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Tenancy Charges Policy

Last published 01 Nov 2018

1. Background

Generally, all tenants living in a property owned or managed by the Department of Family and Community Services (FACS) - Housing are required to pay any charges that relate to their tenancy. These charges include:

  • Rent
  • Water usage
  • Repairs to the premises that are not caused by fair wear and tear
  • Rental Bond
  • Miscellaneous debts, such as fees for a dishonoured cheque
  • Outstanding debts from a former FACS Housing tenancy, called former debt.

This policy is to explain what tenancy related charges are, and how they are determined.

2. Scope

This policy applies to all tenants living in a property owned or managed by FACS Housing, including tenants of the Aboriginal Housing Office.

3. Policy statement

FACS Housing is able to apply tenancy related charges in accordance with the provisions of the Residential Tenancies Act 2010.

FACS Housing establishes separate accounts for a tenant’s rent, water usage and other tenancy related charges and payments.

Applying tenancy related charges

Rent

FACS Housing charges rent on a weekly basis.

FACS Housing charges market rent for all its properties. This is the maximum rent a public housing tenant can be charged.

If a household has a low or moderate income, the tenant can apply for a rent subsidy. The rent subsidy will reduce the amount of money the tenant has to pay in rent. FACS Housing has the authority to grant a rent subsidy under the provisions of the Housing Act 2001.

As outlined in the Residential Tenancies Act 2010, FACS Housing cannot redirect rent paid by a tenant to another debt the tenant may have with FACS Housing.

For more information on how FACS Housing calculates rent, see the Charging Rent Policy.

Water usage

In December 2005, FACS Housing introduced a charge for water usage, which it charges on a weekly basis.

Tenants pay either a percentage water charge or an actual water charge. FACS Housing determines this according to whether:

  • The property where the tenant lives has a separate or a shared water meter.
  • The local water authority provides FACS Housing with sufficient usage information to determine the tenant’s water usage.

FACS Housing is responsible for meeting all other costs associated with providing water, such as water connection charges, sewerage and other charges, and providing water in common areas.

For more information on how FACS Housing calculates water usage charges, see the Water Usage Charges Policy.

Repairs to the premises

FACS Housing will charge tenants for the cost of repairing damage to their premises if they are responsible for causing the damage.

Tenants can expect FACS Housing to provide them with premises that are in a reasonable condition and to maintain that condition through the life of the tenancy.

FACS Housing expects tenants to take good care of their premises and to take responsibility for property damage, other than that caused by fair wear and tear or the criminal activity of a third party.

FACS Housing will charge the tenant for repair costs only if the tenant has accepted liability or FACS Housing has sufficient evidence, substantiated by the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT), of the tenant's responsibility for the damage.

For more information on repair charges, see the Tenant Repair Costs Policy.

Rental bond accounts

In November 2018, FACS introduced rental bonds for tenants who cause significant damage to their FACS Housing properties.

The bond amount charged will be based on four weeks market rent, capped at a maximum payment of $1400 (indexed annually at the same rate used by Centrelink).

FACS tenants will have two options for payment of their rental bond:

  • Paying upfront (at a 20% discount)
  • Paying by a scheduled instalment plan of between 24 and 36 months. The length of the instalment plan will be based on the household income.

For more information on which tenants are required to pay bond rental bonds, see the Rental Bonds Policy.

Miscellaneous debts

Miscellaneous debts occur because of various other tenancy related charges, such as bank fees for dishonoured payments, council fines for unregistered swimming pools and court costs. For example, if a tenant pays their rent by cheque, which is later dishonoured, FACS Housing will place the dishonour fees on the tenant’s miscellaneous account.

FACS Housing will add charges to this account as they become due.

Combined former debt

Where a current tenant has had a previous tenancy with FACS Housing, it will transfer all outstanding debts from the tenant’s former accounts (including rent, repairs, water and miscellaneous) to a combined former debt account.

Advising tenants of charges

FACS Housing will:

  • Advise tenants in writing of any tenancy charges it places on their accounts
  • Advise tenants in writing of any changes to their tenancy charges
  • Issue a statement to tenants every three months. This statement outlines the charges, and payments made, on all of the tenant’s accounts.

Payment of tenancy charges

FACS Housing expects tenants to arrange for prompt payment of their tenancy charges. As FACS Housing charges rent and water usage on a weekly basis, tenants must pay these charges on or before the due date.

Tenants can pay their tenancy charges by any of the following methods:

  • Arranging an automatic payment from their Centrelink payments (Rent Deduction Scheme)
  • BPAY ®
  • ePay
  • Arranging an automatic payment from their bank, building society or credit union account (direct debit)
  • A one-off payment option at Australia Post and Services NSW is available for new tenants to make their advance rent payment.

Rent Deduction Scheme

Tenants and other household members who receive a pension or allowance from Centrelink can arrange to have their tenancy charges paid automatically. Tenants will need to complete an Authority for rent deduction form to authorise automatic payments.

Where FACS Housing changes the amount of rent, water usage and/or rental bond instalment payable (where a bond applies), it will tell Centrelink to debit the new amount.

BPAY

All banks provide BPAY and tenants will need to sign up to financial institution internet or phone banking before they proceed. The biller code for FACS Housing is 334292. The reference number is the payment reference number of the account the client is paying.

If tenants need to pay a number of accounts, such as rent, water usage and rent arrears (by agreement), they will need a payment reference number to make the payment.

Through BPAY, tenants can set up periodic payments, such as weekly or fortnightly rent.

If a tenant disputes a BPAY payment, they will need to contact their financial institution to resolve the matter.

ePay

Tenants can pay online through the FACS Housing website. By selecting the ‘MyHousing Online Service’ button, then ‘Make a payment’, tenants will be taken to a secure website facility where they can allocate specific payments for each account. Tenants can make payments using their rent payment reference number and can pay using any type of bank or credit union account.

If a tenant disputes an Online Services payment, for example, if they have paid their rent but the payment does not appear on their rent account, they need to contact their Client Service Officer.

Direct debit

FACS Housing can accept direct debits from most financial institutions. Tenants can make payments from any account, provided the account holder authorises the payment from that account. FACS Housing will only debit payments from a tenant’s financial institution account on Thursdays.

When FACS Housing changes the amount of rent, water usage and/or rental bond instalment payable (where a bond applies), it will tell the financial institution to debit the new amount.

However, there are some issues to note with this payment option. Some financial institutions may charge a fee for this service and if a tenant does not have enough money in their account to cover a direct debit payment, the financial institution may charge them a dishonour fee. It may also charge FACS Housing a dishonour fee, which FACS Housing will pass on to the tenant.

FACS Housing may not agree to a tenant paying by direct debit if they have a poor payment history using this payment option.

Changing payment methods

Tenants can change their payment method at any time, provided they ensure that they pay their tenancy charges on time.

Difficulty in making payments

Tenants must notify FACS Housing immediately if they are unable to make payments. Where a tenant is having difficulty paying their tenancy charges, FACS Housing will work with and support that tenant towards resolving their difficulty.

For more information, see the Account Management Policy.

4. Legislation and compliance

FACS Housing is able to apply tenancy charges in accordance with the provisions of the Residential Tenancies Act 2010.

5. Further information

Appeals and review of decisions

If a tenant disagrees with a decision FACS Housing has made, they should first discuss their concerns with a Client Service Officer. The next step, if they still believe FACS Housing made the wrong decision, is to ask for a formal review of the decision. For information on how reviews work, the tenant can ask the Client Service Officer for a copy of the factsheet Appeals and Reviewing Decisions, or read the Client Service Delivery and Appeals Policy.

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