Rent Allowance Benefits and Responsibilities

Table of Contents


Introduction

This guide is designed to explain your Rent Allowance (RA) entitlements, the administrative processes that support RA and your responsibilities as a recipient of RA. You should not sign any leasing documentation for a rental residence until you have read these guidelines. For enquiries regarding your entitlements, please contact DHA on 139 342 or email housing@dha.gov.au.

What is Rent Allowance?

Rent Allowance (RA) subsidises the cost of renting a property in the private rental market and is available to ADF members who are deemed eligible in the Defence Pay and Conditions Manual (PACMAN), Chapter 7. DHA recommends ADF members familiarise themselves with these guidelines and seek formal confirmation from DHA on their eligibility for RA before committing to a rental property.

Members in receipt of RA are paid a fortnightly subsidy through the Defence pay system. Members are responsible for finding a suitable rental property, entering into the lease with the landlord/agent and paying bond and rent in accordance with the requirements of the lease.

The amount of RA paid is based on many conditions, including:

  • your rank
  • property rent
  • number of sharing occupants
  • your categorisation, and
  • your posting locality.

Who is eligible for Rent Allowance (RA)

You may be able to receive RA in the following circumstances if:

  • You or your dependants do not own a home in the posting location or proximate region or a home has been assessed as unsuitable by DHA.

Exception: Members categorised Members with Dependants Unaccompanied (MWD(U)) do not have to occupy an own home.

  • You are categorised Member with Dependants (MWD) and DHA has approved RA
  • You are categorised Member without Dependant (MWOD) and are not required to occupy Living In Accommodation (LIA)

PACMAN directs that certain members may be required to live on base. To live off-base members usually require permission from their Commanding Officer/Officer Commanding before securing a rental property.

Some items to be mindful of when applying for RA:

  • If you are MWD(U) or a MWOD submariner, your benefit also includes food allowance
  • MWD(U) members and MWOD submariners are also eligible to claim reimbursement of certain utility costs
  • You must hand back any currently occupied LIA.
  • If you are MWOD and you are deploying on operation or at field or exercise you may not be required to pay the Defence member contribution.
  • If you are MWD your RA must be approved by DHA even if you are currently in a rental property and moving in locality. Approval is usually dependant on the availability of suitable Service Residences (SR).

If you change categorisation to MWD whilst in receipt of RA, you may elect to occupy a SR. Contact DHA on 139 342 or email housing@dha.gov.au to view available properties.

How is Rent Allowance calculated?

The following formula is outlined in PACMAN:

“Rent less Contribution”

‘Rent’ is defined as the lesser of your:

  1. share of the Property Rent, or
  2. applicable ‘RA Rent Ceiling’, as determined by Defence.

‘Contribution’ is defined as the applicable ‘member contribution’ determined by Defence.

The RA Rent Ceiling and Contribution rates applicable to the calculation are determined by Defence and reviewed annually.

DHA provides an RA calculator to allow you to establish what your potential allowance might be so as to decide on which property to rent.

What is the RA Rent Ceiling?

The RA Rent Ceiling is a defined financial limit which is based on the market rents for each posting locality i.e. each posting location is likely to be different. It is expected that you should rent a property within this limit. Note: In some circumstances a posting locality may not have rates determined or a posting within locality may impact which rates apply.

If you wish to find out about the Rent Ceiling applicable to you, we suggest using our RA Calculator.

Note: If your property has a rent greater than your RA Rent Ceiling you are responsible to pay the excess.

The Rent Ceiling rates are reviewed annually by Defence to keep pace with changes in the market. If you are in receipt of RA during a rate review your RA calculation will be adjusted automatically.

Reduced Ceilings - If Defence reviewed Rent Ceiling reduce whilst you are in receipt of RA, the higher Rent Ceiling rate will continue to apply to you for the period of your lease.

MWD categorised members can elect to have both a reduced Rent Ceiling and Member Contribution apply to their RA calculation. This may be of benefit to you if your property rent is much lower than your applicable RA Rent Ceiling. Contact DHA on 139 342 or email housing@dha.gov.au to discuss.

Increased Ceilings – DHA can approve an increase to your Rent Ceiling in limited circumstances which are defined within PACMAN. Please refer to this policy to ascertain if your circumstances relate before applying. To apply for an increase, complete the Ceiling Increase form, you may also need to supply other supporting documentation.

What is the Member Contribution?

Defence determine that members are required to contribute towards their housing, the Member Contribution rates are based on:

  • your rank
  • your categorisation
  • the number of Defence members and/or civilians sharing a residence (including children)

MWD(U) categorised members are not required to pay the Defence ‘Member Contribution’.

Where your spouse is also a serving member the RA benefit and only one contribution is payable based on the senior rank.

There are other circumstances where a nil Member Contribution may apply during the tenancy – refer to step 5 for details.

The Rent Allowance (RA) process lifecycle

  1. RA must be approved by DHA before securing a rental property even if currently residing in an approved RA property in your posting locality.
  2. Search and apply for a rental property in the private market
  3. Submit your RA application and supporting documents to DHA via Online Services
  4. DHA will arrange for your RA to commence in your pay
  5. During the period of your tenancy you are required to complete the RA Review each year, advise changes to personal circumstances or operational activity and apply for reimbursements.
  6. Notify DHA when you plan on vacating.

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Step 1 - Ask DHA to confirm your RA eligibility before securing a rental property

How do I check if I can get RA?

Access DHA Online Services and use the ‘Apply for RA’ menu option.

  • If you or your dependants own a property in your posting location or proximate region an assessment of the property ownership must be undertaken as part of determining eligibility to RA. If you own a property please contact DHA on 139 342 or email housing@dha.gov.au before applying for RA.
  • If you are categorised MWOD/MWD(U), you should inform and seek approval from your Commanding Officer/Officer Commanding in your direct chain of command to live off base. Where you are able to live off base you will need to vacate any currently occupied Living-in Accommodation.
  • If you are categorised MWD your ability to apply for RA will be activated by DHA on approval within DHA Online Services, you will receive an email to confirm this approval.
  • If you are categorised MWD you can apply for RA for your family in your enlistment location.

Scenarios

Details

What do I do next?

MWD

I have been evicted out of my current RA property

Contact Toll Transitions first to discuss your removal benefit.

Availability of Service Residences will determine a continued RA benefit. It is important you do not secure another rental property.

Contact DHA on 139 342 or email housing@dha.gov.au to discuss eviction timelines and any ongoing RA benefit.

MWD

I am posting to a new location
Contact Toll Transitions first to discuss your removal benefit. Access DHA Online Services and activate your Preview Access to view available SR options.

MWOD to MWD

I’m currently in receipt of RA and I changed my categorisation to MWD

You will continue to receive RA for your current property however; the rates are different.

You now have the option to occupy a Service Residence; there are many benefits to the occupation of an SR.

Additionally; it is important you do not secure another rental property without DHA approval.

Access DHA Online Services to indicate your categorisation change – you can load your categorisation form online.

Contact DHA on 139 342 or email housing@dha.gov.au to discuss occupying a Service Residence.

All Members

I’m posting to a new base in the same region, I want to remain in my current rental property.

You may need to seek approval to live outside your posting locality from your CO/OC.

Whilst you have a continued benefit to RA you need to let DHA know  because the lower ceiling of the two posting locations will apply the date your new posting commences.

Access DHA Online Services to indicate a change to your work unit/base.

You may also wish to use the RA Calculator to determine if the decision to remain in your old posting locality is the best option for you or your family.

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Step 2 - Search and secure a rental property in the private market

I’m not familiar with the rental location, can DHA help me?

Finding a rental property can be challenging, especially if you are not familiar with the location. To support you, DHA has Location Spotlights that provide some local information.

If you are a family with special needs in consideration, the Defence Special Needs Support Group (DSNSG) can also provide support, information and assistance.

Living outside my posting locality, posted within locality, Enlistment or Remote locality

RA is usually only payable within your posting locality, if in doubt the posting locality is defined in PACMAN or contact DHA.  Written permission from your Commanding Officer/Officer Commanding will be required to secure RA outside your posting locality.

This permission is also required if you are in receipt of RA and have recently posted to a new base in the same region but; in a different posting locality and wish to remain in receipt of RA in your current rental property. As your RA Rent Ceiling may be impacted DHA need to assess your continued RA benefit and applicable rates. Your new work unit and base can be updated via DHA Online Services.

A Remote locality for RA calculation purposes is defined as a locality that does not have Rent Ceiling rates determined by Defence. You may be posted to a ‘remote locality’ or your family may reside in a remote ‘enlisted locality’ or a remote ‘Personal locality’ for which you have housing benefits approved. If you believe you may fit any of these scenarios contact DHA on 139 342 or email housing@dha.gov.au to discuss. In these circumstances you would need to provide a Property Search form to housing@dha.gov.au as part of your application to enable DHA to determine your RA Rent Ceiling.

