Unreported Marriage with No Household Change
Q Our site is a project-based Section 8 site with LIHTC units. We recently found out that one of our residents who has lived at the site since 2007 got married in 2014 and never reported it. We know her husband doesn’t live in the unit because he’s a registered sex offender and he isn’t permitted on our property. Should the resident still have reported that she had gotten married and his income? She has never worked; she gets food stamps and cash assistance.
A According to HUD compliance expert Mark Chrzanowski, if the spouse never lived at the apartment there’s no real reason for her to report that she’s married. Since her spouse doesn’t live in the apartment, the site wouldn’t count his income. On the other hand, if he’s contributing to the household financially in any way, including paying bills directly, the amount he contributes would be counted as income.
Editor’s Note: Typically, the addition of a new member to an existing low-income household involves the new member actually moving into the unit. In this case, the addition of a new member would require the income certification of the new member of the household, including third-party verification.
In some instances, households may intend to bypass the income limit requirements by adding household members after initial qualification. Many state agencies and management companies view adding members to the original household within six months after its initial move-in to be a red flag. Generally, the applicants are required to disclose any changes to the household composition expected to occur within six months after application.
However, unexpected situations occur that may result in changes in household size shortly after move-in. For example, the tenant fell in love and got married with someone within weeks of initial move-in. In this situation, the moving-in of the tenant’s new spouse within weeks of the household’s initial move-in wouldn’t necessarily be considered a manipulation of the income limitation requirements and the unit would remain in compliance.
The main factor is the intent of the parties at the time of initial occupancy. Managers should act with due diligence and make reasonable judgments in the case when there’s an increase in household size right after qualifying the household at its initial move-in. Sites could require that all new move-ins certify that there are no known or anticipated changes in the household composition during the initial six-month lease term. This can be done at move-in by requiring that each adult household member execute a sworn affidavit in the Tenant Income Certification attesting to the household composition. If you determine that the tenant purposely failed to disclose an anticipated change in the household size, whether due to the move-in or move-out of a household member, a redetermination of eligibility must be made. If the change was in any manner anticipated, then the revised household composition must be used to reevaluate initial qualification or income at move-in.