Social housing to automatically deduct rent

THE Australian Government may soon enable state and territory housing authorities to deduct rent and other payments from tenants’ Centrelink payments.

The Social Services Legislation Amendment (Housing Affordability) Bill 2017 is currently before the House of Representatives.

The Bill introduces the framework for a new Automatic Rent Deduction Scheme (ARDS) that enables rent, utilities, rental arrears and amounts for damages to be deducted from the income support payments of social housing tenants automatically.

There is already a voluntary Rent Deduction Scheme in place, which gives social housing tenants the choice of having their rent and other charges deducted from their payments.

ARDS, the new compulsory rent deduction scheme, makes sense if applied to people who fail to pay their rent. ARDS will help prevent homelessness.

In NSW, the vast majority of social housing tenants will not be affected, as only tenants with poor rent payment histories will be signed up to ARDS.

ARDS is not without drawbacks. For example, there is the complication of responsibility for repair costs. If providers can automatically deduct repair bills this may make it even more difficult for vulnerable tenants to dispute those bills.

Another example is where a provider might deduct a large outstanding rental obligation in a way that leaves the tenant destitute.

For people living on a limited income, unexpected costs related to illness, bills or fines can throw finances into disarray. In times of emergency, people may need flexibility to manage competing financial priorities.  It remains to be seen how ARDS will accommodate these issues.

Let CPSA know what you think of ARDS.