How Do Living Arrangements Impact SSI Benefits?

Your benefits can be reduced by your living arrangements

When the federal government calculates how much Supplemental Security Income (SSI) you will receive, they take into account your living arrangements.

Here’s the basic math. If you live in a house or apartment that you own, and you pay your own food and shelter costs, then you will get the full amount of SSI benefit. If you live in a place owned by someone else, you’ll still get the maximum amount as long as you pay your own food and shelter costs.

However, if you live in a place owned by someone else, and they pay all or part of your food and shelter costs, then your SSI benefit might be reduced by up to one-third of the SSI federal benefit rate. This might be the case, for instance, if you share a rented apartment with another person who pays the rent. It doesn’t apply to parents paying for their children’s living arrangements.

There are some other circumstances that can impact your SSI benefits, though. In this article, we’ll take a deeper look.

Key Takeaways

  • Your living arrangements can have a big impact on your level of Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefit.
  • If you live with someone and they pay more than their fair share of food and shelter costs, you may find that your SSI is reduced.
  • The Social Security Administration (SSA) will only count one–third of the maximum federal SSI amount payable for a month plus $20. And they can only reduce your SSI by this amount as well.
  • You don’t need to have a home to receive SSI benefits. You may receive up to the maximum SSI amount payable in your state if you are homeless.
  • If you live in an institution (such as a hospital, nursing home, prison, or jail), this will also affect your SSI benefits. Generally, you will either lose your eligibility for SSI, or it will be limited to $30 a month.

Understanding Living Arrangements and SSI Benefits

In general, your living expenses do not affect the amount of SSI benefit that you receive. Your SSI benefit is based on your income, not on your expenses.

However, money for food or shelter that you receive from someone else may reduce your SSI benefit. For example, if you live in shared accommodation with another person and pay less than half of the rent, this might reduce your SSI benefit. It might also be reduced if you live in your own house, apartment, or mobile home, and someone else pays for all or part of your food, rent, mortgage, or other things like electricity and heating fuel.

There are exceptions to this rule:

  • If you are living with a spouse, and they pay for living or food expenses for you, this doesn’t affect your SSI benefit.
  • Similarly, parents can provide this for their children without it affecting their child’s SSI benefits.
  • If someone buys you items that are neither food nor shelter—such as kitchen appliances—this doesn’t count toward the total.

There are also limitations to this rule. The Social Security Administration (SSA) will count only one-third of the maximum federal SSI amount payable for a month plus $20. And they can only reduce your SSI by this amount as well.

The ABLE National Resource Center (NRC) team also points out another potential benefit of ABLE (Achieving a Better Life Experience) accounts when it comes to your living expenses: When family or friends deposit funds into an ABLE account owned by someone who receives SSI, the funds may be used to help pay for housing, utilities, and food without jeopardizing the SSI benefit.

“In many areas of the country,” the ABLE NRC team points out, “the amount [people receive in] SSI is not enough to cover housing expenses without relying upon other government assistance programs. An ABLE account can help to ensure housing in such cases.”

Important

The SSA will only count one–third of the maximum federal SSI amount payable for a month plus $20. And they can only reduce your SSI by this amount as well.

SSI Benefits If You Live in an Institution

If you live in an institution, even temporarily, this will also affect your SSI benefits. Generally, if you live in a hospital, nursing home, prison, or jail, you will either lose your eligibility for SSI or it will be limited to $30 a month. There are some exceptions, though, and some states supplement this $30 benefit.

This also applies if you have to go to the hospital for more than a month. If Medicaid is paying for more than half the cost of your hospital care and you are in the facility for the whole month, then your SSI benefit is limited to $30 (plus any supplementary state payment). The SSA may lower this benefit further if you have other income.

Important

If you will be in a medical institution for 90 days or less, you may be able to receive your regular SSI benefit. The SSA provides instructions on how to do this on their website.

SSI Benefits If You Are Homeless

You don’t need to have a home to receive SSI benefits. You may receive up to the maximum SSI amount payable in your state if you are homeless. In addition, if you are receiving SSI benefits, then you may be able to receive subsidized housing.

If you live in a public shelter, you can still receive SSI benefits. These can be paid for up to six out of any nine months that you live in the shelter. You also don’t need an address to get SSI benefits—the SSA will make arrangements to pay you once you apply for SSI.

What can reduce Supplemental Security Income (SSI)?

Some types of assistance and living situations can reduce your monthly Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefit. For example, if you live rent free in a house owned by a relative, the SSA considers this to be in-kind support and maintenance, which they calculate as being worth $284.66. Your monthly benefit could be reduced by this amount in some situations, given what assistance you receive for rent, mortgage, food, or utilities.

Does having a roommate affect my SSI?

Normally, no. As long as the roommate does not pay more than their share of shelter expenses and of food if you share food, having another person in the household will not affect your SSI benefits.

How do I prove my living arrangements?

Sometimes, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will ask you to prove your living arrangements. To do this, send or bring in current rent receipts or lease agreements and utility bills. They must show your address and the amount that you are supposed to pay. If you don’t have bills or receipts, you can use a form to declare this.

The Bottom Line

Your living arrangements can have a big impact on your level of SSI benefit. If you live with someone and they pay more than their fair share of food and shelter costs, you may find your SSI reduced.

There are limitations to this rule. If you live with a spouse and they pay for living or food expenses for you, this doesn’t affect your SSI benefit. Similarly, parents can provide this for their children without it affecting their child’s SSI benefits. If you live in an institution, you might also see your SSI reduced.

Article Sources

Investopedia requires writers to use primary sources to support their work. These include white papers, government data, original reporting, and interviews with industry experts. We also reference original research from other reputable publishers where appropriate. You can learn more about the standards we follow in producing accurate, unbiased content in our editorial policy.
  1. Social Security Administration. “Spotlight on Living Arrangements.”

  2. Social Security Administration. “Understanding Supplemental Security Income SSI Income.”

  3. Social Security Administration. “Spotlight on SSI Temporary Institutionalization Benefits for Persons Who Are Institutionalized 90 Days or Less.”

Take the Next Step to Invest
×
The offers that appear in this table are from partnerships from which Investopedia receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where listings appear. Investopedia does not include all offers available in the marketplace.
Service
Name
Description