is a document that indicates whether a public housing tenant i.e. a tenant whose tenancy is managed by the Department of Communities and Justice (DCJ), including tenants of the Aboriginal Housing Office, has maintained a satisfactory tenancy in relation to the payment of rent and other charges, the care of their property and other tenancy aspects. A current or former public housing tenant can use the statement to help them get private rental accommodation when they are leaving or have left public housing.
Applying for a Statement of Satisfactory Tenancy
Clients who are eligible to apply for a Statement of Satisfactory Tenancy include current or former public housing tenants. Current tenants may only apply if they intend to move into private rental accommodation within six weeks of the date of their application.
Clients who may not apply for a Statement of Satisfactory Tenancy include:
- Current or former tenants of a tenancy managed by a community housing provider. Although a community housing tenant may not apply for a Statement of Satisfactory Tenancy from DCJ, they should check with their provider if they offer a similar product.
- Other household members of a current or former public housing tenancy managed by DCJ.
Clients who are eligible to apply can do so by completing the Application for a Statement of Satisfactory Tenancy form and return it to DCJ.
DCJ will only provide statements to a tenant. If DCJ receives a request from a third party such as a property owner or real estate agent, DCJ will not provide a reference or statement (verbal or written). Similarly, DCJ will not expand on or clarify the contents of its written statement.
DCJ can however verify that it has issued a statement to a particular tenant.
Assessing an application for a Statement of Satisfactory Tenancy
DCJ will assess the client’s eligibility for a tenancy statement and provide a written response within 10 working days of receiving the application. To allow DCJ to do this, it may be necessary to inspect a current tenant’s property in a shorter timeframe than usual. DCJ will seek a current tenant’s consent to do an inspection, where possible, within four days of receiving their application.
DCJ will only provide a Statement of Satisfactory Tenancy to a current or former tenant if, apart from minor matters, the tenant satisfies the eligibility criteria. For more information on minor matters, go to Minor matters. For more information on the eligibility criteria, go to Eligibility criteria and evidence requirements for a Statement of Satisfactory Tenancy.
If a client is eligible, DCJ will issue a Statement of Satisfactory Tenancy.
If a client is not eligible, DCJ will issue a letter declining the client’s request for a Statement of Satisfactory Tenancy. However, the client may become eligible in the future if they satisfy certain conditions. For more information, go to Conditions for becoming eligible for a Statement of Satisfactory Tenancy in the future.
3.2 Private Rental Brokerage Service
The Private Rental Brokerage Service (PRBS) is available from specific social housing providers in locations across the state. For more information, go to Locations where Private Rental Brokerage is available.
The service aims to assist clients by developing and enhancing their capacity to access the private rental market, with the client directing the process as much as possible so they build their confidence and skills. This will be achieved by coaching, guiding and supporting the client. To facilitate this process, staff will continue to develop relationships with local real estate agents and landlords to improve client access to the private rental market.
A client may access the PRBS in one of three ways:
- A social housing provider receives a client referral from a support provider
- Where the client presents at a DCJ or participating community housing provider’s office and requests the service
- Where the client presents to a community housing provider that does not offer this service, they will facilitate access to the service through a provider that does
- The client seeks assistance for another housing assistance product and the provider considers them a potential candidate for the PRBS
Assessing eligibility for the Private Rental Brokerage Service
An interview will be conducted with the client to determine their eligibility for PRBS - for more information, go to Eligibility criteria for Private Rental Brokerage. As part of the interview, information will be gathered about the client’s needs and expectations, and the evidence requirements will be assessed. For more information, go to Gathering information about a client’s needs and expectations and Evidence requirements for assessing Private Rental Brokerage eligibility.
If the client is eligible, work will commence with the client and their support provider to find a suitable property.
Providing Private Rental Brokerage
Where a client is eligible for PRBS, the social housing provider will:
- Check the client’s eligibility for other private rental assistance products based on their needs and whether they meet the eligibility criteria. Products that may be offered include Rentstart Assistance or Bond Extra, to increase the client’s chance of securing and sustaining a private rental tenancy.
- Provide the client with Tenancy Facilitation – this is the provision of information and practical assistance to search and apply for private rental properties. For more information, go to Tenancy Facilitation.
- The social housing provider will monitor and discuss any issues that may affect the tenancy with the client, the support provider and the agent/landlord in an attempt to rectify the issues identified. The emphasis will be on looking at options for sustaining the tenancy, where appropriate. For more information, go to Monitoring a private rental tenancy.
Ending the Private Rental Brokerage Service
The service provider, social housing provider and the client will make a joint decision about ending the service according to the case plan established at the beginning of the tenancy. If one party wishes to exit the agreement early, they should notify the other parties as soon as possible.
3.3 Rent Choice Brokerage funds
Brokerage Funds of up to $2000 can be provided for each Rent Choice client who secures a private rental tenancy, regardless of whether they receive a subsidy or not. Brokerage Funds are to be used to assist the client in establishing and maintaining their tenancy and/or to cover relevant work/study related costs.
A Brokerage Expenditure Plan is completed to examine whether alternate funding options are available e.g. a Leaving Care plan, Supported Independent Living package, Transition to Independent Living Allowance, No Interest Loans etc.
Brokerage Funds will be made available following the approval of a Brokerage Expenditure Plan. Up-to-date records of all brokerage provided to each client, including invoices and / or receipts for all goods and services, must be maintained and provided to the social housing provider managing the assistance.
Use of brokerage funds
Rent Choice Brokerage funds may be used for the following purposes:
- Assistance with education and training
- Employment related costs
- Household establishment
- Professional services that assist the client in sustaining their tenancy or prepare them for employment or training
- Counselling related services
- Transport related assistance
Brokerage funds may not be used for the following purposes:
- Advance rent or bond payments
- Rent arrears
- Gift cards
3.4 Bond Extra
A social housing provider may offer a Bond Extra of up to $1,500 (including GST) to assist a client with a limited or poor tenancy history to establish a private rental tenancy. The Bond Extra can supplement the rental bond if the tenant incurs rental arrears and/or damages the property over and above the value of the rental bond.
In most cases, social housing providers expect that tenancies will be successful. A successful tenancy enables the client to build a positive tenancy history, thereby reducing or eliminating the disadvantages they previously experienced when trying to access the private rental market.
The Bond Extra is valid for the fixed term period of the tenancy agreement, up to 12 months from the start of the tenancy, or until the tenancy ends, whichever occurs sooner. This means that, up to a maximum of 12 months, the Bond Extra will last for the length of the residential tenancy agreement.
The Bond Extra ends if the landlord/agent terminates the residential tenancy agreement.
Assessing eligibility for a Bond Extra
A social housing provider can offer a Bond Extra to any client that meets eligibility. Some clients may have been advised to attend a local office to be assessed on their Application for Housing Assistance outcome letter. For more information, go to Eligibility criteria for a Bond Extra and Determining the client’s need for a Bond Extra.
Staff are encouraged to offer a Bond Extra to all clients who present as homeless and/or under 25 years old.
Providing a Bond Extra for an eligible client
If the client is eligible for a Bond Extra, the social housing provider will provide the client with a Bond Extra offer letter
The social housing provider will advise the client of:
- The conditions which are necessary for a Bond Extra to be activated, (for more information, go to Conditions which are necessary to activate a Bond Extra), and
- The responsibilities of the housing provider, the tenant and the landlord/real estate agent during the tenancy. For more information, go to Responsibilities of the housing provider, the tenant and the landlord/real estate agent during the tenancy.
Providing a second Bond Extra
The aim of the Bond Extra is to allow the client to establish a satisfactory tenancy. Clients who have established a record of a successful tenancy should not need another Bond Extra to assist them in the private rental market.
In some unusual circumstances, a client may need a second Bond Extra because of factors outside their control. For more information, go to Circumstances where a client may require a second Bond Extra.
When a Bond Extra expires
The social housing provider will notify the landlord/agent with an automatically generated letter when the Bond Extra expires. If the agent is satisfied with the tenancy, they may allow the residential tenancy agreement to continue beyond the fixed term period.
The social housing provider will notify the client when the Bond Extra expires. If there is no claim on the Bond Extra, then the tenant has demonstrated that they can sustain a tenancy in the private rental market and they will be encouraged to seek a reference from the landlord/agent at the end of the tenancy.
Claiming against a Bond Extra
To make a claim against the Bond Extra the landlord/agent must:
- Show that the claim exceeds the bond, and
- Show that they took reasonable action to mitigate the loss. This includes actions such as notifying the social housing provider if the residential tenancy agreement was breached, regular property inspections and contact with the tenant if the rent was not paid, and
- Submit a completed Bond Extra Claim DH2053 form to the social housing provider with evidence to support the claim, and
- Submit the claim within the relevant timeframe. For more information, go to Timeframe for submitting a claim.
The social housing provider will assess the claim, which may involve inspecting the property. If the provider is satisfied that the evidence justifies the claim, they will pay the claim. The provider will notify the landlord/agent in writing of the outcome of the claim.
3.5 Private Rental Subsidies
Private Rental Subsidy is a medium-term solution to assist the client accessing affordable accommodation in the private market while waiting for a suitable social housing property to become available. This product aims to assist clients in the greatest need that have a disability and are at risk in their current accommodation.
