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 own. This includes 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.
How we assess principal homes
A principal home 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
We count anything over 2 hectares as part of your assets. We may not count all the land on the same title 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 part of your principal home just for business, it will count in your assets test. This includes the land or buildings on it.
Going into care
Leaving your principal home to go into care, 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
We use current market value when we assess your property. This is different from how state and local governments value properties.
We apply an indexation amount each year to eligible properties to keep the value up to date.
We subtract any loan amount you owe on the property we’re assessing. Your assets test only covers the percentage you actually own.
Changes to your assets
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
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.
We may arrange a valuation of your real estate at no cost to you. We apply an indexation amount to residential properties each year. This keeps the value current and ensure you get the right payment amount.
Where indexation can't occur, we will determine if we need to update your 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. But you'll 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.
If the value we put on your real estate puts you in severe financial hardship, you can apply for:
- help through the asset hardship provisions
- a loan through the pension loans scheme if you’re over age pension age
How we assess life interest assets
A life interest is created if you sell or gift a real estate asset but keep the right to:
- use, or
- benefit from
The rights can be to live in it, get income from it or both.
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 purchse or inherit a life interest. An example is someone’s will giving you the right to keep living in a house.
Owning 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 if it was created by you or your partner.
Life interest in a home
If you have a life interest in the place you live in, it won’t count in the assets test. This is because we consider it your principal home and you to be the home owner.
In some instances the granny flat rules may apply. They may apply if someone gives you the right to live in a property they own, in return for:
- assets, or
Assessing 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 paid 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
How we assess retirement villages as assets
Retirement villages 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 room or have meals delivered to you
- may include help with cleaning and maintenance
We don’t consider serviced units to be aged care facilities unless they get government funding. If the aged care facilities do get government funding you must have an aged care assessment to live there. The assessment must find that you need low level care. You can find out more about aged care assessments on the myagedcare website.
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.
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.
Non home owners have a higher assets test limit than home owners. The difference between the two limits is the ‘extra allowable amount’. We compare this to the entry fee you paid.
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.
How we assess your former home
If you aren't in a care situation and haven’t sold your former home, we’ll treat it as an asset. We won’t count it as an asset if:
- your partner is still living there, or
- you leave your home temporarily
If you rent out your former home, we’ll consider the rent you get as income.