How to Pay Rent While Waiting for an SSI Approval or Redetermination

Robin Mead

Social Security has some special rules for folks on SSI (or applying).

If you don’t pay rent, or don’t pay the right amount of rent, your check can be lowered!

On the other hand, if you start paying rent or start paying the right amount of rent, your check can be raised!

There’s just one problem: How do you start paying the right amount of rent right now if you don’t have enough money right now?

Social Security Rent Regs

What’s the right amount of rent? And how do these rules work? You can discover more (than you ever wanted to know) about this here: How Much Rent to Pay on SSI

By the way, this page is for SSI only. If you are on SSDI please ignore everything you have read so far, and skip the rest. How to Understand the Difference Between SSI and SSDI Without Making Your Head Explode

Why Can’t You Pay Rent Right Now?

There are a few situations where people commonly run into this issue:

🌷 You are waiting for your first check: If you are still applying for disability (not yet approved) the way you are living now can make your backpay check go up or down.

🌷 You are waiting for your check to be adjusted: If you are currently receiving a reduced check, and you have requested to have the SSI check redetermined, it’s going to be a little while before it actually does change. About two months.

🌷 You are not waiting for anything: Your rent is just higher than you can afford. This is a slightly different problem, but some of the ideas below may still help.

How to Pay Rent When You Can’t Afford to Pay Rent

Luckily, there are a few policies that can help you out in this situation:

🌷 Section 8. A very affordable housing program. If your income is $0 your rent can be $0. Don’t listen to anyone who says that Section 8 is impossible to get or all buildings are not nice. Instead, visit this page: Section 8 Guide for the Disabled and Plucky

🌷 Affordable housing. Other affordable housing programs: How to Find Open Waiting Lists the Easy Way

🌷 Backpay: If you were approved recently, and still have backpay, you can use your backpay to cover your rent expenses while waiting.

🌷 Rental loan agreements: If you are living in a house owned by a friend or family member, you can make a rental loan agreement for the room where you are living.

🌷  Sublet rental loan agreements: If you are living in a house rented by a friend or family member, you can make a rental loan agreement for a sublet for the room where you are living. Again, details below.

🌷 Intending to Pay Rent. If you are not yet paying rent, but intend to star paying as soon as your SSI check comes (or as soon as it is raised), you can show the Social Security worker your rental agreement and state your intention to start paying rent.

🌷 Working. Working part time is allowed while someone is on disability or applying, but there are some special rules and regulations you should know How to Work Without (Too Much) Trouble

🌷 Loans. If someone wants to loan you money, loans are always allowed and do not affect SSI. Please make sure to have a valid, signed loan agreement before any money is given to you. The loan agreement should be signed and dated before you receive the money.

🌷 Student loans also do not impact SSI. Many people receive student loans that are higher than tuition costs and use part of their student loans for food and housing. Warning: According to SSA policies, grants can only be used for educational expenses. Loans can be used in any way you wish.

🌷 ABLE accounts. If you are already approved for disability and you first became disabled before the age of 26, you can open an ABLE account where a friend or family member can donate money to you. This can be used for rent and utilities.

🌷 Owing money to your landlord. This is probably going to go better if your landlord is someone who likes you. For example, if you are renting a room in your mom’s house, and you have a nice mom. If you cannot afford to pay all your rent now, you can pay the amount you can, and owe some of your back rent. This can be paid at any rate that works for both you and your landlord. Social Security does not have rules about how quickly people need to pay back debt. It is helpful if you have a clear written lease and keep written receipts from your landlord stating how much rent you have paid and how much you still owe.

🌷 Changing rental calculations. If you live with the person who owns the home, there are two different ways rent can be calculated. This can lead to VERY different rent amounts. For example, if your parents or friends or children own a home and you live with them, or if you rent a room in someone’s house. It may be very helpful to: learn more about Figuring Out Your Share if You Live with the Homeowner

🌷 Separate leases. If you are renting a room in a house, in some situations, it may work better for you to have a separate lease or sublet lease. For example, if you are renting a small bedroom with a shared bath for $300, and someone else in the house is renting a large bedroom with a private bath for $500, it may be better for you to have a separate lease to show you are paying the correct amount for the type of space you are in.

🌷 Fundraisers. Possible, but problematic. How to Fundraise Without Losing Your Benefits

🌷 More bright ideasHow You Can (and can’t) Make Money While on SSI

Using ABLE Accounts to Pay Rent

Another option is if you have any funds in an ABLE account.

ABLE accounts can be used to pay rent and utilities. According to the SSI rules, you should not use ABLE accounts to pay for food (ABLE may allow you to pay for food, but SSI may lower your check if you do this).

About ABLE Accounts

Using Special Needs Trusts to Pay Rent

Special Needs Trusts cannot be used for rent and utilities and food. However, they can be used for other purchases, freeing up more of your SSI check to pay rent.

