Friday, April 21, 2017

Public housing amnesty - income, assets and unauthorised occupants

Yes, it's amnesty time again. If you are a public housing or Aboriginal Housing Office tenant this amnesty will cover you.  The amnesty will run from 8am Monday morning (24 April) through until midnight on Sunday 11 June and covers undisclosed income and assets, as well as unauthorised occupants.



The amnesty means if you haven't yet had the chance to update FACS Housing about a change in your income or assets or to tell them that someone has moved in, you can let them know during the amnesty without worrying about having to pay back rent or facing prosecution.

FACS Housing will use the information you disclose about your household income to recalculate your rent and water payments, and you'll be expected to pay this recalculated (likely higher) rent going forward.  They won't, however, raise a debt, prosecute or take action to evict you on the basis of the rent increase.

Providing information about about someone who is living with you that FACS doesn't know about (an "unauthorised occupant") will be treated as an application to approve an additional occupant.  If approved (see FACS policy on this) your rent will be reassessed from the date you provided the new info - again not backdated. If you're trying to figure out when FACS considers someone to be an 'additional occupant' rather than a visitor, this is generally when the person has been or will be staying longer than 28 days in a row (but again see FACS policy for more information).

All public housing and Aboriginal housing tenants will receive some information directly from FACS about the amnesty encouraging them to self disclose.  But it will also be open to members of the public to call in and make 'allegations' about tenants (and unfortunately given past experience we can expect there to be a bit of 'dob your neighbour in' messaging running through mainstream media reports about the amnesty).  Where an allegation is made FACS Housing will provide a tenant with an opportunity to respond to an allegation. If the tenant accepts the allegation at that point they will be protected by the amnesty.  If they challenge the allegation they forfeit protection under the amnesty and FACS will continue to investigate following 'standard business procedures'.

If you are a public housing or AHO tenant and know that FACS has incorrect information about your household's income and assets, or you haven't yet made an application for an 'additional occupant' and someone's already moved in this might be a good opportunity to let FACS know.  Outside of an amnesty FACS Housing will normally vary or cancel a tenant's rebate, raise a debt for rent arrears (sometimes a very significant debt), and then move to terminate on the basis of that debt. So you could be saving yourself a whole lot of hassle ... and perhaps your tenancy.

Some extra detail to consider:
  • If you are a tenant of a Community Housing Provider or an Aboriginal Community Housing Provider you are not covered by the amnesty. Any information you provide, or any information provided as an allegation by someone else, will not be passed on by FACS Housing to your relevant provider. Tenants will be encouraged to contact their provider, but will not be protected from any debts or evictions by the amnesty.
  • If an investigation around income and assets, or about an unauthorised occupant has already commenced and you have received a letter informing you of this (a 'Natural Justice' letter) you will not be given any protection under the amnesty.
  • If you disclose or are found to own/part own property that makes you ineligible for housing assistance, FACS Housing states you will be "required to surrender your tenancy at a time that is agreed"
  • Only disclosures about income & assets and unauthorised occupants will come under protection during the amnesty.  FACS notes "tenants who make declarations that don't fall under the protected amnesty categories will be assessed on a case by case basis and may face prosecution".
If you are thinking about calling up during the amnesty but have any concerns or questions you should first get in touch with your local Tenants Advice and Advocacy Service for free advice.

If you have any extra questions about the amnesty, send them through ... we might be able to help answer them or ask FACS Housing to respond.

The original version of this post included information provided by FACS that any allegation or self-disclosures made about Community Housing tenants would be passed on by FACS to the provider. This information was incorrect and the post has been edited accordingly.

5 comments:

  1. One of the problems is that DOH uses the Federal Government Deeming rate to calculate the interest you may have earned on maybe just $6,000 of savings. The first $5,000 is OK, but try getting 1.7% on that extra $1,000.

    It simply isn't possible these days, unless you want to get into risky investments.

    ReplyDelete
  2. What happens if they don't approve your residents - eg I have my grandchildren but don't get any money for them, if I disclose will that open a can of worms

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Good question Anonymous. You might find this old post from a previous amnesty useful: http://tunswblog.blogspot.com.au/2013/05/why-authorise-additional-occupants.html

      Note it was written in 2013, so check the policy rather than rely on the extract in the post. Contact your local Tenants' Advice and Advocacy Service (www.tenants.org.au) for advice if required.

      Cheers,
      Ned.

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  3. Next problem what if your daughter is child is homeless and on the waiting list but I don't want their name added to the lease as I don't want her to live with me permanently and I assume if she is added to the lease they will take her off the waiting list . Can extra residents be approved but not be added to the lease - these are questions I want to ask someone without landing my self in it. Who do I ask ?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Anonymous, unless FACS believes there is a specific reason not to, there shouldn't be a problem getting your daughter recognised as an "authorised additional occupant" without having to add her to the lease (see the link to an old blog post about this, mentioned in my reply to the previous comment). This will affect the household income, and your rental subsidy might be adjusted, so make sure you update them if/when she finds her own place to move into as well.

      FACS Housing's "During a tenancy" policy says "If an authorised additional occupant wants housing in their own right, they will need to apply for it separately", suggesting that having your daughter recognised as an authorised additional occupant won't take her off the waiting list. However, it is likely to affect her level of priority, meaning it may take longer for her to get to the top of the list. (See more at: http://www.housing.nsw.gov.au/forms,-policies-and-fact-sheets/policies/during-a-tenancy-policy)

      For a more detailed discussion about this, I recommend a call to your local Tenants' Advice and Advocacy Service (www.tenants.org.au)

      Cheers,
      Ned.

      Delete

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