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Start Safely Private Rental Assistance Subsidy Policy

Last published 22 Oct 2018

1. Background

Social housing providers recognise that domestic and family violence can be a major factor in homelessness.  The Start Safely Private Rental Subsidy offers short to medium term financial assistance to clients who are homeless or at risk of homelessness due to domestic or family violence.

The Start Safely Private Rental Subsidy provides access to safe and affordable housing in the private rental market to eligible clients who are able to demonstrate a capacity to sustain their tenancy in private rental accommodation.

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 bond, assistance to pay rental arrears or short term assistance for homeless people. For more information, go to the Rentstart Assistance Policy.

There are other forms of private rental assistance available to assist people to access accommodation assistance in the private rental market see the  Private Rental Assistance Policy for further information.

2. Scope

This policy applies to clients escaping domestic or family violence who are homeless or at risk of homelessness and are eligible for social housing. Clients must have the capacity to afford private rental accommodation at the end of the subsidy period.

Under Housing Pathways, all participating social housing providers facilitate access to private rental assistance products.

Delivery of these products will remain the responsibility of the Department of Family and Community Services (FACS) Housing and Social Housing Management Transfer community housing providers.

3. Policy statement

To access the Start Safely Private Rental Subsidy, clients must be eligible for social housing. It is time limited private rental financial assistance and is not intended for clients who require long-term housing assistance or support needs.  Social housing may be the suitable housing option for those clients.

This product provides medium term financial relief to assist a client for a period after leaving domestic and family violence until their situation is stabilised. Start Safely Private Rental Subsidy can be used in conjunction with other private rental assistance products including Rentstart Bond Loan, Advance Rent, Tenancy Guarantee, Tenancy Facilitation and Private Rental Brokerage.

Start Safely Private Rental Subsidy clients will be eligible to receive Advance Rent if they qualify for the product under Rentstart guidelines. If Advance Rent is provided, the subsidy will commence from the date that the Advance Rent ceases to cover the rent - either one or two weeks after the lease commencement date.

A Start Safely Private Rental Subsidy makes up the difference between the amount the client pays and the client’s share of property rent. For a property to be approved it must comply with standard bedroom entitlements for social housing, go toEligibility for Social Housing Policy – entitlements.

Eligibility for Start Safely Private Rental Subsidy

To be eligible for the Start Safely Private Rental Subsidy, clients must be:

  • Eligible for social housing (for more information, go to the Eligibility for Social Housing Policy;
  • Escaping domestic or family violence;
  • Homeless or at risk of homelessness;
  • Able to afford and sustain the tenancy at the end of the subsidy period; and
  • Willing to receive support services where relevant.

Evidence requirements

Start Safely Private Rental Subsidy clients must provide suitable documentary evidence to:

  • Support their eligibility for social housing, go to Eligibility for Social Housing Policy;
  • Support that they are homeless or at risk of homelessness due to domestic or family violence;
  • Show an ability to afford and sustain the tenancy at the end of the subsidy period; and
  • Confirm the domestic or family violence situation; go to Housing Pathways Evidence Requirements Information Sheet.

Clients must also provide proof of income for all members of the household aged 18 years and over. For more information, go to Proof of income and assets.

Property affordability and calculating a subsidy

Start Safely Private Rental Subsidy clients will be expected to find a property that is within their financial means. The rent paid for a property should not exceed 50% of the household’s total gross weekly income excluding Commonwealth Rent Assistance (CRA).

At commencement of the subsidy, Start Safely Private Rental Subsidy clients contribute 25% of their income to rent. Clients who receive the Start Safely Private Rental Subsidy are entitled to receive CRA. When assessing the household income, the social housing provider will assume a client is receiving CRA even if they have not applied to Centrelink for that payment.

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.

Reviewing the Start Safely Private Rental Subsidy

A regular review is conducted to determine the income details of the household, their circumstances and their entitlement to receive the subsidy. This referred to as a scheduled Quarterly Review.

When a client advises of any changes to their household or household income, the subsidy will be reassessed to ensure that the household is paying the correct amount of rent and is still entitled to receive the Start Safely Private Rental Subsidy. This is referred to as an individual Start Safely Private Rental Subsidy Review.

Changes in circumstances

A Start Safely Private Rental Subsidy client must advise their social housing provider within 28 days of any changes in:

  • Household members,
  • Household income,
  • Rent,
  • Property address, or
  • Landlord or real estate agent.

If a Start Safely Private Rental Subsidy client does not provide information of the changes listed above, the household may be provided with an incorrect subsidy amount. In some cases, this may result in the client owing money to their social housing provider or their subsidy being ended.

A client must also contact their social housing provider before they move to another property as this may affect the approval of their subsidy or the amount of their subsidy.

Paying the Start Safely Private Rental Subsidy

The Start Safely Private Rental Subsidy will be paid from:

  • The date on which the client’s application was approved if the client is remaining in their existing property, or
  • The date when the lease begins.

If Advance Rent is provided, the client’s subsidy will commence from the date that the Advance Rent ceases to cover the rent; either one or two weeks after the lease commencement date.

The subsidy is paid directly to the landlord/agent, with payment being generally one month in advance.

The Start Safely Private Rental Subsidy will end when a client has undergone a review, is no longer eligible to receive the subsidy or when the maximum period of 36 months has been reached.

4. Legislation and compliance

FACS and Social Housing Management Transfer community housing providers are able to provide private rental assistance products in accordance with the Housing Act 2001.

5. Related documentation

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 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.

If the Start Safely Private Rental Subsidy has been ended, the outcome will be referred to the Housing Appeals Committee (HAC) 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 outcome. For further information, go to Client Service Delivery and Appeals Policy.

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. This policy applies to all clients of FACS including applicants for housing assistance who are assisted by FACS local offices or the FACS Housing Contact Centre.

For further information on community housing appeals, go to Community Housing Complaints, Issues and Appeals Management Framework.

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