Skip to Content

Rent Choice Assist COVID-19 Response

1. Background

Rent Choice Assist COVID-19 a form of Private Rental Assistance (PRA) that aims to support households to maintain affordable housing in the private rental market during the coronavirus crisis. Rent Choice Assist COVID-19 is a time limited product with packages available from April 2020 to July 2020.

It provides a time limited private rental subsidy for up to six months for clients that are renting in the private rental market and are homeless or at risk of homelessness as their household income and assets have significantly decreased due to the COVID-19 crisis.

2. Scope

This policy applies to all applicants who may be eligible for Rent Choice Assist COVID-19. Clients must have the capacity to afford private rental accommodation at the end of the subsidy period.

The Department of Communities and Justice (DCJ) Housing and Social Housing Management Transfer community housing providers (CHP's) can deliver Rent Choice products.  All other community housing providers participating in Housing Pathways may facilitate access to private rental products.

3. Policy statement

Rent Choice Assist COVID-19 provides financial assistance for up to six months for low income renting households who are homeless or at risk of homelessness to enable them to sustain and/or secure an affordable tenancy in the private rental market.

Rent Choice Assist COVID-19 is for low income adult households who:

  • Have a history of successfully meeting their housing needs without assistance;
  • Can demonstrate they are within the low income limit and have limited assets at time of application and
  • Their household income is at risk of homelessness as a result of COVID-19, specifically:
    • one or more rent-paying members of a household have lost employment or income (or had a reduction in employment or income) due to COVID-19 business closures or stand-downs, or
    • one or more rent-paying members of a household have had to stop working or reduce work hours due to illness with COVID-19 or due to COVID-19 carer responsibilities for household or family members, and
  • Need assistance to either sustain their current tenancy or establish a new tenancy, to avoid homelessness;
  • Have the capacity and willingness to move from the subsidy to housing independence by the end of the subsidy period i.e. no longer require ongoing NSW Government housing assistance.

Rent Choice Assist COVID-19 clients must express a commitment to sustaining a tenancy while receiving the subsidy and to transitioning back to paying market rent once the subsidy ends. They must be willing to receive and continue with support services where relevant.

Rent Choice Assist COVID-19 is not intended for clients who require long-term housing assistance and who have long-term support needs.

Clients that elect to receive Rent Choice Assist COVID-19 are ineligible for inclusion on the NSW Housing Register. Clients who have previously been listed on the NSW Housing Register must opt out of the NSW Housing Register in order to be approved for Rent Choice Assist COVID-19.

Rent Choice Assist COVID-19 clients can only be assisted if their property falls within “reasonable market rent” and their affordability range for their household type. This ensures that clients have the capacity to afford private rental accommodation at the end of the subsidy period. More detail can be viewed in section 6.

Rent Choice Assist COVID-19 can also be used in conjunction with other private rental assistance products including Rentstart products, Private Rental Brokerage Service, Brokerage Funds or Tenancy Guarantee. For more information, go to the Private Rental Assistance Policy.

4. Eligibility

To be eligible for Rent Choice Assist -COVID19, the client must:

  • establish their identity;
  • be resident in New South Wales;
  • be a citizen or have permanent residency in Australia;
  • be at least 18 years of age;
  • have a household income within the low income limit at the time of application;
  • demonstrate that their household is at risk of homelessness as a result of COVID-19, specifically:
    • one or more rent-paying members of a household have lost employment or income (or had a reduction in employment or income) due to COVID-19 business closures or stand-downs, or
    • one or more rent-paying members of a household have had to stop working or reduce work hours due to illness with COVID-19 or due to COVID-19 carer responsibilities for household and/or family members, and
    • the above factors result in a household income (inclusive of any government assistance) reduced by 25% or more and are unable to maintain ongoing rent payments in the medium term;
  • not be included on the NSW Housing Register, or willing to opt out;
  • have less than $3000 in cash assets and not own any assets that can be used to resolve their housing need;
  • have low support needs; and
  • demonstrate recent history of ongoing workforce participation and successfully sustaining housing in the private market over the last twelve months.

Rent Choice Assist COVID-19 clients must also express commitment to sustaining a tenancy while receiving Rent Choice and to sustaining their independence after Rent Choice subsidy ends.

5. Evidence requirements

Rent Choice Assist COVID-19 clients must provide suitable documentary evidence to:

  • support their eligibility,
  • support that they are homeless or at risk of homelessness due COVID19,
  • support that they have had a recent history of ongoing workforce participation and successfully sustaining housing in the private market, and
  • provide proof of income and assets for all members of the household aged 18 years and over.

For more information on the types of evidence required, please refer to the Frequently Asked Questions

6. Reasonable market rent, property affordability, and calculating a subsidy 

DCJ, or a Social Housing Management Transfer CHP will only approve a subsidy where the rent is determined as “reasonable market rent”, the accommodation size does not exceed social housing bedroom category requirements and is within the client’s “affordability”. This ensures that clients have the capacity to afford private rental accommodation at the end of the subsidy period.

“Reasonable market rent” is the average rent for an area considering the type and location of accommodation that is suitable for the households needs and reflects the median rent as determined by the Rental Bond Board.

