In rental or financial distress? Here’s how free financial counselling can help

Published: Feb 14, 2023

By Pamela Hunter - Community Services Manager

Today’s increasing cost of living, combined with low rental vacancies and skyrocketing rents, has more tenants facing financial difficulty. Regional NSW has seen some of the sharpest increases, with Upper Hunter, Muswellbrook and Maitland facing increases of 15.2%, 15% and 14.6%, respectively.

Across the Central West, some of the more significant year-on-year increases were seen in Forbes (14%), Orange (8.3%), Parkes (8.3%) and Cowra (7.7%), according to the Domain December 2022 Rental Report.

Increases like this can quickly lead to rental stress and financial stress more broadly.

What is financial stress?

Financial stress can be defined as difficulty meeting basic financial commitments due to a shortage of money. Financial stress increases the risk of homelessness and can negatively impact an individual's health and psychological well-being. Not surprisingly, low income is a significant cause of financial stress.

Lower-income households that spend more than 30% of gross household income on housing costs. They are considered to be in financial housing stress. In 2020, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) identified that over 58% of low-income households were in this position, and it’s a fair assumption that this number is on the rise as financial pressures grow. 

And as the pressure grows to keep stable housing, this can lead to struggling to cover basic living costs, such as utilities and groceries.

According to recent research, financial stress impacts just over 25% of Australians. So, if you are in this situation, know that you are not alone. VERTO’s financial counsellor helps over 280 Australians each year, with not all clients presenting as low-income earners.

Support is at hand, and it’s important to reach out. Our financial counselling service can be life-changing. It’s free, not means-tested, and open to anyone facing financial difficulties in the community.

Signs that you could benefit from a financial counsellor:  

  • Struggling to pay bills on time
  • Behind on rent
  • Losing sleep over paying bills or housing costs
  • Constantly borrowing from one source to pay another
  • Having a poor credit score
  • Relying on ‘payday lending’ services to cover living expenses
  • Running out of money before payday

It can also be a beneficial service for those who have recently experienced job loss, family breakdown or separation, serious illness or injury, or the loss of a loved one.

How does a financial counsellor assist?

Firstly, it’s important to understand that a financial counsellor is not simply a financial expert who helps you budget. They are specially trained counsellors with the skills and knowledge to help people through one of life’s most difficult times. It’s a professional, confidential and free service.

Your financial counsellor will determine the best support for your specific situation, but some of the areas they can help with are:

  • Counselling and support to navigate challenges
  • Understanding your current financial situation and your options
  • Explaining the pros and cons of different actions you can take
  • Identifying debt priorities
  • Exploring other supports, such as grants or concessions, that you may be eligible for
  • Negotiating with creditors on your behalf
  • Sharing knowledge about credit, bankruptcy and debt collection laws that may apply to your situation
  • Providing you with access to dispute resolution services

It’s a free, professional and confidential service

Many people don’t realise they can access this free service, which can help them navigate the way forward.

VERTO’s Financial Counsellor Service is not means-tested and is open to anyone in the community who is facing financial difficulty.

In this time of increasing pressure, we encourage private tenants struggling to pay housing or other basic living costs or are in rental arrears to reach out. VERTO can support you with financial counselling as well as connect you to VERTO’s Tenancy Advice and Advocacy service, as required.

Contact VERTO for a confidential discussion on 1300 483 786.