Many people on SSI do not know the rules about how living arrangements can make disability checks go up or down. This happens because no one at Social Security ever tells you these rules! Luckily, you can learn them now:
Before You Read Me: Don’t Read Me
Everything on this page is for SSI. If you are on SSDI, ignore this page. Learn more: How to Understand the Difference Between SSI and SSDI Without Making Your Head Explode
How SSI Looks at Rent and Utilities
At an SSI interview, they will ask you about rent and utilities. If you are not paying your share of rent or utilities, your SSI check will be a lower amount. If you are paying your share, then your SSI check will not be affected.
How SSI Looks at Mortgages and Owning a Home
If you own a home, the rules are the same. Instead of paying rent, you pay your share of the mortgage, utilities and related expenses. If someone else is paying your share, your SSI check will be a lower amount.
How Much Rent of Mortgage to Pay
If you live alone, SSA will look to see that you are paying all of your rent or mortgage. If you live with other people there are some specific rules about How Much Rent or Mortgage to Pay on SSI
What if a government or nonprofit program pays part of my rent and utilities?
There are special rules for this. This will not make your SSI check go down.
What if I am homeless?
Please take a look here: How Much is SSI if You are Homeless?
Will my SSI check go down if I live with a family member, mother, brother, sister, etc?
No. As long as you are paying your share of household expenses, and you are an adult, this has no effect on your check. If you are under age 18, then your parent’s income will impact your SSI.
Will my SSI check go down if I live with a husband or wife?
Depends. Very often this will cause an SSI check to go down or be cut off. It is difficult for married people to stay on SSI, because they will consider both people’s income.
Will my SSI check go down if I live with a roommate or friend?
No. As long as you are paying your share of household expenses, this has no effect on your check.
Will my SSI check go down if I live with a girlfriend or boyfriend?
Sometimes. This does not happen in all cases, but sometimes a Social Security worker will will ask questions to see if the two people are functioning more like roommates or more like a married couple. If Social Security determines that two people are more like a married couple, they may treat them as married, even if they are not legally married. In some cases, this means a person’s SSI check may be reduced or eliminated. This is called Holding Out as Married.
I can’t afford rent yet, what are my options?
If you are not yet receiving SSI, or your SSI check is currently being lowered, you may find it difficult to pay your full share of rent. There are some policies that assist with this situation: How To Pay Rent While Waiting
My child is disabled. Who can pay my child’s rent?
For families with a child with disabilities, when your child turns 18, he or she will need to follow the SSI rent rules. Many families arrange for children to start paying rent at this age.
Reader’s Story: Suzy lived in a house owned by her mom. When she turned 18, she signed a lease with her mom and began paying rent every month. She also paid her share of the food and utilities. Her SSI check was kept in a separate bank account from her mom, but she would write a check to her mom for rent and utilities each month.
For children under the age of 18, there is no impact if a disabled child receives free rent from a parent who lives in the home. If the child receives free or discounted rent from an absent parent or from grandparents or from anyone else, the child’s SSI check is lowered.
How do I prove I paid rent?
Once you start paying rent, if possible, try to pay your rent by check or some way where you can get a receipt. You may never be asked for this receipt, but it is good to have it just in case.
Learn more about these special situations on this page of Frequently Asked Questions
- “I Live Alone”
- “I live with my child and my child collects SSI”
- “I Live with Other People (Kids, Relatives, Friends, etc)”
- “I am getting discounted rent through HUD, Section 8, or another agency”
- “I am living with a boyfriend or girlfriend or husband or wife”
- “I live in a room in a house owned by my mother, father, sister, etc”
- “I live with a friend or family member. They are renting.”
- How Can I Find a Place I Can Afford on SSI?
- I own my house. Can I rent out a room and charge rent?
- “Wait! I Do Not Pay Rent. Why Am I Getting Maximum SSI?”
- “Why do some people get reduced SSI and some people get maximum SSI?”
How to find rent you can afford and other important things you need to know about How to Survive on SSI