Real estate assets

Real estate assets include houses, units, vacant land, rural properties, holiday homes and commercial properties.

What the assets test covers

In your assets test we count any real estate you:

  • rent out, even when not getting rent
  • let someone live in for free
  • leave vacant
  • live in when you’re not at your principal home

We don’t count your principal home in the assets test.

Principal home

This is:

  • the principal home you live in
  • the land it’s on, up to 2 hectares

To be exempt from the assets test:

  • it must be on a single title
  • you must not be using it mostly for business

If it has more than 2 hectares of land on one title

We count anything over 2 hectares as part of your assets.

What may be different

All the land on the same title may not count in the assets test if your principal home is:

  • a farm
  • a large rural block

Read about rural customers and primary producers.

If you use any of it for a business

If you use any part of the land or buildings on it just for the business, this part will count in your assets test.

If you go into care

If you leave your principal home to go into care, it may affect any income support you get from us.

Read about aged care means test assessments.

How we assess real estate

Real estate values change all the time. To keep your payments fair, we update your real estate values annually. We may update it sooner if there’s been a significant change to the values. This means:

  • you need to tell us about changes
  • we can arrange a valuation at any time

Market value

We use current market value when we assess your property. This is different from how state and local governments value properties.

We add an indexation amount each year to eligible properties to keep the value up to date.

Mortgage

We subtract any loan amount you owe on the property we’re assessing. Your assets test only covers the percentage you actually own.

Tell us about changes

You must tell us about any changes to your real estate assets. This includes:

  • if the value of the property goes up or down
  • if your mortgage on it goes up or down by more than your repayment amount
  • how much of it you own
  • if you sell it

Ownership

We check land title records to see what real estate you own, other than your principal home. We’ll contact you if these records don’t match what you’ve told us. If the extra property increases the assets value we hold:

  • your payments may go down or stop
  • you may need to pay back an overpayment

If you don’t agree that you own a property

You can ask for a review of our decision.

Valuations

We can arrange a valuation of your real estate at no cost to you. We apply an indexation amount to residential properties each year to keep the value current and ensure you get the right payment amount.  Where indexation cannot occur, we will determine if we need to update your value property value every 2 years. We’ll let you know if the new valuation affects your payment. Normally you won’t have to pay anything back. You will need to pay us back if you didn’t tell us about:

  • significant upgrades that raise the value, such as adding a pool, or
  • a property you own

If you don’t agree with the new value

You can ask for a review of our decision.

Financial hardship

If the value we put on your real estate puts you in severe financial hardship, you can apply for:

Life interest

You create a life interest in a real estate asset when you sell or gift it but keep the right to use or benefit from it.

The right can be to:

  • live in it
  • get income from it

A life interest can last:

  • for the rest of your life, or
  • until a specific event happens, such as moving out of the house

You can also inherit a life interest in someone’s will, such as the right to keep living in a house.

If you own an asset someone else has a life interest in

You have remainder interest. This means you can only use and benefit from the asset when the life interest stops.

In this case we will only include the remainder interest in your assets test.

Life interest in a home

If you have a life interest in the place you live in, we consider you to be the home owner. If it’s your principal home it won’t count in the assets test.

If you give someone assets or money for the right to live in a property they own, the granny flat rules may apply.

How we assess a life interest

The value we use for a life interest is its actuarial value. This is how much the benefits it gives you would be worth if you had to pay for them directly.

We count the actuarial value of your life interest as an asset if: 

  • you or your partner created it, or
  • your partner left it to you when they died

We don’t count it as an asset if you or your partner didn’t create the life interest.

Disposing of a life interest

If you give up your life interest, we may assess it as a gift.

If so, we’ll:

  • get an actuarial valuation to work out the value of the life interest you’re giving up
  • include this value in your assets test as a deprived asset
  • include it in your income test using the deeming rules

Retirement villages

These are groups of purpose built units for people over 55 to live in. Some include services such as meals, house cleaning, laundry and personal care.

Types of units

A self care unit:

  • normally has 1 or 2 bedrooms
  • has its own kitchen
  • may include meals and personal care at an extra cost

A serviced unit:

  • normally doesn’t have a kitchen - instead:
    • you can eat in a communal dining room
    • staff can deliver meals to your rooms
  • may include help with cleaning and maintenance

We don’t consider serviced units to be aged care facilities unless they get government funding. In this case, to live there you must have an aged care assessment that finds you need low level care.

Tenure

Common types of tenure for retirement village units are loans, licenses and leaseholds. Some units are strata title and company share. Some villages also offer rental places.

All of these protect tenants’ rights. Only some give you owners’ rights.

You should get legal advice before you buy into a retirement village.

Entry fees and ongoing costs

The retirement village sets all fees, costs and rents – not the government. It’s important to understand what you’re getting in return for what you pay.

Before you can move in you normally have to pay an entry fee or entry contribution. This can be up to the full market value of a unit.

You may also need to pay ongoing costs for services and facilities.

How we assess your former home

If you aren't in a care situation and you have not sold your former home, we treat it as an asset unless your partner is still living there. If you rent out your former home, we’ll consider the rent you receive as income.

As tenure in retirement villages is complex, we use the size of your entry fee to decide if you’re the owner. We don’t include any ongoing fees and charges in this amount.

We compare your entry fee against the extra allowable amount. This is the difference between the assets test limits for non home owners and home owners. Currently it’s $203,000.

If your entry fee was more than the extra allowable amount, we treat you as a home owner. This means we don’t count the entry fee in the assets test.

If your entry fee was less than the extra allowable amount, we treat you as a non home owner. This means:

  • we count the entry fee in the assets test
  • you may be able to get Rent Assistance

Resorts, caravan parks and over-55 villages

The rules about retirement villages can include:

  • lifestyle resorts
  • caravan or mobile parks
  • over-55 villages

They must be places that the state retirement village law covers.

If you live in one of these places you may be able to get Rent Assistance. At a caravan or mobile park you must be paying the site fees.

If you still own your former home

We count your former home as an asset if:

  • you haven’t sold it
  • your partner isn’t still living there
  • you aren’t living in a care home

If you rent it out we count the rent you get as income.

Page last updated: 30 August 2017