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 ideas: How 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).
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 about: How to Apply for SSI Without Falling into Quicksand
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Updated June 2018. If you found this page helpful, please share it with others by pressing one of these magic little buttons: