This information is a guide and should not be used as a substitute for professional legal advice.

Published: April 2022

Rents for public housing

Rents are set at the market rate, but many public housing residents receive a rebate, calculated every 6 months on the assessable income of the household. All public renters are eligible to apply for rebated rent

Rents and service charges

Under Victorian rental laws, rent is defined as ‘the amount paid to a rental provider (landlord) by a renter to occupy rented premises and use facilities and services’ [section 3].

For public housing properties the rental provider is Homes Victoria (also known as the Director of Housing), a division of the Department of Families, Fairness and Housing. For services such as water, central heating, laundry and utility services or facilities, Homes Victoria is allowed to ask for a service charge in addition to the rent to cover these costs, provided the charge does not exceed the costs for the services [section 57].

Note that on this page sections in brackets, such as [section 3], refer to sections in Victoria’s Residential Tenancies Act 1997. See the Resources section at the bottom of this page for links to the laws.

Market rent and rebated rent

In public housing, the rent is either market rent or rebated rent.

Market rent is what the property would rent for in the private market. Market rents are set by an independent valuer.

Many public housing renters pay rebated rent. They receive a rental rebate, which reduces the market rent to make the rent more affordable [section 3].

Rebated rent or your ‘weekly payment amount’ is the rent you actually pay after the rebate is taken off the market rent.

Also see the HousingVic website for more information about rents, including ways to pay rent and utility charges.

Applying for a rebate

You need to apply to find out if you are eligible for a rental rebate. All public housing renters are entitled to apply.

If you are eligible for a rebate, your rent may be reduced from the market rent to 25% of your household’s income.

If you do not apply, or you are not eligible for a rebate, you will be charged the market rent.

In the application you need to provide details of everyone living in your household, including details of their income and assets, along with documents that support the information you include in your application.

You can find the application form and a guide to completing the application on Housing Victoria’s website.

Calculating rebated rent

Rebated rent is calculated as a proportion of the total household income based on the income of all members in the household.

To determine the rebated rent, the household’s income is divided into assessable and non-assessable income. Only assessable income is considered in determining eligibility for a rebate.

Assessable income includes:

  • Primary income – such as wages, salaries, pensions, benefits, allowances, superannuation, lump sum payments, interest from savings or income from investments
  • Family-related payments – such as Family Tax Benefits paid by Centrelink and child maintenance paid by either a Child Support Agency or a non-custodial parent

Non-assessable income includes:

  • Carer’s allowances
  • Pharmaceutical or mobility allowances

Rebated rent is calculated as 25% of the household’s primary income plus 15% of any family-related payments.

Rent assessments

Assessment time frames

In public housing market rents are assessed once a year, in August.

Rebated rents are assessed every 6 months, in February and August.

Rebated rent assessments

If you have been given a rental rebate your rebated rent will be set for a fixed period of up to 26 weeks and will stay the same between assessment dates, even if your household income goes up between assessments.

However, if your household income goes down between assessments, you can apply to reduce your rent payments immediately.

Each time your rebated rent is assessed, you will receive a letter from Homes Victoria asking you to confirm the household income.

Check this letter carefully. Make sure that all the details are up to date and correct. If the income details are not correct contact your local housing office as soon as possible to have the details corrected.

You may be required to attend your local housing office to provide confirmation and evidence of your income for each assessment.

It is important that you respond to any request from Homes Victoria to confirm your household income details. If it does not receive confirmation of this income, you may have your rebate withdrawn, owe overdue rent and end up being evicted.

Income information from Centrelink

If you receive income from Centrelink, you can sign up for an income confirmation service. This means that your income information goes directly from Centrelink to Homes Victoria. Each time your pension or benefit changes that information is passed on to Homes Victoria to ensure that they have the correct income details for the next rebated rent assessment.

If you disagree with a rent rebate assessment

Different government policies and procedures affect how income is treated and how your rebated rent is calculated.

If you do not think Homes Victoria has calculated your rebated rent correctly, or applied their policy and procedures properly, you can contact us on our Social Housing Tenants number, 1800 068 860.

You can also contact your local Tenancy Plus provider. Tenancy Plus providers support renters in public housing.

You should also try to resolve the issue with your local housing office. If you reach an agreement with the local housing office, you should ask them to confirm the agreement in writing for you.

If you cannot resolve the issue with your local housing office, you can make a formal complaint to the Department of Families, Fairness and Housing. You can also appeal to have a decision reviewed.

The links below connect to government information on making a formal complaint and on appealing against a decision to do with public housing.

Rent increases

Market rents

Market rents for public housing properties are assessed once a year, in August.

If Homes Victoria wants to increase the market rent, it must give you, in writing, at least 60 days’ notice of the proposed increase. Consumer Affairs Victoria’s official ‘Notice of proposed rent increase’ form must be used. The notice must include:

  • The amount of the proposed increase
  • The method by which the increase was calculated
  • Details about your right to apply to Consumer Affairs Victoria to have the proposed increase assessed if you think it is excessive [section 44]

The notice can only be for one rent increase [section 44].

Official rent increase notice form

Challenging a proposed rent increase

If you think the proposed market rent increase is too high, you can apply to Consumer Affairs Victoria to challenge it. This is a free service.

Your application must be made in writing within 30 days of receiving the notice [section 45].

For more information see our page Rent increases.

Rental rebate challenges

Even if you are receiving a rebate to the market rent, if you think the proposed increase to the market rate is too high you should challenge it. If your eligibility for a rental rebate later changes you could end up having to pay the market rate. It may be too late by then for you to challenge the increase.

Rent rise due to changed rental rebate

If your rental rebate changes and this affects the amount of rent you need to pay, such as starting to pay the market rate if your rebate is cancelled, this is not considered to be a rent increase under the law. A 60-day notice of proposed rent increase is not required [section 44].

Rent subsidies

In addition to a rental rebate, you may be eligible for a rent subsidy under some circumstances, such as:

  • The property has been damaged by fire or flooding
  • The property is being upgraded while you are still living there
  • You are under 18 or over 100
  • You are temporarily away from your home in certain special circumstances, such as experiencing family violence, being on remand or incarcerated, or temporarily living in a nursing home, respite care, or a psychiatric, physical, drug or alcohol rehabilitation treatment centre
  • You have a migrant sponsorship agreement
  • You have a temporary or bridging visa and are not receiving a Centrelink income

Find more information on available rent subsidies and the requirements for obtaining a subsidy in the Department of Families, Fairness and Housing’s ‘Rent setting and rebate operational guideline overview’.

If you think you may be entitled to a rent subsidy, contact your local housing office.

Resources

Related pages

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