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Australian Defence Force loans
If you are in the armed forces, you may qualify for the Australian Defence Force (ADF) Home Loans scheme known as DHOAS.
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If you are a soldier in the Army, an electronic warfare sailor in the Navy or an air traffic officer in the Air Force and are stationed overseas, you may be eligible for a discounted home loan under the Australian Defence Force Home Ownership Assistance Scheme (DHOAS).
Am I eligible for a Defence Force Home Loan?
Anyone who is an eligible member of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) might have the opportunity of taking out an interest-rate subsidised home loan. The DHOAS program replaced other housing schemes that were available to ADF members prior to 2010.
There are certain eligibility criteria you need to fulfil to be able to apply and qualify for a Defence Force home loan. You need to fulfil the following to be eligible:
- You must have served in the ADF within the last two years;
- You must complete a minimum qualifying period or, in certain situations, foreign service;
- Accrue DHOAS entitlement, also referred to as Service Credit, which is done by completing effective service;
- You must meet the other conditions the scheme imposes.
Qualifying the members
If you are a permanent member, the minimum qualifying period is four consecutive years and you start accruing a minimum service credit after a month of service.
As a permanent member, you accrue service credit on a monthly basis and for every month served after the four year qualifying period, you will accrue one month of entitlement to the scheme, or a year for every calendar year you serve. The maximum is 20 years in regular circumstances, or 25 years if you served during wartime.
For reserve members, things are slightly different. Firstly, you require eight years of service to qualify, where each year of service represents 20 days of paid service during one financial year. Once you’ve qualified you will accrue one year of subsidy entitlement for every financial year during which you complete 20 days of service.
However, reservists also have the option of shortening the qualifying period by serving full-time for more than a continuous six month period during one financial year. This is equivalent to two years out of your eight-year qualifying period. The continuous full-time service allowance is not applicable once the qualifying period has been completed.
What if I have taken a break?
If you take a break from the ADF for a year or more before the qualifying period is up, then you will need to restart the procedure from the moment you return, regardless of whether you are a permanent member or a reservist.
There are certain factors that can affect your eligibility for the Defence Force home loan subsidy, including switching from a permanent member to a reservist, taking a break from service and then returning, separating from the ADF as well as overseas service. This is why it is important to review your particular situation to see if there are any variables that could affect whether or not you are eligible.Back to top
Which banks offer Defence Force home loans?
The only lenders approved to offer Defence Force home loans are the following:
- Australian Military Bank
- Defence Bank Limited
- National Australia Bank
- Westpac - please note that Westpac don't offer loans directly, but you may be eligible to apply for a Westpac-funded Defence Service Homes lending through the department of Veterans' Affairs.
Do I need a deposit for a Defence Force Home Loan?
Most lenders require a deposit equivalent to 5% of the purchase price of the property. However, you might be entitled to assistance via the Home Purchase Assistance Scheme (HPAS) and the First Home Owners Grant (FHOG).
If you need to borrow the full purchase price or more, the only way you can do that is with a Guarantor No Deposit Defence Force Home Loan. In other words, you need a guarantor to borrow 100% of the purchase price or more since all no-deposit home loans were pulled from the market by lenders in 2009.
Guarantor No-Deposit Defence Force Home Loans tend to differ quite a bit from one lender to the next, but the principles are the same. In other words, you will need a guarantor, which is usually a close family member, who will sign an agreement stating they will cover the cost of the loan if you default. This way you will be able to borrow the full amount you need to purchase the property and, in some cases, a little extra to cover the transaction costs such as stamp duty and conveyancing fees you may be subject to.
How much can you borrow?
If you work for the Australian military, are earning a solid income and have been in service for a lengthy period of time, you might be eligible to take out a home loan that covers between 90% to 95% of the purchase price of the property. You may also be eligible for subsidies that can help with the cost of servicing your home loan.
Defence Force home loan subsidies are granted in three tiers based on the number of years you have served. The longer the time frame, the higher the tier you qualify for and the higher the value of the subsidy.
The table below shows tier levels with corresponding numbers of service years for permanent and reserve members.
|Tier Level||Permanent Member (Service Yrs)||Reserve Member (Service Yrs)|
Each tier determines the maximum amount you can borrow as a Defence Force home loan. This cap is reviewed on July 1st of every year. The subsidy is determined for the current financial year based on the average home price of the previous year, which means that subsidy values for 2020 – 2021 are based on the average house price determined on July 1st, 2010. While these annual modifications impact the maximum monthly subsidy amounts, those who are already receiving subsidies and have an established loan are unaffected.
So, the tier you qualify for determines how much you can borrow under the Defence Force home loan scheme and how much interest will be subsidised every month.
The monthly subsidy payment is equivalent to 37.5% of the median interest expense on the portion of the loan that is being subsidised, calculated over a 25-year period, regardless of what the duration of your loan actually is.
The rate used for this calculation is not the interest rate on your home loan, but is calculated as the median rate of Owner Occupied Standard Variable Home Loans offered by the major home loan providers. In other words, the actual interest you are paying will in no way impact your subsidy. However, as rates climb or drop, your subsidy will follow suit as the median changes to reflect these fluctuations. However, there is an 8.95% cap so your subsidy payments will not exceed this interest rate ceiling, regardless of how much the rates increase.
The following table shows the subsidy tiers for 2020-21.
|Tier Level||Minimum permanent service||Minimum reserve service||Maximum subsidised loan Amount||Maximum monthly subsidy on interest payments|
|Tier 1||4 years||8 years||$300,243||Up to $195|
|Tier 2||8 years||12 years||$450,365||Up to $293|
|Tier 3||12 years||16 years||$600,486||Up to $391|
So, if you qualify for Tier 2 and you take out a home loan equivalent or greater than $450,365, you are entitled to a maximum subsidy of $293 per month. If you borrow the maximum loan amount for your tier or more, you will get the maximum allowable subsidy and no more. If you borrow less than the maximum loan amount, the level of your subsidy will drop according to the amount you borrow.Back to top
How do banks view my allowances?
Why won’t the banks accept my rental allowance?
Defence Housing Australia subsidises rent on a monthly basis, while military personnel receive their paycheque every two weeks, which makes things complicated for certain banks. Thus, some lenders refuse to include rental allowance because they simply don’t understand how these allowances work. The good news is that some banks that might be willing to include your rental allowance.
How about my army allowances?
If you work for the Australian Defence Force, you could be eligible for various allowances. The problem is that not all lenders are willing to take them into consideration. You will find that:
- Defence Service Accommodation subsidy : If you are living on an Army base, you might be receiving a subsidy to live in Defence Housing Authority lodgings. There are lenders who are willing to take this allowance into account.
- Private rental allowance : If you are living in accommodation you rented privately, you might be receiving a rental allowance to cover the cost of your lodgings, in part or in full. The problem is that banks have different policies, which means that some will consider it and some won’t.
- Uniform allowance : Most banks will accept an allowance given to cover the cost of your clothing and uniforms, if you are receiving one.
Will the banks include my lump sum payments?
Military personnel receive various lump sum payments from the government, but, unfortunately, not all lenders are willing to consider these payments when determining the maximum loan amount you are eligible for.
Thus, if you have returned from combat overseas, having served as a soldier, you might receive a significant lump sum payment for services rendered. Since this type of payment is generally tax free, most banks will not consider them in their assessment.
Conversely, if you have received a bonus for work done for the Department of Defence while posted at an overseas base, some banks will take these amounts into consideration but it will depend on whether or not this is a regular payment.
Due to the fact that bonuses or one-off lump sum payments aren’t accurate reflections of how much you earn every year, most lenders tend to be rather reticent in taking these amounts into consideration when assessing your application.
This also applies to money you earn overseas because you might have a salary for the duration of your positing that is higher than what you earn back home. So, you might be posted abroad for 6 months, time in which you are earning $25,000 per month when you factor in your salary, allowances and benefits. However, once you get home, you go back to earning your regular $82,000 per year. For this reason, lenders aren’t too happy about including allowances and bonuses when calculating your ability to service the loan.
Can I apply for any military purchase schemes or subsidies?
