Private Rental Assistance (PRA) Non-Disclosure Policy
The Department of Family and Community Services (FACS) Housing or a Social Housing Management Transfer community housing provider (SHMT CHP) may grant financial assistance to a client, through a range of Private Rental Assistance (PRA) products, to support them in maintaining a tenancy in the private rental market.
This financial assistance may be in the form of a subsidy, bond or brokerage funding. To access any of these private rental assistance products, households must meet the relevant eligibility criteria set for each option. For more information on these criteria see the Rent Choice Policy and the Private Rental Assistance Policy .
Clients who receive financial assistance through a FACS or a SHMT CHP's private rental assistance product must advise FACS or a SHMT CHP of any changes to their household circumstances within 28 days of the change occurring. They must do this even if they are in the Centrelink Income Confirmation Scheme.
The intent of this policy is to:
- Ensure that clients are receiving the financial assistance they are entitled to
- Minimise fraud
- Outline appropriate action when FACS or a SHMT CHP finds that a client is receiving financial assistance they are not entitled to.
The Private Rental Assistance Policy Supplement provides further information to support this document.
This policy applies to all clients seeking financial assistance, or are a recipient of a private rental assistance product. It covers assistance obtained from a social housing or community housing provider.
3. Policy statement
To access any of the private rental assistance products, households must meet the relevant eligibility criteria, which varies for each product
A client is responsible for showing FACS or a SHMT CHP that they are entitled to receive a private rental assistance product. If FACS or a SHMT CHP receives information that a client may be receiving financial assistance that they are not entitled to, then under the provisions of the Housing Act 2001, FACS will investigate the situation to determine if:
- No further action is required, or
- Private rental assistance non-disclosure has occurred, or
- Private rental assistance fraud has occurred.
Private rental assistance non-disclosure occurs where a client has failed to advise FACS or a SHMT CHP of any change to their household circumstances but has not done so deliberately.
Private rental assistance fraud occurs where:
- A client is aware of their obligation to advise FACS or a SHMT CHP of any change to their household circumstances, and
- A client deliberately does not advise of the change. This can occur either by deliberate omission, or through a false, incomplete or misleading statement.
Where FACS investigates an allegation of private rental assistance non-disclosure, it will apply the principles of procedural fairness. This means that a client will:
- Have the right to an impartial hearing, and
- Be advised of the relevant policy and what is required of them, and
- Be told about the information and any documentary evidence FACS has obtained, and
- Be given a reasonable opportunity to respond to any allegations made against them, and
- Be advised of the outcome of the investigation and their right to appeal.
Where FACS finds that a client has received financial assistance that they are not entitled to, it may take a range of actions, depending on the circumstances. These actions may include cancelling or adjusting subsidies, seek recovery of unauthorised payments or initiate criminal prosecutions. FACS can take these actions under the provisions of the Housing Act 2001.
Dealing with an alleged failure to disclose a change in household circumstances
A client may be receiving a financial assistance that they are not entitled to if they have not told FACS or a SHMT CHP about:
- All household occupants or a change to the household occupants
- All of the income received by the household occupants (including the client)
- A change to the income of any household occupant (including the client)
- All of the financial interests of the household occupants (including the client), for example, shares, savings, an inheritance
- All property ownership interests of the household occupants (including the client).
Where FACS or a SHMT CHP receives information that a client’s household circumstances may have changed, or may not be correct, and the client has not told FACS or a SHMT CHP, it will investigate the matter by:
- Where relevant, asking the person who supplied the information (informant/complainant) if they are willing to provide their information in writing
- Conducting an initial assessment of the allegation to determine if possible private rental assistance non-disclosure or fraud has occurred.
Where this initial assessment indicates that possible private rental assistance non-disclosure has occurred, FACS will continue to investigate the matter by:
- Where relevant, making inquiries.
- Advising the client in writing of the details of the allegation and giving them an opportunity to respond to the allegations during an interview
- Interviewing the client and giving them a reasonable opportunity to respond to any allegations. The client may have a support person present at the interview. If an interpreter is required, FACS will arrange for one to be present
- Assessing the information. FACS will take a range of information into account when deciding whether a client’s alleged failure to disclose information about their household circumstances is an unsubstantiated allegation, non-disclosure or possible fraud.
- Deciding on the action to take based on the outcome of the assessment.
Evidence Requirements for deciding the outcome of an investigation
FACS will consider a range of evidence when deciding:
- Whether a client’s alleged failure to disclose information about their household circumstances amounts to an unsubstantiated allegation, private rental assistance non-disclosure or possible private rental assistance fraud
- If any mitigating or extenuating circumstances apply, including domestic and family violence.
4. Legislation and compliance
FACS or a SHMT CHP is able to determine the eligibility of a client to receive a financial benefit related to a private rental assistance product in accordance with the provisions of the Housing Act 2001.
The Housing Act 2001 prescribes a maximum penalty of 200 penalty units (that is the equivalent of $2,200 at the date of publication of this policy) and/or three months imprisonment for:
- Wilfully making a false statement or representation to claim a financial benefit to which the client is not entitled, or
- Failing to notify of a change of circumstances with the intention of retaining or continuing to obtain a benefit, which the client knows they are not entitled to.
Privacy and confidentiality
FACS will protect the identity of an informant/complainant at all times and cannot disclose information about the informant/complainant without their permission, unless required by law, for example, as part of a criminal proceeding.
In order to protect the client’s privacy, FACS will not tell the informant/complainant about the outcome of the investigation.
Where an assessment indicates that possible private rental assistance fraud has occurred, FACS will investigate this with a view to criminal prosecution. The standard procedures for criminal investigations will apply.
5. 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 the staff member that made the 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 reviews work for decisions made by FACS, the client can ask for a copy of the fact sheet Appeals and reviewing decisions, or read the Client Service Delivery and Appeals Policy.
For further information on community housing appeals, go to Community Housing Complaints, Issues and Appeals Management Framework.