For determining the resources of E~ (Recipient) and his eligibility for Supplemental
Security Income (SSI), you asked what ownership interest Recipient has in a mobile
home and the real property on which the mobile home is located.
Recipient does not have an equitable ownership interest in the mobile home and the
real property on which the mobile home is located.
The information provided consists of statements from Recipient and his mother provided
to the agency in September 2018. Recipient stated that he and his wife entered into
a verbal agreement with his parents to purchase a mobile home and three acres of land
(the subject property), located in Georgia and legally owned by his parents. Recipient
reported that the monthly payment that he allegedly made to his parents, which he
refers to as a mortgage payment, was $232.00 and the total purchase price was $15,000.
Recipient stated that he and his wife paid off the purported mortgage three months
before he provided his statement. Recipient claims that the subject property will
be put into his name and his wife’s name when his parents are legally able to do so.
He states that his parents cannot change the title to the subject property until they
have paid off their mortgage.
The statement by Recipient’s mother provides essentially the same information provided
by Recipient. Recipient’s mother states that she and her husband entered into a verbal
agreement with Recipient and his wife to sell them the subject property land for $15,000.
Recipient’s mother states that Recipient and his wife allegedly paid a monthly mortgage
payment of $232.00 a month, and they paid off the purported mortgage three months
earlier. Recipient’s mother states that she and her husband are still paying off their
mortgage, which includes the subject property. Recipient’s mother states that she
and her husband cannot transfer the subject property to Recipient and his wife until
they pay off their mortgage, which had a balance of $12,000 when Recipient’s mother
provided her statement. Recipient’s mother states that when she and her husband pay
off their mortgage, they will have the title to the subject property transferred to
Recipient and his wife.
The agency requested documentation from Recipient to substantiate the verbal agreement
(e.g., bank records), but Recipient was unable to provide any documentation.
A. Federal Law
SSI is a general public assistance program for aged, blind, or disabled individuals
who meet certain income and resource restrictions and other eligibility requirements.
See Social Security Act (Act) §§ 1602, 1611(a); 20 C.F.R. §§ 416.110, 416.202 (2019). Resources are “cash or other liquid assets or any real or personal property that
an individual . . . owns and could convert to cash to be used for his or her support
and maintenance.” 20 C.F.R. § 416.1201(a); see Program Operations Manual System (POMS)
SI 01110.100B.1; POMS SI 01120.010B. “If the individual has the right, authority or power to liquidate the property or
his or her share of the property, it is considered a resource. If a property right
cannot be liquidated, the property will not be considered a resource of the individual
. . . .” 20 C.F.R. § 416.1201(a)(1); see POMS SI 01110.100B.1, B.3; POMS SI 01110.115A; POMS SI 01120.010B.
The Act excludes from resources an individual’s home and its land if the individual
has an ownership interest in the property and uses it as his or her principal place
of residence. See Act § 1613(a)(1); 20 C.F.R. §§ 416.1210(a), 416.1212(a), (b); POMS SI 01110.210B; POMS SI 01130.100A.1, B.1-3. “Ownership interests in property, whether real or personal, can occur in
various types and forms. Since the type and form of ownership may affect the value
of property and even its status as a resource, they are significant in determining
resources eligibility.” POMS SI 01110.500A. The agency generally will accept an individual’s allegation of home ownership unless
the file raises a question about the individual’s allegation. See POMS SI 01130.100C.1. If questions arise, the agency will request evidence of real property ownership,
such as a deed or current mortgage statement, or evidence of personal property ownership
(e.g., a mobile home), such as title or current registration. See POMS SI 01130.100C.2.a, C.2.b.
An SSI applicant or recipient may allege that he or she has an equitable ownership
interest in his or her home or other property. See POMS SI 01110.500B.3.b; POMS SI 01130.100C.4. “An equitable ownership interest is a form of ownership that exists without legal
title to property. It can exist despite another party’s having legal title (or no
one’s having it).” POMS SI 01110.515A.2.b. “Basically, existence of an equitable ownership interest is determined by a court
of equity. However, under certain circumstances, an adjudicator can conclude that
an equitable ownership interest exists and make a resources determination accordingly.”
POMS SI 01110.515C. An individual may acquire or obtain equitable ownership interest in his or her home
or other property from personal considerations or from other actions such as making
mortgage payments. See POMS SI 01110.515C.3; POMS SI 01130.100A.4. If an individual alleges equitable ownership and the POMS do not include applicable
regional instructions, agency personnel should obtain any pertinent documents and
a statement from each of the parties involved regarding any arrangement that has been
agreed to and request an opinion from the Regional Counsel. See POMS SI 01130.100C.4.
B. State Law
Recipient and Recipient’s mother provided statements in which they both allege that
Recipient and his wife entered into a verbal agreement with Recipient’s parents to
purchase the subject property for $15,000.00. Recipient and his wife reportedly paid
a purported $232.00 monthly mortgage payment, and they paid off the purported mortgage
three months before Recipient and his mother provided their statements. Recipient’s
parents, however, are still paying off their mortgage on property that includes the
subject property. Recipient and Recipient’s mother claim that once Recipient’s parents
pay off their mortgage, they will transfer title to the subject property to Recipient
and his wife.
Because the subject property is located in Georgia, the agency applies Georgia law
to determine the ownership interest, if any, that Recipient has in the subject property.
See POMS SI 01110.500A, C. Generally, any contract for the sale of land must be in writing. See Ga. Stat.
Ann. § 13-5-30(a)(4) (West 2019) (denoting Georgia’s Statute of Frauds); Bodiford v. Waltz, 830 S.E.2d 738, 740 (Ga.
Ct. App. 2019). However, an oral agreement for the sale of land may still be enforceable:
(1) when the contract has been fully executed; (2) where there has been performance
on one side, accepted by the other in accordance with the contract; or (3) where there
has been such part performance of the contract as would render it a fraud of the party
refusing to comply if the court did not compel a performance. Ga. Stat. Ann. § 13-5-31.
Regarding part performance, “an oral contract sought to be enforced based on part
performance must be certain and definite in all essential particulars . . . and must
be certain enough to enable either party to enforce it according to its terms.” Bodiford,
830 S.E.2d at 740 (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). In addition, the
part performance must be consistent with the existence of a contract and inconsistent
with the lack of a contract. See id. at 741.
In Recipient’s case, the alleged sale of the subject property would not fit within
any of the exceptions to Georgia’s statute of frauds requiring that the sale of land
be in writing. First, the alleged oral agreement for Recipient and his wife to purchase
the subject property has not been fully executed because Recipient’s parents have
not transferred title to the subject property to Recipient and his wife. Second, although
Recipient and his mother allege that Recipient and his wife have paid off the purported
mortgage to buy the subject property, Recipient provided no documentary evidence to
support the allegations that he made the payments or that his parents accepted the
payments, e.g., bank records showing the transfer of money, handwritten notes or a
ledger acknowledging the payments, or any other evidence to substantiate the allegations
of Recipient and his mother.
Third, the lack of evidence to support the allegations of Recipient and his mother
indicate that part performance of the purported contract has not occurred, and no
one involved in the purported sale has alleged fraud based on refusal to comply with
the purported sale. The statements of Recipient and his mother, without any supporting
evidence, are simply insufficient to take the purported sale of the subject property
out of the statute of frauds. Also, the alleged oral agreement has no specific provisions
regarding when the sale or transfer of title would take place. See id. Recipient apparently
resides on the subject property, but doing so does indicate that a contract existed
given his relationship to his parents – it would not be unusual for an individual
to live on property owned by his or her parents without an agreement to buy the property.
See id. at 741. Therefore, the evidence available does not indicate that Recipient
has an equitable ownership in the subject property.
Given Recipient’s lack of an equitable ownership interest in the subject property,
the agency may need to determine if Recipient’s use of the subject property represents
income in the form of in-kind support. See Act § 1612(a)(2)(A); 20 C.F.R. §§ 416.1102,
416.1121(h), 416.1130 - .1148.
Recipient does not have an equitable ownership interest in the subject property for
determining his resources and eligibility for SSI.