As a member of the Australian Defence Force, there are two schemes that you can apply for, namely the Defence Home Ownership Assistance Scheme (DHOAS) and the Home Purchase Assistance Scheme (HPAS).
The DHOAS is open to those are currently serving or have served in the military. It provides monthly subsidies to help current and former service men and women pay off their home loans. The amount of time you served will determine whether or not you qualify for this scheme as well as the amount of the monthly subsidy you receive.
The HPAS helps ADF members pay the costs of taking out a home loan, including the application process, stamp duty and conveyancing costs. Thus, members receive a one-off lump sum payment that is taxable. You will most likely be eligible if you intend to occupy the property as your principal place of residence.
You could be eligible for both but to check whether or not you qualify for either of these schemes, please get in touch with the Australian Defence Force
Which lenders will approve my loan?
The secret to getting your home loan approved is to apply with the right lender. This is because not all lenders are willing to provide Defence Force members with a home loan under the DHOAS scheme.
However, there are certain lenders willing to include the Defence Force scheme you are eligible for when assessing the amount you can borrow. In other words, by applying with the right lender, not only do you increase your chances of getting your loan approved but you might even be able to borrow more money under better terms and conditions.Back to top
Can I apply for a home loan from overseas?
In most cases, you can apply for a home loan while stationed overseas. The way you go about applying depends on whether you are stationed at a base or in combat. If you are working at a military base, regardless of your position, you can apply for a home loan. All paperwork can be sent to you via mail or if you are on a naval ship, via fax or email through a secure connection. Note, in this case most banks will not accept a Power of Attorney because your location is known and you can fill out all the necessary documents.
However, if you are in combat and are part of a covert military operation or on a tour, you can’t give out your location for security reasons. In this case, most lenders will accept a power of attorney.
Do I need to certify the documents?
Since Australian barracks are considered to be Australian soil, there is no need for you to go to a consulate or embassy. So, if you are stationed at an Australian base, even if it’s overseas, there’s no need to certify the documents.Back to top
Government's initiative with Defence Housing loans
You might be able to qualify for a Defence Housing loan if you are a member of the ADF and have a high rank and salary. Defence Housing loans are a great way for ADF personnel to purchase their first home because they are available at a very attractive interest rate. This loan, which was initiated by the government, can be obtained through the Defence Housing credit union.
Can I get a second mortgage on my Defence Housing loan?
There are some major banks that are willing to let you take out a second mortgage on your Defence Housing loan. You could borrow as much as 95% of the value of your home. Send an online enquiry to learn what you need to do to get a second mortgage from one of the major banks.Back to top
Remember: Your defence force department may have a path to the home loan scheme
Australian Defence Force members perform various duties and have different roles meant to build and provide support for essential infrastructure. Thus, some officers might take part in actual military operations while others might be in supporting roles such as health care, hospitality or system monitoring.
If you have been recruited to go into combat, develop intelligence or play a supporting role for the armed forces, you could be part of the Army, Navy or Air Force.
In other words, the ADF is made up of more than soldiers, sailors and pilots. There are people employed by the ADF, in Australia and overseas, who perform other roles, such as offering legal help to installing military equipment.
People who have qualifications and experience in the following fields are usually employed by the ADF to work on bases:
- Human resources
- Planning and management
- Environmental Science
Thus, regardless of the role you perform or the ADF department you work for, you might be eligible for the home loan scheme as long as you fulfil the eligibility criteria.Back to top
Frequently asked questions
Conditions of the Defence Force Home Loan Scheme - 12 Month Occupancy
Q: I purchased and lived in a property for 12 months before starting my current post, so I think I am in compliance with the 12 month occupancy rule. I want to find out if I can use the DHOAS for the property from my previous post.
A: You cannot use the DHOAS for the property from your previous location because the law states you can only receive a subsidy for a home under this scheme if the property being subsidised is one you will live in for at least 12 months from when you start receiving the DHOAS payment.
Q: I may be posted within the following 12 months but would like to purchase a home or refinance my current mortgage. Is this possible?
