Many people come to me and say that they cannot work because of a disability or set of disabilities, but do not think that they can receive Social Security benefits because they own a piece of property. If you live in your home, that piece of real estate is excluded from the asset test. However, any piece of property owned but not lived in is counted as an asset and cannot be worth more than the asset limit of $2,000 if single and $3,000 if married. While it is true that Social Security counts any real estate owned but not lived in as an asset, there is an exception to this rule. It is called the “Undue Burden Doctrine”.
Essentially, the Undue Burden Doctrine states that if you and someone else co-own a piece of property, but you do not live in that property, that property can be excluded if the sale of the property would cause undue hardship, due to the loss of housing, to your co-owner.
Here’s an example: John and Brenda live together in a house that they both own. John, who receives Social Security benefits, leaves the house without intending to come back. John still co-owns the property, but if he sold the house, it would cause undue hardship on Brenda as she has nowhere else to live. That piece of property is NOT counted as an asset for Social Security purposes as long as Brenda still lives in the home.
This particular exception to the real estate asset rule can be very valuable to your Social Security case. There are other exceptions to the asset rules, to find out if you qualify for these exceptions, talk with an attorney who can help you understand your Social Security benefit eligibility.
Read what it takes to prove the Undue Burden Doctrine.