How to Hold on to Housing for the Disabled

wheelchair accessible homeDear Apartment Guru,

Hi! I found you on, and thought you knew what the hell you were talking about.

So I've got a question for you: A friend of mine has been renting a Section 8 house, and has a daughter who just turned 18 and is disabled. She moved out for about a year, and was just getting ready to move back, but HUD says her mom cannot keep the house since the disabled daughter is not currently living there.

Is this true? Her daughter's mental disability is severe and she will always need a place. On that alone, can't the mom fight to keep her house?

Sincerely and thanks,

--Helping Out a Friend

Dear Helping,

First of all, thanks for thinking that I know what the hell I'm talking about. I often wonder myself. Now, on to your questions.

First of all, when dealing with any government agency, you can probably expect things to be about as simple as a Starbucks' order consisting of a triple venti half-caff, sugar-free, caramel macchiato with half-skim/half-cream and a shot of chocolate, with whipped cream on the side -- but not nearly as tasty.

Section 8 housing covers many different kinds of government assistance, with programs for the elderly, the disabled and the impoverished, among others. In other words, the information you gave doesn't nearly begin to cover all the follow-up questions necessary to deduce whether or not your friend can keep her home.

"It is possible that this woman has lost her eligibility because her daughter moved away and it was her daughter's subsidy in the first place," advises Traycee Huck, a HUD compliance manager in Columbus. "If so, after the daughter left for the year, the mother was in fact living there and reaping the benefits illegally."

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In this case, it is likely that the daughter will have to reapply for the subsidy (or her mother will, on her behalf). However, the mother might find herself having to pay back the government for the year that she lived there without her daughter.

"HUD recently mandated the use of what is called Enterprise Income Verification (EIV), for all owners and agents receiving HUD subsidy," explains Huck. "EIV became mandatory January 31st of this year and owners and agents are catching innocent mistakes and fraud all over the place."

Perhaps your friend has fallen victim to these new government policies that have been put in place to protect the system. If this is the case, it might not be an impossible problem to fix.

"If the daughter was out of the unit for an extended time due to a medical situation, hospital stay, etcetera, then that would be covered by any house rules for the property," says Huck. She does warn, however, that the number of days permitted can vary.

So, even if your friend is unable to recoup all of her losses, she may not need to pay back the entire year's worth of rent.

The best advice is to reapply for the subsidy and sort everything out. When your friend begins this process, recommend that she set herself apart by appealing to the humanity of the government workers with whom she comes into contact. A big smile, a little humility (and maybe a box of donuts for good measure) can go a long way in situations like these. (This strategy works surprisingly well at the DMV too!) Just because finding a solution might take time and patience doesn't mean the peace of mind won't ultimately be worth it.

You are a good friend for asking.

Have a question for the Apartment Guru? Email her at:

The Aparment Guru is Joselin Linder, co-writer of "The Good Girls Guide to Living in Sin" and "Have Sex Like You Just Met." Having rented apartments and houses in Boston, Seattle, San Francisco, Brooklyn, Columbus, OH and abroad in Prague, she knows what it means to live in a home that you don't own and still make it homey. Anything she doesn't know, she isn't afraid to ask about.

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