A:You cannot access the DHOAS if you know you will be moving within the year because you will not be able to fulfil the conditions of the legislation stating that you need to occupy the property for at least 12 months after receiving your first DHOAS payment.
However, if you took out a loan in good faith, thinking you would be able to stay for 12 months but then received a posting order, you can still receive the subsidy even if you have moved.
Q: I live in Brisbane but own a home in Sydney and I’ll be moving back into the property in about four months. Is it possible for me to refinance my loan and take advantage of the DHOAS at present?
A: No because the law states that you can only receive subsidies under this scheme if you live on the property for 12 months after receiving your first subsidy payment. While your lender might permit you to refinance using their Defence Force home loan now, you will only start receiving subsidy payments once you have moved back in.
Home Loans and Refinancing
Q: If I take out a $250,000 home loan under the DHOAS but then make a lump sum payment of $50,000 or make additional payments towards the capital of the loan worth the same amount, is it possible to redraw the $50,000 to purchase an investment property or a car?
A: Yes. Regardless of how much you receive in DHOAS subsidy payments, any payments you make above the required monthly mortgage repayments can be withdrawn and used for anything you choose.
Q: I own a property that is worth $350,000 and have a $120,000 mortgage. I would like to refinance with a lender who offers DHOAS home loans and to take out more than $120,000 so that I can get more in subsidy payments every month. I plan to use the additional money to make a lump sum payment towards my DHOAS loan or for other purposes like the purchase of a car. Is this permitted?
A: This is something you cannot do because you won’t be in compliance with the DHOAS legislation. The latter states that DHOAS loans can only be used to purchase or build a home, to purchase land or renovate and increase the size of your home, or to refinance an existing loan to achieve the same goals.
The only situation in which you can get a loan larger than your existing mortgage is if the additional funds will be used to renovate the property or to enlarge it. The additional money can’t be used for any other purpose.
Q: I want to buy a new house and sell the one I currently own. Will my subsidy be affected in any way?
A: When you close the loan on the property you currently own by selling it, any arrangements you have will be terminated. To get subsidy payments for the new property, you will need a new DHOAS loan. In other words, you will need to apply to DVA for a new subsidy certificate, which means you will have to meet all the terms and conditions valid at the time of your application to qualify.
It’s important to take into account that a variety of factors could affect your eligibility for DHOAS and your entitlements. Thus, you might not qualify for the same conditions as you previously did. A change in your ADF service status, long breaks in your service, separation from the ADF and changes to the DHOAS Act and legislation are only a few of the variables you need to consider.
The new subsidy certificate will provide the proof of your degree of eligibility for DHOAS. The lender will need to see the certificate and they will let the DVA know when your new loan is drawn down. As soon as you meet all the necessary conditions, one of which is occupying the home for 12 months from when payment starts, the subsidy payments will begin.
Before you decide to change the conditions of your current DHOAS arrangement, it would be wise to check the DHOAS website to see whether there have been any changes and if your change in status will impact your eligibility in any way.
Q: Who can I purchase a house with?
A: You can buy a house with anyone you choose as long as you, or you along with your partner, have at least a 50% stake in the home being purchased.
Q: If I purchase a house with another person and that person is not a service member, will it impact my subsidy payments in any way?
A: As long as you own at least 50% of the property, this will have no impact on the subsidy payments you will receive. If the property has been purchased with separate or split loans, the subsidy payments will be calculated only on the amount you borrowed.
Q: If I am getting a divorce, will my subsidy payments be affected?
A: If you and your family move out of the property before 12 months have passed from when the loan was drawn down, you will no longer receive payments for that particular property.
The payments will also stop if your spouse becomes the main stakeholder and you no longer own 50% or more of the property.
Policing conditions of the scheme
Q: Who is in charge of enforcing the conditions of the scheme?
A: It is the Department of Defence’s responsibility to police the terms and conditions of the scheme. Thus, processes have been established, amongst which is working with DVA and the lenders, to make sure members are in compliance with the legislation.
It is your responsibility as the borrower to make sure that you fully understand the conditions of getting DHOAS and to ensure that you are in full compliance with the terms and conditions of this scheme.