A Private Rental Subsidy makes up the difference between the amount the client pays in rent, and the benchmark rent for a property in an approved area that is comparable to a social housing property. Benchmark rent means a rent based on the average rent data provided by NSW Fair Trading for specific sizes and types of accommodation in an area.
There are some exceptional circumstances where a social housing provider will approve the payment of a private rental subsidy where the property rent is above the benchmark. For more information, go to Situations where Private Rental Subsidy assistance may be considered for rent above the benchmark.
The eligibility criteria for a Private Rental Subsidy will differ, depending on the type of subsidy a client may receive. Where a social housing provider approves a client for priority housing, they may be eligible for a Private Rental Subsidy from the date of priority housing approval.
The client should never be listed as the vendor under any circumstances. The landlord/agent should always be listed as the vendor, and all subsidy payments should be paid to them directly.
A client’s entitlement to receive a Private Rental Subsidy will be regularly reviewed.
Private Rental Subsidy assistance entitlements prior to 12 June 2012
Private Rental Subsidy - Special
The Private Rental Subsidy Special is a longer-term housing solution that does not require a client to move into social housing. To be eligible for a Private Rental Subsidy Special, clients must:
- Be eligible for social housing (for more information, go to the Eligibility for Social Housing Policy),
- Meet the criteria for priority assistance (for more information, go to the Eligibility for Social Housing Policy),
- Be diagnosed as HIV/AIDS positive, as documented by a medical practitioner,
- Provide evidence from a health or community expert as to how the person’s HIV status impacts on their housing and locational needs, including carer and support services needed, and
- Provide evidence as to how the Private Rental Subsidy Special or social housing allocation would help resolve that need.
Private Rental Subsidy - Special clients moving from private rental accommodation to social housing
A client who has been approved for Private Rental Subsidy - Special and is seeking an allocation of social housing may apply for priority assistance. When approved, they become eligible for priority assistance from the date that their Private Rental Subsidy - Special was first approved
Private Rental Subsidy - Disability
The Private Rental Subsidy Disability is a short-term solution to assist the client while waiting for a suitable social housing property to become available. To be eligible for a Private Rental Subsidy disability, clients must:
- Be eligible for social housing (for more information, go to the Eligibility for Social Housing Policy),
- Have a disability (for more information, go to Disability),
- Be approved for priority assistance (for more information, go to the Eligibility for Social Housing Policy), or
- Are turn-reached for an allocation on the NSW Housing Register.
If a client receiving a Private Rental Subsidy – Disability refuses two reasonable offers of social housing, they will no longer be entitled to receive the subsidy and they will be removed them from the NSW Housing Register.
Clients approved for a Private Rental Subsidy (Special or Disability) prior to 12 June 2012 will have their entitlements protected until they are no longer eligible or they advise they no longer wish to receive the Private Rental Subsidy assistance. If the client reapplies for social housing they will considered under the policy entitlements listed in the Eligibility criteria for Private Rental Subsidy assistance from 12 June 2012, listed below.
Eligibility criteria for Private Rental Subsidy assistance from 12 June 2012
Eligibility for Private Rental Subsidy assistance
To be eligible for Private Rental Subsidy assistance clients must:
- be approved for priority status on the NSW Housing Register,
- have a recognised disability or medical condition, and
- be able to demonstrate they are also at risk in their current housing which is not suitable for them to live in while they are waiting for social housing.
If a client receiving Private Rental Subsidy assistance refuses a reasonable offer of social housing, they will no longer be entitled to receive the subsidy. They will however be entitled to receive another offer of social housing.
Clients will be approved for a rental property that is similar to a property they are likely to be allocated in social housing. Clients will only be approved to rent in suburbs where there are existing social housing properties.
Prior to offering Private Rental Subsidy assistance for a specific property, a client must confirm that when they are housed in social housing, arrangements can be made to transfer support services within the allocation zone for which they are approved or that services can be transferred to another provider.
When a client is approved for Private Rental Subsidy assistance, they are given a benchmark rent amount that will be approved for a private rental property. Benchmark rents are capped at the median rent of the middle ring of the Sydney suburbs.
To receive the subsidy and retain their approved Private Rental Subsidy entitlements, clients must secure a private tenancy within 3 months of approval. After this period, a new assessment will be required.
Clients must provide suitable documentary evidence to support their eligibility for a Private Rental Subsidy assistance. For more information, go to Evidence requirements for a Private Rental Subsidy assistance. Clients must also provide proof of income for all members of the household aged 18 years and over. If the client or their partner is under 18 years of age, they must also supply proof of income. For more information, go to Proof of income and assets.
