Realty Bites

Can workers with tipped wages qualify for affordable housing?

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We often receive emails from readers asking for help in navigating their own real estate crises. In Realty Bites, we try to get them answers.


I just had an interview for an affordable unit in a building in my neighborhood. It went very well and they're now asking for documents showing my income and contacting my employer to verify. The only potential issue is that I'm a tipped employee in a seasonal position, so my income isn't fixed. That said, I've been at the same job for four years. Will this be a problem, and is there anything I can do?


While there's not much you can do at this point to change your chances as an applicant, the nature of your income shouldn't be a problem. "What's really important is whether you meet the income requirements for the building," explains  real estate attorney Dean Roberts of Norris, McLaughlin & Marcus. "If you can make the income to fit within the building's quota and it takes you five months instead of a full year, there's no downside."

And the fact that you've been at the same job for several years should help your case. "This type of employment is becoming much more common in the 'gig economy'," adds Roberts, "And if you've had the same job for four years, even if it's seasonal, that would should the kind of consistency they're looking for."

"There's usually a form that gets sent to employers asking them to say if this employee gets bonuses, tips, etc.," adds Erica Sims, Deputy Executive Director of the Mutual Housing Association of NY, an affordable housing organization. "They definitely look into that stuff in a lot of detail." However, if you get rejected for the spot and feel that the building inaccurately assessed the state of your income (for instance, they only examined payment history from one of your busier times of year without taking into account your off-seasons, thereby inflating your perceived income), Sims notes that you have a 10 day window after the decision to appeal your case to the developer and point out the potential mistake.


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