Q: What happens if someone isn’t in compliance with the conditions?
A: There are a number of consequences, including the following:
- The subsidy payments stop;
- The person in question will have to repay all the amounts they received as subsidies, which could involve selling the property or increasing the amount borrowed;
- Being forbidden to access the scheme in the future;
- Criminal prosecution or disciplinary action.
Q: What’s the best way to ensure I am fully aware of the applicable conditions to get into DHOAS?
A: When you get your subsidy certificate, you will also receive a factsheet entitled “About Your Subsidy”, which you should read and spend time getting familiar with all the conditions involved in the DHOAS. Further information is available on the DHOAS website.
Tax and Financial Information
Q: How will accessing DHOAS impact my taxes?
A: The Fringe Benefits Tax (FBT) on the subsidy payments made to ADF members is the responsibility of the Department of Defence. It will still appear on your annual payment summary because the DHOAS subsidy is a reportable item. To determine how it will affect your taxes, you will need to get independent financial advice.
Q: I also own investment properties, besides my own home. Should I take out a larger mortgage on my personal home so I can get higher DHOAS benefits or is it a better idea to owe more money on my investment properties so I can get tax breaks?
A: Your best option is to get professional financial advice to answer this question.
Permanent Member to Reservist and Vice Versa
Q: What will happen if I move from permanent ADF service and become a reservist?
A: This transfer will only impact your DHOAS eligibility if you haven’t yet completed the qualifying period, which is four years of continuous service as a permanent member and eight years of effective service as a reservist.
The period you’ve already completed as a permanent member will be doubled once you switch over to the reserves if you are counting it towards the qualifying period required for reservists.
In other words, if you’ve completed two years as a permanent member, it will count as four years when you switch over. If you’ve already completed your qualifying period, there will be no effect because your service will accrue at the same rate after the qualifying period.
Q: What happens if I switch to permanent ADF service from being a reservist?
A: Any time you have completed as part of the qualifying period while in the reserves will be cut in half. So, if you have completed six years of effective continuous service in the Reserves, it will count as three years towards the four year qualifying period required of permanent members. Otherwise, if you’ve already completed your time, then there is no effect.
Breaks in Service
Q: Will my eligibility and entitlement to DHOAS be affected if I’ve had a break in service and then reenlisted?
A: A break in service can affect you. More information is available on the relevant DHOAS page, namely Rejoining the ADF After a Break.
Previous Defence Home Loan Schemes
Q: Can I access more than one scheme if I qualify?
A: No, you cannot access more than one scheme at the same time. You have to choose one.
Q: How will I be affected if I’ve accessed DSHL or DHOS previously?
A: The amount of time you can receive help for under the new scheme will be shorter by the duration of the period for which you received help under the previous scheme. It will not affect the tier you are eligible for or the size of the subsidy you receive but it will affect how long you can receive these payments for.
For example, you have ten years of permanent ADF service under your belt. After deducting the four year qualifying period, you are left with six years for which you are entitled to receive subsidy payments under the new scheme.
Another example is that if you have received subsidies under the DHOS for five years before switching over to the DHOAS, this period will be deducted from the six years you could receive subsidies for, leaving you with one year.
However, your tier level eligibility will not be impacted by the assistance you received under DHOS. Thus, having completed ten years of permanent ADF service, you qualify for tier 2. Once you complete 12 years, you will qualify for tier 3 subsidies. The same applies if you are in the reserves.
Keep in mind that the maximum timeframe you can receive subsidies for is 20 years if you have not completed warlike service and 25 years if you have. Thus, if the timeframe you received assistance for under the old schemes is longer than that permissible by the new scheme, you won’t be able to access DHOAS, even if you continue to serve.
Q: What are the DHOAS tiers?
A: There are three tiers, with each tier having a different maximum loan amount you can receive subsidies for and a maximum subsidy amount. The higher the tier, the higher the value of the loan and subsidy amounts. You move from one tier to the next by completing a certain number of years of service. The goal is to provide members with a good reason to continue their ADF service.
These tiers and thresholds are updated regularly. You can get the latest information from the Defence Home Ownership Assistance Scheme.
