Minimize Tenant Fraud by Following HUD's SSN Rules
Tenant fraud occurs when an applicant or household member deliberately provides false or misleading information or omits key facts to obtain or increase the amount of assistance provided, and then signs or declares that the lies or omissions are true.
An important way HUD combats tenant fraud is by requiring applicants and household members to disclose and provide verification of the complete Social Security number (SSN) assigned to them. HUD uses the SSN along with the name and date of birth of an individual to validate that person’s identity, obtain employment and income information, and ensure it’s not paying duplicate assistance.
You must deny housing to applicants and terminate the tenancy of a resident and her household if the applicant or resident doesn’t meet the SSN disclosure, documentation, and verification requirements in a specified time frame. But there are two exemptions to the SSN disclosure requirement. We’ll go over these exemptions, the time frame for providing SSNs, and what it takes to verify an SSN.
Two Exemptions to SSN Disclosure Requirement
Generally, applicants and tenants must disclose and provide verification of the complete and accurate SSN assigned to each household member. Failure to disclose and provide documentation and verification of SSNs will result in an applicant not being admitted or a household’s tenancy being terminated. But this SSN disclosure requirement doesn’t apply to the following:
Individuals who don’t contend eligible immigration status. A household member who does “Not Contend” eligibility isn’t requesting consideration for assistance. The Housing and Community Development Act of 1980 bars HUD from making financial assistance available to persons other than U.S. citizens or certain categories of eligible noncitizens in HUD’s public and specified assisted housing programs. For sites where this restriction applies, HUD recognizes mixed-status families. The housing assistance is prorated among the eligible household members [HUD Handbook 4350.3, par. 3-9(A)(2)(a)(1)].
In other words, if one or more members of a household choose not to contend that they have eligible immigration status, and the other members of the family establish their citizenship or eligible immigration status, the family may be considered for housing assistance despite the fact that no declaration or documentation of eligible immigration status is submitted by one or more members of the family.
At Section 221(d)(3) BMIR, Section 202 PAC, Section 202 PRAC, and Section 811 PRAC properties, the restriction on providing assistance to noncitizens doesn’t apply. At these properties, individuals who don’t contend eligible immigration status must sign a certification, containing the “penalty of perjury” clause, certifying to that effect. The certification will support the individual not being subject to the requirements to disclose or provide verification of an SSN. The certification must be retained in the tenant file [HUD Handbook 4350.3, par. 3-9(A)(2)(a)(2)].
Editor's Note: See below for information about HUD's proposed rule to bar “mixed-status” families from receiving housing assistance.
Individuals age 62 or older as of Jan. 31, 2010, whose initial determination of eligibility was begun before Jan. 31, 2010. You might have an applicant or tenant who received HUD assistance before Jan. 31, 2010. Until that date, if a tenant didn’t have an SSN, the tenant could provide a certification saying that no number had been assigned to him. For these individuals, the exception status is retained even if there’s a break in his participation in a HUD-assisted program [HUD Handbook 4350.3, par. 3-9(A)(2)(b)(1)].
It’s important to note that when determining the eligibility of an individual who meets the exception requirements for SSN disclosure and verification, you must get documentation that verifies the applicant’s exemption status. A certification from the tenant isn’t acceptable verification of the exemption status [HUD Handbook 4350.3, par. 3-9(A)(2)(b)(2)]. This documentation must be retained in the tenant file.
Example: Mary doesn’t have an SSN. Her initial eligibility for HUD’s rental assistance program was determined when she moved into Hillside Apartments on Feb. 1, 2009. She doesn’t have to disclose or provide verification of an SSN because she was 73 years old as of Jan. 31, 2010, and her initial eligibility was determined prior to Jan. 31, 2010.
Mary moved out of Hillside Apartments on April 10, 2010, and moved in with her daughter who wasn’t receiving HUD’s rental assistance. Now, she’s applying to your HUD-assisted site. Mary isn’t required to meet the SSN disclosure and verification requirements as long as you can verify Mary’s initial eligibility date at Hillside Apartments was begun prior to Jan. 31, 2010.
Time Frame for Providing SSNs
Here are the HUD-required time frames for applicants and residents who want to add household members to disclose and verify their SSNs.
