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 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.