What Are Income-Based Apartments? Explained (for Beginners)

The cost of rental apartments has been on the rise for years.  Unfortunately, working wages have not reflected this rent spike.  So, how can you rent an apartment when your income is less than your payments?

One option out there is income-based apartments.

This allows people to live within their means while still having a place to call home.

But, what exactly are income-based apartments?
More importantly, how can you qualify for this type of living?  Knowing how the process works will put you in a great position as a renter.

Here is everything you need to know about income-based apartments as well as creative ways to save on rent.

What Are Income-Based Apartments?

Income-based apartments are programs put in place by the government to offer incentives to landlords for renting to lower-income families.

This is done by offering a tax-break to landlords or building managers. 

This way they can write off additional expenses to receive tax incentives.

However, this incentive isn’t only geared towards landlords either.  It is also in place for builders who specialize in apartment housing.  Contractors who are building apartments for low-income families can earn up to 55% of building costs back from the government.  This is a huge incentive when you consider the high cost of having to build a complex.

Here’s how much studio apartments cost on average.

How Can You Qualify for an Income-Based Apartment?

In order to qualify for income-based apartments, you must know the average income of your area.  Your entire household must earn up to 60% less than the average income of your city.  This means that if you live with more than one working person, their income must be taken into account as well.

In order to prove that you qualify, you have to get your paperwork in order.  More specifically, your tax returns.

You have to be able to show that you paid taxes and that after taxes your income falls in the 60% range.

It is also important to remember that if you are a parent, you may qualify either way.

Single parents or households with one working parent are more likely to get approved for income-based apartments.  But, this has to be reflected on your tax returns.  You have to be able to show that you have at least one dependent child listed.

How Do You Find an Income-Based Apartment?

Knowing you qualify for an income-based apartment and actually finding one that suits your needs are two different stories.  The best way to find an apartment is to do an internet search using a specific language.

Search for apartments that talk about tax credit as well as income.

Once you have found a place, you first have to get in touch with the landlord or manager so you can apply for income-based status.

In order for the landlord to get the benefits from income-based apartments, they have to be able to comply with the law.

This means that they can turn you down for just one misstep in your paperwork.  So, before you meet with the manager make sure you have your tax return information, identification for occupants as well as birth certificated for any dependent children.

Once the landlord has all of your information they can submit it along with your rental application for approval.  If you are approved, you will have 30 days to move into your new home.  An important thing to remember is that you will have to re-apply for income-based status each year.

This means that if your situation has approved, you may no longer be eligible.

For more information on how to apply for income-based apartments check out the government low-income living website.


What Are Common Problems With Income-Based Apartments?

Getting approved for an income-based apartment and actually living in one are two different beasts.

It is important to remember that not everyone out there has your best interest at heart.

A common problem that arises in income-based apartments is the lack of response from a landlord.

This is because some managers only see the bottom line.  Some are less inclined to offer assistance.  This because some are just trying to use the system for their own gain.  However, there are plenty of ways to protect yourself when it comes to dealing with an absent landlord.

How Can You As A Renter Protect Yourself?

It is important to remember that you as a tenant have options.  Even with income-based apartments, you have rights that are set in place to keep yourself from getting scammed.  Just because you need an income-based apartment doesn’t mean that you have to live in sub-standard housing.

So, how can you protect yourself as a tenant?  Here are some ways to keep you – and your family -safe!

  • Do Your Research

The best way to protect yourself is to do the groundwork when it comes to who you are renting from.  It is a lot easier in the digital age to find a record of people behaves.  Landlords, like businesses, are open to scrutiny and reviews from the public.

Doing a quick internet search of the landlord or building manager can show you a history of how they treat people.  This is also a great way to know what you are walking into.  There is no reason why you can’t be picky, even when it comes to income-based apartments.

  • Know Your Rights

Perhaps the best way to protect yourself is to know your rights according to your state’s laws. Renters have rights when it comes to getting repairs done as well as rights that protect you from sudden eviction.  Some landlords feel like they hold all the cards.

However, a quick threat of eviction holds no weight if your landlord isn’t doing their job.


What Are Some Ways You Can Save Money On Rent?

Saving money on rent is a big deal.  Even if you do apply for income-based apartments, it never hurts to still save a little more cash.

This can help put you in better standing financially and can help you get out from under a landlord and into a place of your own.

It is important to remember that saving money on rent and not paying your rent are two different things.

Not paying your rent without communication to your landlord can get you evicted quickly.  But, being in good standing with your landlord may open you up to savings.  Here are some of the best savvy ways you can save some serious cash on rent:

Yard Care and Snow Removal

One thing that not all landlords are keen on is manual labor.  Many times a building company will contract an outside worker to take care of the home.  This means that they pay someone else to mow the lawn, rake leaves, trim hedges and even plow the driveway.

Landlords are always looking for ways to cut down overhead costs.  By not having to pay an outside company, building managers get more money in their pocket.  So, where do you come in?  If you are in good standing with your landlord or manager, perhaps offer them a deal.  Many tenants offer to do this work in exchange for a reduced rental fee.

Choose A Studio Apartment

Another example of a studio apartment layout design

Studio apartments are the smallest apartments you can get and often times they are also the cheapest. They are one-room apartments where you sleep, cook, eat, etc. in the same room.

You can see average prices on studio apartments for 54 American cities here.

Apartment Manager

What is better than reduced rent?  The answer is little to no rent.

If you live in an apartment complex that has many different units, you may be able to make a deal with your landlord.

Larger apartment complexes need someone on hand 24/7.  These are the people who take care of quick problems like leaks or missing keys.

Most landlords don’t live on their own properties which means they may be looking for someone to do this job for them.  Since being an apartment manager is often a full-time job, you may be able to trade this job for reduced or even free rent.

However, it is important to note that you will have to have some experience with fixing problems in order to qualify.

Utilities As A Bargaining Chip

Many larger apartment complexes include utilities in the rent.  This is because it is harder to regulate things like heat and power with multiple units.

Because of this, landlords are always looking for new ways to save money on electricity.

One way you can save on rent is to make a utility saving contract with your landlord.  This states that you will keep your heat at a certain level as well as invest in energy saving lightbulbs.

Even the smallest changes can bring a big return on a utility bill.  Your landlord may be willing to reduce your rent if you comply with saving energy.

Read Your Lease!

One common mistake people make when renting an apartment is not paying attention to the fine details in their lease.  For example, some leases specifically state that the landlord is on the hook for certain changes.

This also depends on where you live because some states have specific regulations.

One thing that is on many leases is that the landlord is responsible for replacing batteries in smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors.

If you have been paying for these batteries, check your lease!  By law, your landlord will have to reimburse you for the money you have to spend on things they were legally responsible for.  Instead of asking your landlord to cut you a check, see if they will reduce the rent temporarily to pay back this expense.

Here are 12 more VERY clever tips on how to find a cheap apartment.

Final Thoughts

There is no shame in realizing that you need help.  So many people are without homes and are struggling to get by.  So, using a government program to secure housing for you and your family is a brave thing to do.  But, it is important to remember that by living in an income-based apartment it doesn’t mean that you have to put up with neglect.

It is important to be smart and protect yourself.  Luckily for you, there are laws put in place to help keep you and your family safe.  So, make sure to do your research and ask plenty of questions.  Instead of looking at it like admitting defeat, see it as an opportunity to better yourself and your financial situation.  Good luck.


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