Applicants. Applicants don’t need to disclose or provide verification of an SSN for all nonexempt household members at the time of application and for placement on the waiting list. But an applicant may not be admitted until SSNs for all household members have been disclosed and verification has been provided [HUD Handbook 4350.3, par. 3-9(C)].
If all nonexempt household members haven’t disclosed and/or provided verification of their SSNs at the time a unit becomes available, the next eligible applicant must be offered the available unit [HUD Handbook 4350.3, par. 3-9(C)(1)].
The applicant who hasn’t disclosed and/or provided verification of SSNs for all nonexempt household members has 90 days from the date she’s first offered an available unit to disclose and/or verify the SSNs [HUD Handbook 4350.3, par. 3-9(C)(2)]. During this 90-day period, if the owner has determined that the applicant is otherwise eligible for admission into the site, and the only outstanding verification is that of disclosing and providing SSN verification, the applicant may retain her place on the waiting list for the 90-day period during which the applicant is trying to obtain documentation.
After 90 days, if the applicant is unable to disclose and/or verify the SSNs of all nonexempt household members, the applicant should be determined ineligible and removed from the waiting list.
New household member. When adding a new household member who’s age 6 or older, or who’s under the age of 6 and has an SSN, the resident must disclose and provide verification of the individual’s SSN. This SSN must be provided to the owner at the time of the request, or at the time the recertification that includes the new household member is processed [HUD Handbook 4350.3, par. 3-9(D)(4)(a)].
If a child under the age of 6 doesn’t have an SSN, you must give the household 90 calendar days in which to provide documentation of an SSN for the child. An additional 90-day period must be granted if the failure to provide documentation of an SSN is due to circumstances that are outside the tenant’s control.
Examples of such circumstances include delayed processing of the SSN application by the SSA, natural disaster, fire, or death in family. During this time period, the child must be included as part of the household and will receive all of the benefits of the program in which the resident is involved, including the dependent deduction. If 90 days and any extensions expire and the resident fails to disclose and provide verification of the SSN, the resident and the resident’s household are subject to termination of tenancy [HUD Handbook 4350.3, par. 3-9(D)(4)(b)].
You must verify and document each disclosed SSN by obtaining acceptable documentation from each member of the applicant’s or resident’s household. You should make a copy of the original documentation submitted, returning the original to the individual and retaining the copy in the file folder. Record the SSN on line 44 of the form HUD-50059.
Acceptable documents. Most individuals should be able to verify all SSNs with a Social Security card. But if the applicant or resident can’t produce the Social Security card for any or all nonexempt household members, other documents showing the household member’s SSN may be used for verification. One or more of the following alternative documents may be used to verify the SSN:
- Driver’s license with SSN;
- Identification card issued by a federal, state, or local agency; a medical insurance provider; or an employer or trade union;
- Earnings statements on payroll stubs;
- Bank statement;
- Form 1099;
- Benefit award letter;
- Retirement benefit letter;
- Life insurance policy; or
- Court records [HUD Handbook 4350.3, app. 3].
Rejection of documentation. You may reject a document that isn’t an original document; or is the original document but has been altered, mutilated, or isn’t legible; or appears to be a forged document (that is, doesn’t appear to be authentic) [HUD Handbook 4350.3, par. 3-31(C)].
You must explain to the applicant or resident the reason why the document isn’t acceptable and ask the individual to obtain acceptable documentation of the SSN and submit it to you within a reasonable time frame.
What’s HUD’s Proposed New Mixed-Status Family Rule?
Last May, HUD proposed a rule to bar “mixed-status” families from receiving housing assistance. Specifically, HUD sought to:
- Prohibit prorated assistance to mixed-status families, even if some of their members are otherwise eligible to apply and participate in the program;
- Require all noncitizen family members’ immigration statuses to be verified in USCIS’s Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) Program, regardless of whether each family member is applying for benefits;
- Require the head of household to be verified as eligible through the SAVE Program, regardless of whether he or she is applying for benefits; and
- Institute additional documentation requirements for all applicants, including U.S. citizens and seniors.
A regulatory impact analysis, which HUD attached to the proposed rule, says that 108,000 people would be affected. About 70 percent of them are citizens or legal residents and three-quarters of those—55,000—are children. Over 30,000 comments were collected on this proposed rule during the comment period. HUD hasn’t yet issued a final rule, issued a new or modified proposal, or withdrawn the proposed rule.