Rent arrears assistance: everything you need to know


If you're having trouble paying your rent, you should seek some financial counselling and emergency assistance as quickly as possible. Rent arrears are known as a priority debt, meaning the consequences for not paying are severe - without making a payment, you could be at risk of homelessness.

If you're struggling to pay, don't panic; various rental assistance schemes are available in Australia to help you form effective strategic plans to deal with this.

Let's get to the following commonly asked questions:

  • How does a crisis loan work?¬†
  • What can I get a crisis loan for?¬†
  • Where can I get a crisis loan?
  • How do you qualify for a crisis loan?¬†
  • Can Centrelink help me with rent arrears?
  • How do I clear my rent arrears?
  • How can I get help with my rent in NSW?
  • Where can I get help with rent arrears in NSW?

How does a crisis loan work? 

A crisis loan is a one-off payment made by the Australian government for people in need of emergency relief. People that have experienced extreme, unforeseen circumstances and have been placed in financial difficulty, struggling to pay their rent and at risk of homelessness. This government assistance payment is non-taxable. 

Types of crisis payment include: 

  • Payment for a national health emergency¬†
  • Payment for extreme domestic and family violence¬†
  • Payment for other unforeseen circumstances¬†
  • Payment for humanitarian entrants¬†
  • Payment for release from prison or a psychiatric facility

What can I get a crisis loan for? 

To be eligible, you need to meet one of these three factors: 

  • Be in severe financial difficulty¬†
  • Be eligible for an income support payment¬†
  • Be experiencing extreme circumstances¬†

Where can I get a crisis loan?

The Australian government only offers a crisis loan under specific circumstances. If you want to apply, visit YouGov for more information. If you don't qualify for government benefits but need rent assistance, call the National Debt Helpline for financial counselling and tenancy assistance. It’s important to act fast when you are in need of emergency accommodation.


How do you qualify for a crisis loan? 

To qualify for a crisis loan, your situation needs to fit one of the following criteria: 

  • You've experienced domestic or family violence¬†
  • You've been forced to leave your home due to a natural disaster
  • You've just arrived in Australia as a Humanitarian Entrant¬†
  • You were recently released from prison or a psychiatric facility

If none of these circumstances apply to you, then don't worry. The government offers other types of help, including rent assistance.

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Can Centrelink help me with rent arrears?

Centrelink offers some assistance for these issues; however, you must get another Centrelink payment to be eligible. 

You're eligible if you receive the following: 

  • JobSeeker payment¬†
  • Austudy¬†
  • Age pension¬†
  • Youth Allowance¬†
  • ABSTUDY living allowance¬†
  • Partner or widow allowance
  • Special benefit

If this applies to you, then here's how to apply for help: 

Update your address information on MyGov. There's no form to apply for a crisis loan for rent arrears. Simply update your housing information on MyGov. If you're eligible for tenancy assistance, you'll be contacted automatically. You'll need to provide proof of your rent agreement during this process. 

How do I clear my rent arrears?

Contact your landlord to discuss a repayment plan to help clear this up for you. 

This often involves paying extra money on top of your weekly rent until the debt is paid in full. Your rental provider will be more likely to agree to a repayment plan rather than seeking immediate eviction since they'll want to collect the money they owe. 

Before proposing a repayment plan, calculate how much you can afford to pay back. You're likely in this position because of previous financial hardship, so set realistic goals. 

If your landlord becomes aggressive or demands unattainable repayments, you're protected by rental laws. If you feel uncomfortable, consult a tenants union to establish the next steps. 

Related: How to Pay Off Debt Faster

How can I get help with my rent in NSW?

To be applicable for government assistance, you'll need to be paying either: 

  • Rent¬†
  • Board or lodging¬†
  • Retirement village fees¬†
  • Mooring/site fees if living in a caravan or boat

Rental choice

NSW currently offers tenants help in finding affordable housing and paying for a rental. You can receive private rental assistance for up to three years, and your eligibility depends on the location you want to rent, your household income, and your circumstances. 

You could receive rent choice if: 

  • You need to move out of an unsafe living situation or condition, for example, family violence.¬†
  • You're aged between 16 and 24.
  • You're a veteran of the Australian Defence Force.
  • You've recently experienced financial hardship through unforeseen circumstances, like losing a job or a long-term illness.¬†

Where can I get help in NSW?

The Department of Communities and Justice (DCJ) can provide crisis rent assistance if you're in a private rental and are faced with overdue rent. They can help private renters by paying urgent rent costs and continue supporting individuals paying the rent with regular payments. Make sure to check your eligibility before applying. 

Do I have to pay back rent arrears?

The short answer is yes. You will have to pay this back, but only if your landlord has made a claim about missed rental payments from up to six years after the date the payment should've been made. After this time, you're under no obligation to pay the landlord back.

Important: If you’re looking to find out how much your current repayments are, or estimate future or ongoing costs, then head on over to the calculator section, which has calculators for home repayments, loan comparison, and personal loans.

Summing up

If you're struggling to pay your rent, don't panic. Australian residents have access to a relief grant depending on their individual situation. If you're still unsure of what to do, consult with financial counsellors, or call the national debt hotline to make strategic plans using detailed advice.

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Disclaimer: The author is not a financial advisor and the information provided is general in nature and was prepared for information purposes only. This article should not be considered to constitute financial advice. Accordingly, reliance should not be placed on this article as the basis for making an investment, financial or other decision. This information does not take into account your investment objectives, particular needs or financial situation.

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