Monday, April 7, 2014

Public housing amnesty: undisclosed income and assets

Minister Goward has declared an amnesty for public housing tenants who have not correctly disclosed their incomes and assets to Housing NSW.

 The amnesty factsheet states:
Tenants who declare undisclosed income or financial assets:
  • will not be charged back rent
  • will not be evicted due to information provided under the amnesty
  • will not be prosecuted.
If Housing NSW does not have the right information about your income or assets, we encourage you to consider updating your details with Housing NSW and getting the protection of the amnesty. Seek advice from your local Tenants Advice and Advocacy Service if you've any concerns.

Note that the amnesty documents make special mention of real property assets. The factsheet states (emphasis added):
Head tenants and/or spouses who are found to own or part-own property which makes them ineligible for housing assistance under public housing policy:
  • will not be charged back rent
  • will be charged full market rent from date of declaration
  • will be required to surrender their tenancy at a time that is agreed.
This 'requirement' to surrender the tenancy is not consistent with current Housing NSW policy.

Under current policy, owning a property will, in most circumstances, make you ineligible to get into social housing – but if you're already in social housing, coming into property ownership does not mean you have to surrender your tenancy.

If you're a public housing tenant who has come into property ownership, you will in most circumstances be ineligible for a rental rebate (so you'll pay market rent).

Also, if you're under a two-, five- or 10-year fixed term public housing agreement and own property at the end-of-fixed-term review, you will in most circumstances be ineligible to continue in public housing and you can expect to get an ineligibility termination notice – at that time.
But if you're on a continuing public housing agreement (from before 1 July 2005), or are just part-way into a fixed term agreement, you cannot be given an ineligibility termination notice, and there's no provision in Housing NSW's policies about 'During a Tenancy' or 'Ending a Tenancy' for otherwise terminating your tenancy because of property ownership.

If you or your spouse own an interest in property and you live in public housing, seek advice from your local TAAS.

The amnesty runs 7 April to 31 May 2014.

UPDATE: Housing NSW has just this afternoon amended its 'Ending a Tenancy' policy to state that it may 'ask' a tenant to vacate their home where 'the tenant is on a continuous lease and they or their partner/spouse owns a property that they could live in or sell.' (Housing NSW has confirmed that the policy said something different this morning.) No further details are given. 

We'll consider this change to policy in a future post. It should go without saying that on-the-run changes to policies undermine the trust on which amnesties depend. 


  1. What is the date of the UPDATE above?

    1. Hi Anonymous, the update was added within a day of the full post being published - so April 7th or 8th 2014.


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