Paying the Bond and or Rent in Advance Payments.

Where you need to pay a bond, utility connection deposit and/or rent in advance to the landlord/agent, you are able to claim an advance for these costs from Defence of the amount(s) required (within limits).

This advance is the equivalent of an interest-free loan from Defence which you have to repay fortnightly over the term of your lease to a maximum of 26 fortnights.

Within 14 days of entering into a lease you need to provide DHA with receipts proving the payments as you can only receive advance(s) for the purpose intended. Any unused advance full or part will be recovered in full from your pay.

Once DHA has approved your RA entitlement, you can apply for advances and upload receipts via logging onto your DHA Online Services account.

Some other points to be aware of:

  • You can apply for a bond advance for the total amount due or part thereof.
  • You can apply for a rent advance of up to four weeks (limited to your approved Rent Ceiling).
  • You can apply for a utility advance for the cost of connection fees.
  • You need to make arrangements with Defence 1800 DEFENCE – (1800 333 3623) to repay any outstanding advance(s) if you vacate your rental property early.

Lease Letting Fees and Stamp Duty Fees

When leasing a rental property the lease letting and stamp duty fees can be reimbursed including on renewal of a lease. A receipt is required to process this reimbursement and can be provided to DHA via housing@dha.gov.au.

Arrangements for the payment of water usage, post box, gardening charges and/or other domestic charges in rental properties vary. As with any legal document, you should carefully read and familiarise yourself with your responsibilities and liabilities in regards to these types of charges before signing the lease. If required to pay for these charges they should be clearly stated in the lease and you should be aware of the payment requirement/s when signing the document. Defence does not provide any subsidised support or reimbursement for these elements.

Rent paid prior to moving in

RA is paid from the date of occupancy, if you paid rent prior to moving in, a period of this may be reimbursed (limited to your Rent Ceiling).

Eligibility is assessed by DHA and applies where your housing has been a result of a Commonwealth funded relocation and costs savings to Defence are able to be determined.

Uploading your Initial Rent Receipt that shows the rent paid prior to occupancy, whilst completing your RA Application in DHA Online Services will trigger the DHA assessment.

Furniture Hire

Where your share of Property Rent is less than your RA Rent Ceiling and you are an MWOD or MWD(U), your RA calculation may include the hire of essential items of furniture.

You should be aware that:

  • this provision is to hire furniture only and cannot to be used to purchase furniture i.e. no rent-try-buy schemes.
  • the items that can be hired are limited and are listed in PACMAN Chapter 7.

Application for this allowance may be made via your DHA Online Services account when applying for RA or at a later date by using the ‘Update Details’ button.

Boarding

Depending on how you ‘board’ determines how your RA is calculated, the Rent Ceiling and Member contribution rates applicable if you:

  • live in a boarding house, will be the rate applicable for a member sharing with two or more persons.
  • board with relatives, friends or others, will be the rate applicable for the number of people sharing the accommodation.

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Step 3 - Applying for RA

How do I apply for Rent Allowance?

On the DHA website log onto your DHA Online Services account and use the ‘Apply for RA’ menu option, documents to support your application can be uploaded online (refer to details about these below) – noting if you do not yet have all your documents you can come back later to load these or complete your application.

Members categorised MWD approved for RA will have received an email confirming eligibility therefore; your application will already be activated and you only need to use the ‘continue’ option.

Online Services provides support for a forgotten password else; contact DHA on 139 342 or housing@dha.gov.au.

Which documents do I need to provide when applying for RA?

You need to supply documentation to support your claim within 14 days of submitting your RA application, they will differ depending on your situation. Refer to the table below as a guide:

Form/Document

Details

Lease

Requires evidence of the tenancy start and end dates, the property address, rental amount, the occupants and signatures to support payment of RA. A lease can be substituted with the Owner / Member Statement.

Initial Rent receipt

Requires evidence of the rent amount, the period of payment and the property address to support the RA and any advance payment.

Bond/Utilities receipt

Requires evidence of amount paid to support any advance payment.

Release clause

Suggested to be included as part of your tenancy agreement to advise your landlord/agent of the nature of your employment with an aim to reduce any costs associated with breaking a lease due to Service reasons.

