If your SSI check is lower than $735 per month, it may be because you are not paying your correct share of household expenses.
If your child’s check is lower than $735 per month, this is often the reason as well.
Some of our readers here report that they received lowered checks for ten or twenty years because they did not know, or did not understand, the Social Security regulations for rent, mortgage, food and utilities.
What Is Maximum SSI?
Maximum SSI is $735 in most states. It is slightly higher in a few states. It is $890 in California.The amount is the same for children and adults.
Why is My Check Lower Than Maximum?
There are many reasons this might be happening. The rent regulations is one possible reason. You can also learn more about: Ten Common Reasons SSI Might Be Low
What Happens If I Don’t Pay The Right Amount of Rent or Mortgage?
Your SSI check is lowered by up to one-third.
Wait! I Do Not Pay Rent. Why Isn’t My Check Lower?
This is not good. If you are receiving maximum SSI, and you are not paying your full rent, food and utilities, this means Social Security is not aware of your living situation, or they have made a mistake, or they are taking a long time to calculate the change in your check. It is important to report any changes to Social Security right away and always let them know how much rent you are paying. Otherwise you may wind up owing money back.
How Can I Find a Place I Can Afford on SSI?
You may have to be persistent, but there are several good options for housing programs that only charge 30% or your income. For a person on SSI, that works out to about $245 per month. Sometimes lower. If you are looking for places to find affordable rent, check out: How to Find Housing that is Both Cheap & Good
For a whole bunch more info on how to live on SSI, how to learn the rules so you don’t get into trouble, and other help you may be eligible for, please check out: How to Survive on SSI
What Do You Mean I Have To Pay My Share?
Social Security will be looking to see if anyone pays your rent, food, or utilities, or gives you free rent, food, or utilities. This is called “in kind support and maintenance” and will lower your check.
Exception: Help from a nonprofit or government agency is allowed and will not affect your check
If you live alone figuring out your share is, it’s simple. If you live with other people, it gets a lot more complicated!
The rules are below.
What Are Household Expenses and Why Are They Important?
For renters, household expenses are rent, food, gas/heat, electricity, water, sewer, and garbage.
For homeowners, household expenses are mortgage, property tax, insurance, gas / heat, electricity, water, sewer, garbage, food.
Social Security will lower someone’s check if they are not paying their full share of household expenses.
What About Other Expenses in My House?
Social Security does not care about other things. For example, they do not care who pays your phone bill, internet, medial bills, lawn care, appliances, pet care, or car insurance, as long as the money does not go to you.
Example: Every month Suzy’s mom sends a check to the phone company and pays Suzie’s phone bill. This has no affect on Suzy’s SSI check.
Different Example: Every month, Suzy’s mom gives Suzy $50. Suzy uses this money to pay her phone bill. Suzy must report this as income, and her SSI check will be lowered.
Your Household Expenses
” I Live Alone”
Your share is 100%. If you do not pay 100%, your check is lowered. If you are given free rent, your check is lowered.
“My Child Collects SSI”
If your child is on SSI, Social Security will look to see if your child’s SSI is used for the child’s share of household expenses. If these things are being paid a different way, the child’s check will be lowered. See below for calculating your child’s share.
If your child is not on SSI, it does not matter how much they pay.
“I Live with Other People (Kids, Relatives, Friends, etc)”
If you are age 18 or older, no matter who you live with, the formula is exactly the same. It doesn’t matter if you live with your kids, sister, brothers, parents, friends, or anyone else.
No matter who you live with, you pay at least your share. If you are married than you or your spouse can pay your share.
See below for calculating your share.
Figuring Out My Share
What Is My Share?
Your share is your share of the household expenses.
If two people live in a house, each share is 1/2.
If four people live in a house, each share is 1/4. And so forth.
Children count as people.
Your Share of Rent
If you live with other people and rent a house or apartment, you just pay your share. Ideally, you would pay the landlord directly, but a sublet would also be allowed.
If your rent is really cheap because you have Section 8 or live in a nonprofit or government housing program, that is fine. You still just pay your share, even if it is low.
Your Share of Mortgage
If you live with someone who owns a house, it is a more complicated. Social Security regulations state you should be paying rent in an amount equal to what your share of the mortgage and household expenses would be. You don’t have to actually pay the mortgage.
Example: Suzy lives in a house owned by her mom. They add up all the household expenses: The mortgage, property tax, insurance, gas / heat, electricity, water, sewer, and garbage total $1,000.