Calculating the subsidy
As long as the rent charged by the landlord is reasonable, the amount of rent the client actually pays is similar to the amount they would pay as a social housing tenant. The majority of Private Rental Subsidy assistance clients contribute 25% of their income to rent; however, there are some exceptions. For more information, go to Exceptions to paying 25% of income towards rent.
Clients who receive a Private Rental Subsidy assistance are entitled to receive Commonwealth Rent Assistance (CRA) as they are renting in the private sector and not public housing tenants . When assessing the household income, it will be presumed a client is receiving CRA even if they have not applied to Centrelink for this income.
CRA contributes towards rent. When calculating the subsidy provided to new clients, and existing clients relocating to a new address, 100% of the CRA will be assessed as a contribution towards rent. However, there are some exceptions in relation to existing clients who move. For more information, go to Exceptions to calculating Commonwealth Rent Assistance at 100%.
A carer’s income is included in the Private Rental Subsidy assistance calculation if they are living with the client. A carer’s income is excluded if they are not living with the client.
Reviewing Private Rental Subsidy assistance
Clients in receipt of Private Rental Subsidy assistance do not need to reapply for the assistance each year. However, the income details of Private Rental Subsidy assistance clients, their circumstances and their entitlement to receive the subsidy will be reviewed regularly. This is referred to as a scheduled Private Rental Subsidy Review.
When a client informs their social housing provider of any changes to their household or household income, a new assessment of the subsidy will be conducted to ensure that the household is paying the correct amount of rent and is still entitled to receive Private Rental Subsidy assistance. This is referred to as an individual Private Rental Subsidy Review.
Change in circumstances
Clients receiving a Private Rental Subsidy must advise their social housing provider within 28 days of any change in circumstance, including:
- household members;
- household income;
- rent; property address;
- diagnosed medical condition or disability;
- need for carer;
- landlord or real estate agent.
Clients already receiving Private Rental Subsidy assistance whose rent increases over the benchmark rent will have their subsidy re-assessed. In exceptional circumstances a client may be approved to pay rent that is over the benchmark. Clients must either move to a property at or below the median rent or lose their subsidy unless they can demonstrate exceptional circumstances and that they can afford to pay a rent that is over the benchmark. For more information, go to Situations where a Private Rental Subsidy may be considered for rent above the benchmark.
If a client receiving a Private Rental Subsidy does not inform their social housing provider about changes to their household or household income, the household may be provided with an incorrect subsidy amount.
If information is obtained alleging a client has failed to declare changes to their household circumstances, the matter will be investigated and if substantiated may result in the loss or reduction of the client’s subsidy and/or criminal prosecution.
A client should also consult with their social housing provider if they are considering moving to another property as this may affect the approval of their subsidy or the amount of their rent subsidy.
Paying a Private Rental Subsidy
A Private Rental Subsidy will be paid from:
- The date on which the client’s application was approved, or
- The date the lease begins, whichever is the latter.
Private Rental Subsidy payments are not paid to the client under any circumstances. The subsidy will be paid directly to the landlord/agent, with payment being generally 4 weeks in advance.
The Private Rental Subsidy assistance will be ended when a client:
- approved for Private Rental Subsidy-Disability before 12 June 2012 rejects two reasonable offers of social housing; or
- approved for Private Rental Subsidy from 12 June 2012 rejects their first reasonable offer of social housing; or
- has undergone a Review and is no longer eligible to receive Private Rental Assistance.
In all these circumstances, the file will be referred to the Housing Appeals Committee for an independent review of the decision. If the original decision is maintained, the client will be advised in writing of the outcome of the independent review and that the subsidy payment will be stopped within 14 days of the final appeal outcome. For further information, go to Client Service Delivery and Appeals Policy.
4. Legislation and compliance
DCJ and participating community housing providers are able to provide private rental assistance products in accordance with the Housing Act 2001.
5. Related documentation
- Social Housing Eligibility and Allocations Policy Supplement
- Eligibility for Social Housing Policy
- Children and Young People at Risk Policy
- Client Service Delivery and Appeals Policy
6. Further information
Appeals and review of decisions
If a client disagrees with a decision a social housing provider has made, they should first discuss their concerns with a staff member from the provider that made the original decision. The next step, if they still believe the social housing provider made the wrong decision, is to ask for a formal review of the decision.
For information on how DCJ reviews work, see the fact sheet appeals and reviewing decisions, or read the Client Service Delivery and Appeals Policy. This policy applies to all clients of DCJ including applicants for housing assistance who are assisted by DCJ local offices or the DCJ Housing Contact Centre.