Hello again! I’ve had the opportunity of a lifetime to travel to Zambia, in southern Africa to go on a safari tour. So, here I am, ready for a day walk through the South Luangwa Valley. What a delight to see these wild animals in their natural habitat! Fortunately for me, the base camp has wi-fi, so I can get some work done, answering your questions!
I’m disabled and SSI has been my only income for three years. I live with my brother in a house that he and I got when our mother died 10 years ago. We jointly own it free and clear; it’s probably worth around $75,000 now. I want to move out and rent a small place to live by myself. My brother would still live here and I’d still own my half share of it. But a friend of mine told me that if I do that I’d lose my SSI? Is that true?
It is possible that you would lose eligibility for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) but not necessarily.
To be eligible for SSI, the value of a person’s countable resources must not exceed a certain level at the beginning of a month. For an individual such as you, the level is $2,000 (for a couple it’s $3,000). Certain resources do not count toward the limit including a home which serves as a person’s principle place of residence. Once you live elsewhere, your house may no longer be an excluded resource.
The Social Security Administration (SSA) would consider the house to be jointly owned property with its equity value being counted toward the resource limit. Although state laws about jointly owned property vary, SSA normally assumes that each owner of shared property owns only his or her fractional interest which can be sold. SSA divides the total equity value of the property among all of the owners in direct proportion to the ownership share held by each owner (one-half in your case) and then counts that toward the resource limit. So, based on what you said, your portion of the equity value of the house would make you ineligible for SSI for each month you still have ownership and are not residing there. (POMS SI 01110.510)
However, there is an exception to this rule that might apply in your situation. The value of an SSI recipient’s ownership interest in jointly owned real property can be excluded as a resource for as long as sale of the property would cause undue hardship to a co-owner (your brother). Undue hardship exists if the co-owner 1) uses the property as his or her principal place of residence, 2) would have to move if the property were sold, and 3) has no other readily available housing (that is, housing that is affordable or has needed physical modifications). (POMS SI 01130.130)
Contact your local SSA office for more information and be sure to let them know if you move.
Best wishes whatever you decide to do. Now, I’d better catch up with my group. I’d hate to get lost out here. Until next time…