All-Purpose Financial Survival 

🌷 Financial survival for people with disabilities: How to Be Poor in America

🌷 Financial survival for people applying for disability: How to Survive Financially While Applying for Disability

🌷 Financial survival for people on SSI:  How to Survive on SSI

Learn More

Learn more about: How to Apply for SSI Without Falling into Quicksand

Please comment below with stories, ideas, questions or suggestions. Please let us know if any links on this page stop working. 

Updated June 2018. If you found this page helpful, please share it with others by pressing one of these magic little buttons: 

41 thoughts on “How to Pay Rent While Waiting for an SSI Approval or Redetermination”


    Your site is a great resource. I stumbled upon it while researching SSI and other programs for my ASD son when he turns 18. This site has helped me a lot!

    Perhaps I am reading it wrong, but it seems like for ABLE accounts you have food and housing reversed. As per the above SS link food is a QDE, and housing isn’t. As I read it, a distrubtion for housing typically would be a countable resource.

    Per the link:

    “Housing expenses

    Housing expenses for purposes of an ABLE account are similar to household costs for in-kind support and maintenance purposes. However, for ABLE purposes, food is considered a qualified disability expense (basic living expense), but not a housing expense. “


    1. To my knowledge, distributions for housing won’t be considered income. If you don’t actually spend the money on housing, but keep it instead…. it will start to count as a resource.

      4. Do not count ABLE account distributions as income

      A distribution from an ABLE account is not income but is a conversion of a resource from one form to another, see SI 01110.600B.4.

      Do not count distributions from an ABLE account as income of the designated beneficiary, regardless of whether the distributions are for a QDE that is not related to housing, for a housing expense, or for a non-qualified expense.


  2. I contracted Lyme decease about 15years ago and have been unable to work for past 10years due to illness.just now got approved for abd and filled for SSI and SSID.i was a journeyman plumber making top wages as foreman for same shop about 10 years$34.00ph plus full lawyer says they are going back 10 years the time I’ve been unable to this possible?i was not appouved for ABD until I was determined to have emphezema and copd and got a lawyer. What should I expect next?


  3. Hello! I have a few questions on my situation with my mother in law:
    I am trying to get her ssi because she is disabled, physically and mentally and cant work
    Our situation is my mother in law lives with her mother and father and payed no rent, now her father has passed away and half of the income in the house is gone.
    so now MIL is going to have to make up for that.
    she already lives there in a “separate house hold” because there is close to no interaction with both parties that live in the house and buys her own food with food stamps
    should we write up a rental loan agreement and also a lease agreement ? and also when you say written do you mean typed and signed or does the whole thing need to be hand written?
    i also dont want her food stamps to be lowered so should i charge her 600 dollars for rent and on average 100 dollars for utilities to avoid that? if you could get back to me that would be awesome
    thank you


    1. If you have a verbal agreement that she will be paying back rent, it’s very good to put it in writing. typed or handwritten is fine.

      In some states, having a separate charge for rent and utilities does make food stamps go up…. however, I don’t know if food stamps will honor a loan agreement for rent. They may only go by amount actually paid.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Hello my mom has been receiving ssi benefits for years when my dad passed away she moved to a new apartment and her rent was $950 so they lowered her ssi so she has a roommate now but it is not on the agreement it is just between them can we take that paper that was handwritten and signed as proof ?


    1. It sounds like maybe your mom has some kind of sublet agreement?

      If she’s living with one other person and each of them is paying 50% of the rent and utilities, I think that SSI would consider that correct. I would think that a handwritten sublet agreement would probably be fine. If for some reason they want it typed she can always type one up.

      If she has already started paying her 50%, it might be helpful to bring proof of that as well.


  5. I have applied 4 months ago and got a letter saying that I “might be considered disabled by my state and need to do a phone interview to see if I can start receving payments.” It did not directly say.


    1. Interesting! I’m not sure quite what is happening then.

      If you’ve been approved, then the amount of rent you pay won’t change the approval. The only thing it can do is make your check go up or down.

      For the months when your dad paid your rent, it might make your backpay check go down.

      For the future, if you are planning to start paying your own rent, it would be good to have a signed agreement with your landlord or with whoever is renting you the room, so that you can show SSA the rent you will be paying. You can bring that to your SSI interview, or if it’s a phone interview tell them about the agreement and ask if they want a copy.

      Hope this helps.


    2. I fully plan on paying my dad back all the rent for the last year and a half and a phone bill. We have a great relationship and full understanding on this. If I write a statement regarding this and have both of us sign it 6and have this at my interview will this help with the backpay?