Note: Service reasons do not include own home purchase or discharge.

Ceiling increase request

Where applicable; provides the details of your request including your property search.

Property search form

When posting to a remote locality; provides evidence of properties available to you.

MWD(U) Categorisation (AD291)

Defence form which advises MWD(U) categorisation has been approved.

Minute – approval to live outside locality

Requires signature by MAJ(E) or above approving the address secured outside the posting locality.

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Step 4 - DHA will arrange for your RA to commence in your pay

How is Rent Allowance paid to me?

RA is paid fortnightly to you via your normal pay and cannot be paid directly to a landlord/agent. As with other allowances it is paid in arrears. This means that the payment that you receive each pay day is for the previous two weeks.

It is important to note that there can be a time lag of two to six weeks from the date your application is submitted to DHA to when you first receive payments or amendments to your pay. By ensuring that you provide all supporting documentation as soon as possible enables DHA to process and for the RA to be paid.

If you have any questions about when Defence will process your allowance or you want to discuss any debt repayment opportunities, you can contact the Defence Call Centre on 1800 DEFENCE – (1800 333 3623).

RA will be paid from the date you occupied/enlisted or changed categorisation or as determined by PACMAN.

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Step 5 - Notify DHA of any changes to your circumstances

What are your responsibilities?

Whilst in receipt of subsidised housing benefits you are required to advise DHA of any changes to your domestic circumstances as soon as practicably possible after the change has occurred.

You can log on to your DHA Online Services Account to inform of most changes and submit any relevant documentation. If the option does not exist or you are unsure contact DHA via 139 342 or housing@dha.gov.au.

Supporting documentation may be required and must be submitted within 14 days of notifying of a change. This will ensure that any assessment of your housing benefit or adjustment to your RA can be completed in a timely manner to ensure any debt is avoided or limited.

What happens if there is a change in your domestic circumstances?

Your ‘domestic circumstances’ are the grounds by which RA benefits and calculations are determined.

Examples of changes include but are not limited to:

  • marriage
  • a partner is approved by Defence
  • birth of or a child is no longer a recognised dependant
  • rent change
  • separation from spouse or partner
  • change of sharing occupants
  • a change in rank
  • purchase of own home
  • moving house within locality
  • operational conditions i.e. deployment or going to sea/field
  • promotion/demotion of rank
  • changing your unit or base – refer to information below
  • taking a period of Leave Without Pay
  • undertaking a flexible work arrangement outside of your posting location
  • MWD(U) member returns to the personal (ie - family) location for an extended period

If there is a change to your categorisation to MWD and you are currently in receipt of a type of MWOD/MWD(U) RA, you will be given visibility of available Services residences that you can occupy.

If you have recently posted to a new base in the same region and wish to remain in your current rental property you will need to provide written permission from your Commanding Officer/Officer in Commanding to live outside your posting locality; your RA Rent Ceiling may be affected by this decision.

Annual Rent Allowance Review

When in receipt of RA you may be reviewed once or more during your tenancy as outlined in the Defence Pay and Conditions Manual. DHA, on behalf of Defence, conducts an annual Rent Allowance Review (RA).

DHA will notify you once the review has commenced and you can log onto your DHA Online Services Account to complete the review and upload a current rent receipt.

If your unit confirms that you are absent at the time of the review, it will be delayed until your return. If you fail to provide relevant information in the advised timeframe, your allowance will be suspended and you will be asked to show cause for it to recommence.

Which documents may need to be provide whilst in my RA property?

Supporting documentation is required to be submitted within 14 days of any change to domestic circumstance.

Form/Document

Purpose of the form

Other detail

Lease

To determine the tenancy start and end dates, the property address, rental amount and the occupants.

Required when a new lease has been signed whilst occupying the same rental property. If the rental property does not involve a lease, use the Owner/ Member Statement. Submit via DHA Online Services

Rent receipt

To confirm the rent amount and the period of payment for the approved rental property.

Current – for any rent change or during the annual RA Review. Submit via DHA Online Services

Change of categorisation

To notify DHA of any change to categorisation so DHA can adjust your current RA or entitlement accordingly.

Submit notification via DHA Online Services within 14 days of the change to reduce any possible debt being incurred.

Change of Sharing Occupants

To notify DHA of any change to sharing occupants so DHA can adjust your current RA or entitlement accordingly.

