How Much Rent to Pay on SSI


If you are receiving maximum SSI, Social Security regulations state that you should be paying your full share of your household expenses.

If you do not pay your full share, your SSI check will be low. Some people get a lowered check every month for many many years. Learn more about How to follow the SSI Living Arrangement Regs

Here’s how to figure out your share.

How Much Rent Should I Pay? 

According to the Social Security regs, you pay your share of these things: rent, gas/heat, electricity, water, sewer, garbage.

That is IT.

It does not matter who pays for the phone, or car, or lawncare or anything else.


How Much Mortgage Should I Pay? 

It depends who owns the house:

“Me or my spouse”

You should pay 100% of these things: Mortgage, property tax, insurance, gas, heat, electricity, water, sewer, garbage. If your spouse lives with you, he or she can also pay for any of these things. No one else.

“My mother, father, sister, brother, cousin, etc”

You should pay rent. The rent should be set to an amount equal to your share of these things: Mortgage, property tax, insurance, gas / heat, electricity, water, sewer, garbage. Try to pay your rent by check or in some way that will give you a receipt.

“A landlord”

You should pay rent. The rent should be fair market rate. Similar to what other similar spaces cost in your neighborhood. You should pay your share of utilities, unless they are included in the rent.

Some things are missing on that list

Correct. Social Security only cares about these things: Rent, mortgage, property tax, insurance, gas, heat, electricity, water, sewer, garbage.

It does not matter who pays for the phone, or car, or lawncare, or internet, or household repairs, or anything else. For example, if your mom wants to give you a present by paying your phone bill every month… go for it!

How Much is “My Share”?

If two people live in a house, each share is 50%. If four people live in a house, each share is 25%.  And so forth. Children count as people.

I can’t pay my part of the rent or mortgage. That would be totally crazy!

In some cases, using this method would make your rent totally ridiculous.

For example, you live in a giant, expensive house and you are only renting a small room in the basement. Or if someone has a mortgage that is very high or very low. Or no mortgage at all.

In this case, the homeowner can give you a letter stating: “I have researched rentals in my neighborhood and determined that $X is fair market rent for the space that is being rented. This is the same rent I would charge any other tenant for this space.”

Give this letter to social security at your interview, along with a copy of your lease agreement.

I own my house. Can I rent out a room and charge rent?

You can, but it will make your SSI check lower.

What if I rent a room in a house owned by my mother, father, sister, etc?  

Social Security will allow this as long as you are paying your share.

If you do not own the home, you would not pay the mortgage and taxes directly. Instead you would work out an amount of rent that is equal to your share of the expenses. See example of Suzy below.

What if I am just renting a room from a landlord?

Just bring a copy of the lease with you to the SSI interview. You may not need anything else. You may not have info on the mortgage or other documents about this house… after all, you are just renting a room! If Social Security needs more information, they will let you know.

Any exceptions? 

Yes. There are two exceptions:

One: Your spouse is allowed to pay your share of the rent or mortgage. You must be living with your spouse for this to be allowed.

Two: If you are receiving government or nonprofit assistance, this will not affect your SSI check. For example, if a government program is paying part of your rent or utilities, this is fine.

How Do I Know if I am receiving Maximum SSI? 

Maximum SSI is $735 in most states. Some states add a small state supplement making it $20-$50 higher. In California, the state supplement is $150, but you can’t get food stamps.

If your check is lower than this, it you may wish to read this article: Ten Common Reasons SSI Might Be Low

What else do I need to know about SSI and Housing? 

A lot! Please take a look at this article on How To Follow the SSI Living Arrangement Rules for a whole bunch more super important information.

Do I really need to know all this?

If you are on SSI, yes, you certainly do!

If you are on SSDI, no, please ignore this whole page!

If you have no idea what you are on or no idea what I am talking about, please read this: How to Understand SSI and SSDI Without Making Your Head Explode

Example #1 – Suzy Lives With Her Mom

Suzy lives in an house owned by her mother. The household expenses are:

Mortgage – 700

Property Tax – 50

Insurance – 50

Gas – 100

Electric – 50

Water / Sewer – 40

Garbage removal – 10

Total Household expenses = $1000

Two people live there = Suzy pays 50%

Suzy signs a lease with her mom stating that she will pay $500 per month for rent and utilities. Every month, Suzy gives her mother a check for $500. Suzy buys her food separately.

Suzy’s mother pays for phone, internet, lawn care, car maintenance, and other things in the house, because these things don’t count. Suzy’s mother also buys Suzy clothes and haircuts, because these things don’t count.

Suzy is paying her share of household expenses, and she collects maximum SSI.

Example # 2 – Joe Lives With His Friends

Joe, John, Jim and Jane rent a house together. Their household expenses are:

Rent – $2,000

Gas – varies

Electric – varies

Water / Sewer – varies

Garbage removal – varies

Food – purchased separated

Total Household expenses = $2000 + utilities 

Four people live there = Joe pays 25%

Joe adds his name to the lease with his friends. Every month, he sends the landlord a check for $500.

When the utility bills come, Joe always pays 25%.

Joe buys and stores his food separate from the rest of the house. He used to get $25 per month in food stamps, but after he started buying his food separately, his food stamps went up to $100!  Joe pays for all his own groceries.

Joe’s friend pays for some of his medical bills and car repairs, but this does not count.

Joe is paying his share of household expenses, and he collects maximum SSI.

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