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Department of Human Services

South Australian Housing Trust

Debt policy

Housing SA is responsible for following up and recovering any money owed to it.

Customers are responsible for repaying any money they owe to Housing SA.

This policy sets out how:

  • Housing SA manages debts owed to it by current and former customers
  • customers with an outstanding debt to Housing SA can access Housing SA’s services.

A customer is anyone who applies for or receives a service from Housing SA. This includes Housing SA tenants who are responsible for any tenancy related charges - eg rent arrears, maintenance charges.

Charges that can become a debt

Housing SA tenants must pay their rent at least one week in advance.

All customers must pay other charges either:

  • within 14 days from the date on the invoice
  • by negotiating a repayment arrangement with Housing SA if payment can’t be made in full by the due date.

What a customer can be charged for includes, but isn’t limited to:

  • rent
  • deposits
  • water use
  • maintenance
  • overclaimed benefits - eg wrongly receiving a reduced rent
  • a private rental bond provided by Housing SA claimed in full or in part by a landlord.

How Housing SA debts are managed

Housing SA consolidates debts. If a customer owes more than one type of debt - eg for unpaid rent as well as for water use, the total debt amount applies.

Payments are automatically allocated to the oldest debt first, regardless of the type of charge, except if the customer specifies otherwise. Once the oldest debt has been repaid, the payments are allocated to the next oldest debt.

Arrangements to repay a debt

A debt can’t be transferred from one person to another, but a third party can make an arrangement to repay a debt owed by someone else.

If a customer can’t pay a debt in full by the due-by date, they must make an arrangement with Housing SA to repay it. Housing SA will only approve arrangements below the minimum repayment amount if the customer can show evidence of temporary financial hardship.

Minimum repayment amount for current tenants

The minimum repayment amount for current tenants is equal to 20% of their rent. Tenants can make repayments above this rate.

Minimum repayment amount for all other customers

The minimum repayment amount for all other customers is $15 per week. Housing SA may vary this amount from time to time. Customers can make repayments above this amount.

Broken arrangements

An arrangement to repay a debt is broken if the customer:

  • misses a payment or pays less than the full repayment amount
  • is a tenant and doesn’t renegotiate the repayment arrangement to cover the cost of a rent increase
  • doesn’t respond to a request by Housing SA to review their debt, except if Housing SA is satisfied there’s a genuine reason why
  • doesn’t renegotiate a repayment rearrangement before it breaks.

Customers can make up to two arrangements to repay a debt within six months. If a customer refuses to make an arrangement or the second arrangement breaks, Housing SA may take legal action to recover the debt, or if they are a tenant, end their tenancy.

Outsourcing debts to a private debt collection agency

Housing SA may outsource the collection of a debt to a private debt collection agency.

Writing off a debt

Housing SA may choose not to recover a customer’s debt for an indefinite or set period of time, also known as writing off a debt. Housing SA may start or restart action to recover the debt if appropriate.

Access to services for customers with a Housing SA debt

Customers who refuse to pay or make an arrangement to repay a debt they owe to Housing SA may not be eligible for further services from Housing SA, either in full or in part. This includes:

  • help paying bond or rent into a private rental property
  • being housed or rehoused in public housing
  • buying their public housing property
  • a tenant exchange
  • transferring to another public housing property.

A customer who has incurred a debt because they deliberately damaged a public housing property will only be rehoused if the relevant Housing SA Regional Manager approves it, and appropriate supports and monitoring are in place.

Customers bankrupt with a debt to Housing SA

A customer who is bankrupt with a debt to Housing SA isn’t eligible for Housing SA services until the bankruptcy is discharged, except if they have extraordinary circumstances.


Housing SA will issue a refund if all of the following apply:

  • a customer’s account is in credit
  • paying the refund won’t affect their regular rent payments
  • paying the refund won’t create a debt in their account.

Related laws, policies and documents

Controlling documents

This policy is based on and complies with:

Supporting guidelines

  • Debt procedures v 14
  • Outsourcing debt procedures v 1
  • Writing off debt procedures v 1

Date this policy applies from

1 May 2017

Version number


The online version of the policy is the approved and current version. There is no guarantee that any printed copies are current.

State Government of South Australia © Copyright DHS .

Provided by:
SA Department for Human Services
Last Updated:
05 Jul 2018
Printed on:
19 Dec 2018
The DHS website is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Australia Licence. © Copyright 2016