When determining “affordability” for a Rent Choice COVID-19 client, DCJ or a Social Housing Management Transfer CHP should use the households’ former income (i.e. income prior to the COVID-19 event). This is based on the assumption that the client will return to work and previous income level within 12 months of receiving the subsidy.

In instances where the actual rent is higher than the reasonable market rent, the client may contribute the difference between the actual rent asked by the landlord and the reasonable market rent, however DCJ or the Social Housing Management Transfer CHP must be satisfied that the applicant is able to afford the extra payment.

Additionally, the client can be supported to renegotiate their current rent with their landlord. More information on how to do this can be found on the NSW Fair Trading website.

A Rent Choice Assist COVID-19 subsidy makes up the difference between the amount of rent the client pays and the market rent over the 12-month subsidy period. This is calculated as the difference between the market rent and 25% of the client’s current gross assessable household income plus 100% of their Commonwealth Rent Assistance entitlement.

7. Paying a Rent Choice subsidy

A Rent Choice Assist COVID-19 subsidy is paid from:

  • the date on which the client’s application was approved, if the client is remaining in their existing property, or
  • the date the client’s lease begins.
  • The subsidy is paid directly to the landlord/agent, with payment generally being one month in advance.

    A Rent Choice Assist COVID-19 subsidy will end when a client has undergone a review and a decision to exit Rent Choice Assist COVID-19 has been made or when the maximum period of 12 months has been reached.

    Clients identified at risk of being unable to maintain a tenancy will be considered for alternative appropriate social housing products.

    8. Reviewing Rent Choice Assist COVID-19 eligibility

    Rent Choice Assist COVID-19 clients must agree to participate in quarterly reviews.

    Quarterly reviews are conducted to determine continued eligibility and need for the subsidy, assess whether the client is managing their tenancy effectively and check whether any additional supports are required.

    Clients are required to provide details of any change in household size or increase in income at each quarterly review. The subsidy will be assessed at each review to ensure that the household is paying the correct amount of rent and determine if the client requires further assistance or can be exited from the program.

    The quarterly reviews can be conducted over the phone or where available, via video call. Clients can submit their income details to the social housing provider by email.

    Rent Choice Assist COVID-19 clients will be exited at 6 months or prior to that if their household income has increased above the Low income limit of NSW Annual Affordable Housing Ministerial Guidelines

    If the client is not in a position to exit Rent Choice after six months, they will be required to have an Independence Support Plan (ISP). The ISP is a person-centred approach to coordinating ‘wrap-around’ services to support the client to build their capability to transition to housing independence at the end of the subsidy period.

    The ISP is completed by both the client and their social housing provider. The client must comply with the ISP in order to continue to receive the Rent Choice Assist COVID-19 subsidy for another six months.

    9. Changes in circumstances

    A Rent Choice Assist COVID-19 client must advise their social housing provider within 28 days of any changes in:

  • household members;
  • household income;
  • rent;
  • property address; and
  • landlord or real estate agent.
  • If a Rent Choice Assist COVID-19 client does not tell their social housing provider about a change to their household circumstances, there may be an investigation to determine their eligibility for a Rent Choice subsidy. In some cases, this may result in the client owing money or their subsidy being ended. For more information, see the Private Rental Assistance Non-Disclosure Policy.

    A client must also advise their social housing provider if they are moving to another property as this may affect the approval of their subsidy or the amount of their subsidy.

    10. Income Eligibility for Rent Choice Assist COVID-19

    Low income limits for the Rent Choice Assist COVID-19 

    Household members

    Weekly

    Annual

    SYDNEY

    Single adult

    $850

    $44,200

    Each additional adult (18 years or over)

    $425

    $22,100

    Each additional child under 18

    $255

    $13,300

    REST OF NSW

    Single adult

    $750

    $39,300

    Each additional adult (18 years or over)

    $378

    $19,700

    Each additional child under 18

    $211

    $11,800

    Source:  – NSW Affordable Housing Ministerial Guidelines 2019-20 updated annually

    Calculating Low income limits
    Household composition: Number of adults + Number of children

    Example 1: Sydney household - 2 adults + 2 children
    Weekly limit: 2 adults ($850+ $425) + 2 children ($255 x 2) = $1,785

    Annual limit: 2 adults ($44,200+ $22,100) + 2 children ($13,300 x 2) = $92,900

    Example 2: Rest of NSW household- 2 adults + 2 children

    Weekly limit: 2 adults ($750+ $378) + 2 children ($211 x 2) = $1,550

    Annual limit: 2 adults ($39,300+ $19,700) + 2 children ($11,800 x 2) = $82,600

    11. Legislation and compliance

    DCJ and Social Housing Management Transfer CHP are able to provide private rental assistance products in accordance with the Housing Act 2001.

    12. Related documentation

    Rent Choice Policy

    Private Rental Assistance Policy

    Children and Young People at Risk Policy

    Client Service Delivery and Appeals Policy

    Domestic Violence Information Sharing Protocol

    13. 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 that 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, 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.

    Rent Choice Decisions that cannot be appealed:

  • The amount of assistance provided under the Rent Choice Subsidy.
  • To end a Rent Choice Subsidy when the client has been given the maximum 12 months assistance.
  • Was this content useful?
    Last updated: 01 Jul 2020