Q: What happens if I’m borrowing more than the maximum subsidised loan amount for my tier?
A: You will get the maximum subsidy amount regardless of how much you are borrowing, because the maximum loan limit is the highest amount you can receive a subsidy for.
Q: What if I borrow less than the maximum subsidised loan amount for my tier?
A: The monthly subsidy you receive will be calculated according to the amount you borrow. The amount is calculated as 37.5% of the total interest on the loan amount over a 25 year period, regardless of how long you took the loan out for. The interest rate used for this calculation is not the actual interest on your loan but the median rate of all Australian home lenders based on the figures CANNEX provides.
Q: As I pay back my loan and the principal drops, will my subsidy payments be recalculated, especially after the loan drops below the limit?
A: No, your monthly subsidy payment is determined based on your tier and your loan amount when you received the first payment and is valid for the entire duration of DHOAS assistance you are eligible for, as long as you don’t stop and restart the subsidy. If you do, the balance you owe on your home loan at the time of restarting DHOAS assistance will apply.
So, once your home loan has been established and you’ve received your first subsidy payment, any changes to the principal of your home loan will not affect the subsidy you receive every month.
Q: Considering that I’ve performed warlike service, how will my entitlement be affected?
A: You will receive extra years for the subsidy period you’ve already accumulated. The table below shows you how. Keep in mind that you can only get DHOAS assistance for a maximum of 20 years and 25 years for warlike service.
|Total Duration of Warlike Service Performed||Additional Number of Years for DHOAS Assistance|
|Less than 3 months||2 years|
|More than 3 months but less than 6||3 years|
|More than 6 months but less than 9||4 years|
|More than 9 months||5 years|
Eligible partners and their application
Q: Can my partner and I apply for subsidy certificates if he or she is eligible?
A: Yes, but you each have to submit an application separate from the other.
Q: My partner and I are going to purchase a house together and we both qualify for DHOAS. How much will our subsidy payments be?
A: You can both access DHOAS together, on a single loan, or separately. The advantage is that the maximum subsidised loan limits for both of you can be combined, so that a larger portion of the loan will be covered by the DHOAS.
DVA recommends that you get independent financial advice to help you understand all the facts and to figure out what the best solution is for your particular situation. You will have to take into account the size of the shared home loan and whether or not you can both get subsidies for a single loan. If the loan is quite big and you can both receive significant subsidy payments, you might consider combining your service credit.
Conversely, if the loan is relatively small and you’d both be using up service credit to receive small subsidy payment, you might opt for only one of you to access DHOAS while the other saves up their service credit for another loan you might take out in the future, keeping in mind you need to spend at least 12 months in the property after receiving your first subsidy payment.
Keep in mind that if you wait to access DHOAS and you separate from the ADF before finishing 20 years of service, whatever service credit you have accumulated will only be paid as tier 1, regardless of what the value of your subsidy was prior to separation.
Separation from the ADF
Q: What takes place if I discharge?
A: You will still be able to receive help after separation for a period equivalent to the amount of service credit you have accumulated. The subsidy amount will vary according to how long you serve before separation. Thus, if you served for less than 20 years, you will receive subsidy payments according to tier 1 values. If you have served more than 20 years, you will qualify for tier 3 payments for the remainder of your service credit.
Q: After separation, when must I apply for DHOAS?
A: You are permitted to access only one subsidy certificate after separation. It is only valid for 12 months and you must submit your application within two years after separation or you will lose your service credit. The latter applies as long as you don’t re-enlist.
Q: Will a dishonourable discharge affect me?
A: No, you will still be eligible to access DHOAS and your entitlement will remain unaffected.
Q: What happens to my subsidy payments if I die?
A: Your surviving partner will receive your entitlement but only if they continue to have a minimum 50% stage in the house subject to subsidy. If the property is jointly owned and you’ve already accessed DHOAS, then payments will continue.
If you had not yet applied for DHOAS help, your partner has two years from the date of your discharge or death, whichever takes place first, to apply to receive assistance. You don’t need to die during service and it doesn’t need to be connected to your service for your partner to be entitled to subsidy payments.
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