Suzy’s is responsible for half, so she pays her mom rent of $500. She also buys her own food.
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.
Can I Pay More Than My Share?
Of course! Your SSI money is yours and you can spend it any way you like. If you wish to pay rent for your children, friends, family, or anyone else, you can do this. The SSI rules focus on checking if you are paying your own living expenses. They do not care what you do with the rest of your money.
For example, if you are living in a house with others, you might want to pay extra rent for your children’s room. Or maybe you don’t want to. All that matters for SSI is that you are paying at least your share.
Do I Need to Pay For My Kids Share?
If your child is disabled and on SSI, Social Security will look to see that your child’s SSI check is used to pay his or her share.
If your child is not disabled and not on SSI, it does not matter who pays your child’s share of the rent. It can be paid by you, or by child support, or by anyone else who happens to want to pay for your kids, or someone can give them a free place to stay.
I own my house. Can I rent out a room and charge rent?
If the person pays their share of the utilities directly to the utility company, this will have no effect on your SSI. (as long as they pay just their share, not your share).
If the person pays you rent, this would likely be considered income and may make your SSI check lower. You will need to report this to Social Security, and to the IRS. Social Security might not consider the entire amount – The IRS will allow a homeowner to deduct certain business expenses on income from renting a room. Social Security would likely consider the amount of income after expenses were deducted, if you report this information to them.
There are specific rules around what types of income affects SSI, and what does not: How You Can (and can’t) Make Money While on SSI
What if I live in a room in a house owned by my mother, father, sister, etc?
If you are a minor, your parents income will affect your SSI check.
If you are an adult, your parent’s income and finances will have no affect on your check. Living with your parent will have no affect on your check (unless they are giving you free or discounted rent). Many people on SSI set up rental agreements to rent a room where they live. A rent agreement can be a simple lease, along with a record that rent is being paid each month.
What if I am just renting a room in someone’s house and the homeowner won’t give me information on the mortgage?
Try bringing a copy of the lease with you to the SSI interview. If possible, bring a letter from your landlord stating that you are paying fair market rent. Social Security may accept this as enough information.
Yes. There are a few exceptions:
One: Your spouse is allowed to pay your share of the rent or mortgage with no effect on your SSI check. You must be living with your spouse for this to not affect your SSI.
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.
Three: If you first became disabled before the age of 26, you are allowed to open a special account called an ABLE account. People can give you money in an ABLE account, and this can be used for rent without affecting SSI. It cannot be used for food.
Four: If you are homeless and living in a public homeless shelter, your check may or may not be lowered, depending on how long you stay there. Learn more.
Five: If you are homeless, your SSI check will not be lowered. Social Security defines homeless as “has no permanent living arrangement on the first moment of the month.” So, if you are spending several months sleeping on a friends couch, this is not considered homeless, this is considered getting free rent.
What else do I need to know about SSI?
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.
Also check out: How to Stay Out of Hot Water with SSI to learn all the rules and regs you really want to know.
Does This Apply to Everyone on Disability?
No. Everything on this page is for SSI only.
If you are on SSDI you do not have to worry about any of this!
Example #1 – Suzy Lives With Her Mom
Suzy is disabled and 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 pays for all her own food. Because of her disabilities, she is unable to go to the store herself, so she gives her mom money to go shopping for her.
Suzy’s mother pays for internet, lawn care, and appliances. Suzy’s mother also buys Suzy clothes, and pays for household items like toothpaste and soap and sponges. At her SSI assessment, Suzy tells the SSI worker what her mom is paying for, but the workers says this has no impact on SSI because her mom never gives any money to Suzy.
Suzy is paying her share of household expenses, and she collects maximum SSI. She also follows the food stamps regulations for people with disabilities and collects food stamps.
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. He also buys his own food. When the utility bills come, Joe always pays 25%.
Joe is paying his share of household expenses, and he collects maximum SSI. She also follows the food stamps regulations for people with disabilities and collects food stamps.
Example # 3 – Jane Lives in HUD Housing
Jane is lives in a Section 8 HUD apartment with her dad.
Their combined income is $1,200. According to HUD rules, their rent is set at 30% which is $360. Jane pays 50% which is her share. Her share is $180 per month.
HUD pays for part of her Jane’s rent, but this does not impact her SSI, because it is a government housing program. Jane collects maximum SSI. Jane does not get food stamps because her rent is so low that she does not qualify.