Submit notification via DHA Online Services within 14 days of the change to reduce any possible debt being incurred.

Visitor notification form

To advise when you have a visitor come to stay for a period greater than five weeks

In case the visitor affects your RA calculation.

Deployment housing retention form

To advise DHA and Defence that you intend to maintain your current subsidised housing whilst deployed

MWOD and MWD(U) only. It confirms and authorises the deployed status to allow adjustment of your RA benefit accordingly. This form is available on the DRN.

Utility reimbursement during occupation

MWD(U) and submariner MWOD can claim the ongoing costs associated with utilities (including administration, processing fees and or GST) up to the benefit maximum outlined in PACMAN.

Please provide a copy of the paid utilities bill(s) to DHA via housing@dha.gov.au to enable your claim to be processed.

The following details are relevant to this benefit:

Document/Item

Details

Paid Utility Bill

This document(s) could include a screen shot of your transaction history from an online utility provider account, a receipt of payment for a previous bill on a current invoice or an image capture of the BPAY payment from online banking.

This document could be more than one for multiple providers i.e. gas/water/electricity.

The document(s) must provide evidence of your name, address, billing period and a list of all charges.

Green Energy, Late fees or refundable deposits

Cannot be reimbursed

Are there any circumstances where I am not required to pay the Member Contribution?

Under the following circumstances, a MWOD may not be required to pay rent contributions:

  • on and from the 22nd day of a period in which the member has been living under field conditions or on a seagoing ship, even if the period after that day is broken by a return of up to seven days to his or her accommodation
  • if posted to a seagoing submarine, or
  • if absent from Australia on a deployment (as outlined in PACMAN).

If you are deployed, or at sea or living under field conditions for a period greater than 22 days, your contribution will be ceased automatically through Defence Pay.  You are no longer required to notify DHA of this occurrence.

As soon as Members Without Dependants (MWOD) and Members with Dependants (Unaccompanied) learn they are deploying they need to consider if they intend to retain their accommodation. If deploying for six months or longer; they should contact Toll Transitions on 1800 819 167 where not retaining accommodation to discuss a storage entitlement.

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Step 6 - Notify DHA when you are planning on vacating

How is Rent Allowance ceased in my pay?

When you are moving out of your rental property or when you are no longer entitled to receive a subsidised housing benefit your RA needs to cease. As soon as you know you are going to vacate you should inform your landlord/agent to avoid/reduce any potential break lease costs.

If you are relocating out of your posted locality with Toll Transitions you will be eligible to claim reimbursement of any rent paid after you move out in accordance with PACMAN on provision of your final rent receipt.

If moving within locality or relocating to a new posting location, please log onto your DHA Online Services Account to indicate your intention to move out and supply the vacate date, no further action is required.

Remember if you have not fully repaid your advances, you will also need to make arrangements for payment with Defence. You can contact the Defence Call Centre on 1800 DEFENCE – (1800 333 3623).

What if I pay rent after I moved out or I have to break my lease?

Where it is necessary to break the lease for Service reasons that are beyond your control and you have a legal obligation to continue paying rent after vacating the residence, you may be entitled to reimbursement (limited to your Rent Ceiling). Other administrative costs recovered from your bond such as advertising may also be reimbursed.

Every effort should be made to give the landlord maximum notice of your intention to vacate so that the residence can be re-let. Any dispute arising in relation to your bond is a matter between yourself and the agent/owner. As you are the leaseholder, neither DHA nor Defence may enter a bond disputation.

If you are purchasing a home or moving to a new residence voluntarily you cannot claim this benefit.

If you need to break your lease and wish to claim other administrative costs, contact DHA on 139 342 or housing@dha.gov.au. Rent paid after you moved out is automatically assessed and paid on provision of your final rent receipt which can be uploaded online.

What do I need to do if just moving residence in locality?

Log in to your DHA Online Services account to apply for RA and indicate your intention to move. A new application must be completed for the new property, noting if you are MWD you must first seek approval from DHA.

If you had an approved Rent Ceiling increase it will not necessarily be transferred to your new residence. If a new Rent Ceiling increase is wanted, you will need to again provide evidence that no rental properties were available within your Rent Ceiling using the Ceiling Increase form.

If you are MWD, DHA recommends that four to six weeks prior to your lease expiry that you view available Service Residences. Refer to the Service Residence information on our website for more information or contact DHA on 139 342 or housing@dha.gov.au to view available properties.

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