How to Handle Resident Income Disputes with EIV Data
EIV, which stands for Enterprise Income Verification, is HUD’s web-based tool to help reduce erroneous and improper payments in the agency’s assisted housing programs. The ultimate goal, HUD says, is to ensure that the “right benefits go to the right person.” Using EIV and the data it provides is part of HUD’s initiatives under the Rental Housing Integrity Improvement Project (RHIIP).
The EIV system provides owners with employment, wage, unemployment compensation, and Social Security benefit information for HUD-assisted tenants. The employment and income data that are available from EIV come from the Social Security Administration (SSA) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) National Directory of New Hires. EIV interfaces with the following other data sources at regular intervals to provide you with current and accurate information:
- Resident information is derived from the current, active form HUD-50059, Owner’s Certification of Compliance with HUD’s Tenant Eligibility and Rent Procedures, in TRACS (Tenant Rental Assistance Certification Subsystem).
- For purposes of matching Social Security benefits, a quarterly match is conducted against SSA records for residents who pass the SSA identity test to obtain SSA benefits, Medicare premium, and disability status information. The SSA identity test matches personal identifiers such as Social Security number (SSN), last name, or date of birth supplied by the resident against SSA records.
- Monthly and quarterly matches against the NDNH data are conducted for residents who pass the identity match with SSA, for wage, compensation, and unemployment benefit information.
Under HUD rules, owners must use the Existing Tenant Search in EIV as part of their screening criteria for new tenants and must include written policies for using the search in their Tenant Selection Plan [HUD Handbook 4350.3, par. 9-9(B)(1)]. Also, owners may not suspend, terminate, reduce, make a final denial of rental assistance, or take any other adverse action against an individual based solely on the data in EIV [HUD Handbook 4350.3, par. 9-9(C)].
What should you do if a tenant disagrees with the amount of income that EIV is reporting? We’ll go over what should happen and what occurs when EIV income data is incorrect or doesn’t belong to the tenant.
Independent Third-Party Verification
If a tenant disputes EIV income information, owners must request and obtain independent third-party verification directly from the source. In these situations, the owner must not use tenant-provided documentation even if generated from a third-party source [HUD Handbook 4350.3, par. 9-10(A)(2)].
When the owner is unable to obtain third-party verification, such as when the third party doesn’t respond, the owner must document in the tenant file why third-party verification wasn’t available. Specifically, the owner must include the following documents in the applicant’s or tenant’s file:
- A written note to the file explaining why third-party verification isn’t possible;
- A copy of the date-stamped original request that was sent to the third party;
- Written notes or documentation indicating follow-up efforts to reach the third party to obtain verification; and
- A written note to the file indicating that the request has been outstanding without a response from the third party [HUD Handbook 4350.3, par. 5-18(E)].
An owner can accept self-declaration from the tenant only if third-party verification cannot be obtained by another acceptable verification method. An owner may accept a tenant’s notarized statement or signed affidavit regarding the veracity of information submitted only if the information cannot be verified by another acceptable verification method [HUD Handbook 4350.3, par. 5-13(B)(1)(d)].
Incorrect Income Data
There may be times when the source or originator of EIV information makes an error when submitting or reporting information about residents. HUD cannot and will not correct data in the EIV system; only the originator of the data can correct the information [HUD Handbook 4350.3, par. 9-16].
When data is corrected by the source or the originator, HUD will obtain the updated information with its next computer matching process. Here are the procedures to follow regarding incorrect EIV information:
Tracs data. TRACS data reported in EIV originates from the owner. Once data is corrected in the owner’s software, the corrected data must be transmitted to TRACS.
Employment and wage information. This data reported in EIV originates from the employer. The employer reports this information to the local State Workforce Agency (SWA), which in turn, reports the information to HHS’ NDNH database.
If the tenant disputes the accuracy of the information in EIV that was provided by the employer and after additional third-party verification is obtained by the owner and it’s determined that the information isn’t accurate, the tenant should contact the employer directly, in writing, to dispute the employment and/or wage information and request that the employer correct erroneous information. The tenant should provide the owner with a copy of this written correspondence to maintain in the tenant file.
Unemployment information. Unemployment benefit information reported in EIV originates from the local SWA. If the tenant disputes the accuracy of the information in EIV that was provided by the SWA and, after additional third-party verification is obtained by the owner, it’s determined that the information isn’t accurate, the tenant should contact the SWA directly, in writing, to dispute the unemployment benefit information, and request that the SWA correct erroneous information. The tenant should provide the owner with a copy of this written correspondence to maintain in the tenant file.
Social Security information. Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefit information reported in EIV originates from the SSA. If the tenant disputes the accuracy of the information in EIV that was provided by the SSA and, after additional third-party verification is obtained by the owner and it’s determined that the information isn’t accurate, the tenant should contact the SSA at (800) 772-1213, or visit the local SSA office and request that the erroneous information be corrected. SSA office information is available in the government pages of the local telephone directory or online at: www.socialsecurity.gov.
Remember, if the tenant disputes the SSA information in EIV or when the tenant reports that he receives SSA benefits but there is no SSA information in EIV, the owner must obtain third-party verification by requesting the tenant provide a copy of his benefit or award letter or Proof of Income Letter, dated within the last 120 days from the date of receipt by the owner [HUD Handbook 4350.3, par. 9-15].
The owner must not send the tenant to the SSA office if he doesn’t have this information. Instead, the owner must ask the tenant to request benefit information from SSA using SSA’s website or toll-free number. The owner may assist the tenant in requesting benefit information from SSA, if the tenant requests assistance in accessing the SSA website or has questions on completing the request.
For more information on requesting a Proof of Income Letter from SSA’s website go to https://faq.ssa.gov/ics/support/kbanswer.asp?QuestionID=3705http://www.socialsecurity.gov.
If the tenant can’t or doesn’t want to use an online account, the tenant can call SSA at 1-800-772-1213, Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., to request a Proof of Income Letter. This information is free and the tenant should receive the letter in the mail within 10 days. The tenant will provide the Proof of Income Letter to the owner for use in calculating his income. A copy of the letter will be retained in the tenant’s file and the original returned to the tenant for his records.
Identity theft. Incorrect information in EIV may be a sign of identity theft. Sometimes someone else may use an individual’s SSN, either on purpose or by accident. SSA doesn’t require an individual to report a lost or stolen SSN card, and reporting a lost or stolen SSN card to SSA won’t prevent the misuse of an individual’s SSN. A person using an individual’s SSN can get other personal information about that individual and apply for credit in that individual’s name. If the tenant suspects someone is using her SSN, she should:
- Check her Social Security records to ensure the records are correct (call SSA at 1-800-772-1213);
- File an identity theft complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (call FTC at 1-877-438-4338, or visit its website at: www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/idtheft/); and
- Monitor her credit reports with the three national credit reporting agencies (Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian).
Tenants may request their credit report and place a fraud alert on their credit report with the three national credit reporting agencies at: www.annualcreditreport.com or by contacting the credit reporting agency directly. Each agency’s contact information is listed below: