Accessing superannuation - Mortgage stress

Mortgage stress logoYou may be able to  access part of your superannuation when you are behind on your home loan repayments. This is usually only possible on compassionate grounds to prevent your home from being repossessed or sold, or if you are receiving government income support payments and in 'severe financial hardship'.

There will be other conditions you will need to meet to access your superannuation to repay your mortgage. The process can take several months and there is no guarantee your application will be successful.

Accessing superannuation should be an option of last resort. Check that taking money out of your superannuation will actually avoid having to sell your home or the lender taking possession. There is no point selling your possessions, accessing your superannuation or getting new loans if you will need to sell your home anyway. 

You should discuss this option with a financial counsellor before taking any steps to access your superannuation. 

Possible problems in getting your superannuation

Problems that may occur when you try to access your superannuation include:

  • The lender doesn't agree to giving you time to access it.
  • The lender agrees not to exercise its power of sale by a certain date, but your application to release superannuation is refused, or not approved in time. 
  • There is a delay by the lender in giving the required information and confirmation to your superannuation fund, which means the amount eventually released is not enough to now cover all your arrears (because your interest debt has grown).

More things to think about before accessing your superannuation

The amount you can withdraw from your superannuation is limited and varies depending on whether your application is based on severe financial hardship or compassionate grounds. 

You may need to pay tax on the amount you withdraw, which reduces the total amount you can put  on the mortgage.

If your total debts are greater than what your house is worth, it will usually be better not to withdraw any superannuation. You may end up bankrupt  if you are forced to sell your house and cannot pay all your debt. Superannuation still in a fund will usually be protected from bankruptcy. However, it loses that protection if it has been withdrawn from the fund. More information on bankruptcy is available from the Australian Financial Security Authority.

How to apply to access your superannuation

You should talk to a financial counsellor before taking any steps to access your superannuation. 

It is usually best  to negotiate a hardship variation with your lender (including through the Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA)) that does not rely on accessing your superannuation. 

To access your superannuation
  • Read the information on getting early access to your super from the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) website (which also covers how early release payments are taxed).
  • Applications for access on compassionate grounds are made directly to the ATO, and can be done online. You will need to include a letter from your lender that provides supporting evidence for your application.
  • If you are applying on the basis of severe financial hardship, you will need to contact your superannuation fund to ask about how to apply for money to be released.

Checklist before accessing superannuation


✓✓ Negotiate a financial hardship variation with your lender or AFCA. 

✓✓ Get advice on whether accessing your superannuation is a good idea in your situation.


✗✗ Rely on getting your superannuation to solve your problems.

✗✗ Access your superannuation if you will probably need to sell your home anyway.

✗✗ Negotiate a hardship variation that depends on getting your superannuation (as it may not happen). 

✗✗ Think the lender will avoid legal action simply because you trying to access your superannuation.


The information displayed on this page is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. If you have a legal problem, you should see a lawyer. Legal Aid Western Australia aims to provide information that is accurate, however does not accept responsibility for any errors or omissions in the information provided on this page or incorporated into it by reference.