Are you paying too much rent in public housing?
IF YOU LIVE IN PUBLIC HOUSING YOU MAY BE PAYING TOO MUCH RENT!
IF YOU JUST BECAME EMPLOYED YOU MAY BE ENTITLED TO A REFUND OF OVERPAID PAST RENT!!!
In determining the rent a tenant must pay, public housing authorities are required to totally disregard for one year any increase in income resulting from employment of a family member who:
- was previously on welfare;
- was previously unemployed; or
- participated in a job training program.
This law became effective October 1, 1999. It is called the earned income disregard.
This means that if you meet the required criteria, you may be eligible for reduced rent or a refund of past rent if you qualify now or qualified at any time since October 1, 1999.
To find out if you qualify for the earned income disregard ask yourself the following questions:
DO YOU QUALIFY AS A PERSON WHO WAS PREVIOUSLY UNEMPLOYED?
You are considered to have been previously employed if you live in public housing and you or a member of your family have earned no more than if you or the family member had worked 500 hours at minimum wage in the twelve months prior to your new employment.
EXAMPLE #1: You live in public housing and have not worked for the past twelve months and now have a job. You qualify for the earned income disregard as a previously unemployed person because you have not been employed in the past twelve months.
EXAMPLE #2: You live in public housing and your adult daughter obtained employment after working fewer than 500 hours during the year prior to going to work. You qualify for the earned income disregard as a previously unemployed person because you worked fewer than 500 hours in the past year, and you earned less than if you had worked 500 hours at minimum wage.
DO YOU QUALIFY FOR THE EARNED INCOME DISREGARD AS SOMEONE PREVIOUSLY ON WELFARE?
You qualify for the disregard if: Your family's annual income increased because a family member who was receiving TANF or any other state welfare benefits is now employed. In addition, you qualify if your family’s annual income increased because a family member who received one-time payments, wage subsidies or transportation assistance benefits or services that total over $500 over a period of six months is now employed.
EXAMPLE #1: You live in public housing and were receiving TANF for five months before you began working. You qualify for the earned income disregard because you obtained employment after having been on TANF.
EXAMPLE #2: You live in public housing and are receiving TANF and have just been given a raise at your employment. Your family qualifies for the earned income disregard because you have obtained a job while on TANF.
EXAMPLE #3: You live in public housing with your adult daughter who obtained employment after having been on TANF for the past three months. Your family qualifies for the earned income disregard because a member of you household obtained employment after having been on TANF.
EXAMPLE #4: You live in public housing and have received a one-time payment of government assistance in the amount of $450 and transportation assistance equal to the amount of $150 over the past six months. You qualify for the earned income disregard because the total amount of your benefits is $600, which is over the $500 requirement and you have received these benefits over the required six months.
DO YOU QUALIFY FOR THE EARNED INCOME DISREGARD AS A PERSON WHO PARTICIPATED IN A JOB TRAINING PROGRAM?
You qualify for the disregard if: Your family’s annual income increased because a family member participated in any economic self-sufficiency or other job training program.
EXAMPLE: You live in public housing and you become employed after participating in a self-sufficiency or job training program such as welfare-to-work.
IF YOU QUALIFY FOR THE EARNED INCOME DISREGARD YOU ARE ENTITLED TO THE FOLLOWING BENEFITS!!!
If you are a qualified family, this means that for twelve months the housing authority MUST exclude from your family’s annual income the entire increase in income resulting from the new employment in determining the amount of rent you must pay. For the second year, the housing authority must exclude fifty percent of the employment income in determining the rent you must pay.
EXAMPLE #1: You live in public housing and were on TANF before going to work. Your rent payment during this time was $25 per month. You obtain a job earning $500 dollars per month. For twelve months, the housing authority MUST exclude that new income from your annual income when calculating your rent payment. This means that your rent amount may not be increased and must remain at $25 per month even though you are now earning $500 per month in income. As long as you keep your job and continue to be employed, your rent cannot be higher than $25 per month for at least twelve months.
EXAMPLE #2: It is twelve months after the housing authority initially disregarded your increased income, you live in public housing and you are still earning $500 per month in income. The housing authority must now recalculate your rent. However, the housing authority MUST exclude fifty percent of your earned income when calculating your rent. This means that only $250 of your $500 income will be considered actual income and used to calculate your rent for the second year following employment. So as long as you keep your job and continue to be employed, your rent will be calculated as if your income is only $250 and will remain at that amount for another twelve months.
WHAT IS THE MAXIMUM LENGTH OF TIME I CAN HAVE MY EARNED INCOME EXCLUDED?
A family is limited to a lifetime forty-eight month period of eligibility for the income disregard. The forty-eight month period begins on the date when the family member first begins employment. Thus, if you go to work for only six months and stop working, you still have forty-two more months in which to use the remaining time on the earned income disregard.
EXAMPLE: You live in public housing and begin work on January 1, 2001, at which time you ask the housing authority to disregard your income. The last possible date through which you may have earned income excluded would be December 31, 2004, which is four years after you first began working.
* Credit: Texas Rural Legal Aid
Reviewed August 2009