      1. Hi cyndi,

        They do not care about phone bill. Just rent, food and basic utilities (gas, electric, water, trash)

        You can certainly try doing this, however, they may not accept it because it was not signed before the rent was given to you, so they may not consider that a valid loan agreement.

        If you have anything in writing from a year and a half ago, even something informal like an email, I would show that as well.

        Hope this helps.


  6. hello I have a ssi interview on the 22th and I am worried becuase I rent a room from a friend and my dad pays only a $100 a month for it. but I have told my frined about this interview and possible new income and they want $300 a month after i get approved should I just write this as a statement and give this to ssi. I am worried I will not be approved.


      1. I am not sure the letter says that I “might be qualified as disabled by my state” and a phone interview is on monday to see if I qualify for benefits. It asked for a rental agreement.


          1. I was going through my files this morning and I found two statement I had to do for ebt stateing that my dad pays my rent for me from 2017 and 2018. Would this be of any help?


            1. Good detective work.

              I don’t think they will dispute that your dad paid your rent, so no need to prove that. You may need to prove if you had a loan agreement to pay him back.


            2. my apologies. I confused your post with someone else 🙂 I thought you were trying to document a loan.

              If it wasn’t a loan never mind! If you just tell them someone else paid your rent, they will lower your backpay and that’s done.

              For the future, a signed agreement with the person who is renting you the room, including the amount of rent you will pay. If you pay your own rent, then you may be eligible for maximum amount of SSI.

              In some cases, the amount of rent may make a difference.


  7. She asked me ” do I live with anyone that I consider being married 2″ I simply said no and that was it. She only asked to see rental agreement.


    1. awesome. that is helpful to know. thank you. would you be interested in sharing a copy of your rental agreement (with identifying details blacked out)? a lot of our readers have asked to see that. If you don’t wish to that is fine. happy it went so well for you 🙂


      1. Hi, I was just wondering about my backpay. I have a rental agreement between myself and a friend of mine for the rent that I owe him. The agreement was that I would pay everything back that I owe him for back rent when I get my backpay. I have sent in proof of that agreement, so will they give me all my SSI backpay in one lump sum so I can pay him all that I owe??(which is about 3 yrs worth at $400/mo.


  8. I did my phone interview today And it went GREAT thanks to all your help. I got approved for full SSI amount and all my back pay. You were right the rental agreement was just what I needed. I hope everyone else gets as much help from u as i did


  9. Thanks for all your help im trying to like your page but it won’t let me. Im gonna call SS office on Monday morning. Wish me luck ill keep u posted.


  10. I just got my letter from the local SS office today 10/13/18. Its asking me 2 call in and ask for a lady to discuss the ssi application I filed. It says the must update my living arrangements income and resources. I still never got my fully favorable decision from the judge. Is it normal for them to be moving so fast? My anxiety is beyond through the roof


  11. I actually have a rental agreement and a agreement saying I will pay back all back rent owed once I get my SSI. It also says even uf I dont get approved I still agree to pay$100 per month towards the back rent as soon as im able. Do you think this is good enough? Also how long does it take for SS to contact me about the financial questions? How long till I start receiving money? I already called SS and gave them my banking info for direct deposit. Thank you so much this website is AMAZING. You have helped me so much


  12. I just got approved for SSI after waiting 28 months. Ive lived with my boyfriend’s mother. We have a child together and I agreed to pay her $300 a month and we buy our own food with foodstamps. However I haven’t paid rent in 29 months because I have been unable to work and she said as long as I pay her back when I can its ok. Is this going to effect my back pay from SSI? Please help im freaking out


    1. Hi Jennifer,

      Are you applying for SSI or SSDI?

      As far as I know, if you have a signed rental loan agreement that was signed 29 months ago, then show this to Social Security.

      If you don’t have something like this, Social Security probably won’t accept the verbal agreement, but you can certainly try.

      The bigger issue is that there is a chance they will consider you and your boyfriend “holding out as married”. If you’d like to read more about this:

      I hope it goes well for you.


      1. I got a fully favorable decision from ALJ for SSI. Yes I have a singed and notarized rental agreement from when I first moved in. Also since first application things have changed my boyfriend and I split up. Were sleeping in separate rooms and as soon as I get my money from SSI I plan on moving out and getting my own place with my mother and my 3 yr old son. Should I explain all of this to SS ppl when they call? I don’t want to say the wrong thing I need as much back pay and monthly pay as possible. I have no help my son’s father doesn’t work and doesn’t help me at all.


        1. Hi Jennifer,

          It sounds like you have done good research.

          Yes, it is great to tell them about your rental agreement. It is very helpful that you have that. If the agreement does not specifically say that it is a loan agreement, hopefully they will still accept it. I think signed and notarized is fantastic!!!

          If they ask you the holding out as married questions, you can explain the situation. Some interviews don’t ask these questions.

          I hope it goes great for you.


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