What if I am a boarder or I live in someone else’s home?

We are in the process of updating the SNAP Advocacy Guide, so some of the information is no longer current.  In the meantime, you can read or download a pdf of the 2023 guide from www.masslegalservices.org/FoodStampSNAPAdvocacyGuide

Produced by Patricia Baker and Victoria Negus, Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Reviewed January 2020

If you rent a room in someone else’s home and do not get or pay for meals, you are considered to be “a roomer.” As a roomer, you can apply for SNAP as a separate household, so long as you purchase and prepare the majority of your meals separately from the other people in the house. 106 C.M.R.§361.230(A). See Can I get benefits separately from other people I live with?

If you live in someone else’s home and you pay that person for a room and at least half your weekly meals, you are considered to be a “boarder.” You are not eligible for SNAP benefits as a separate household. 106 C.M.R.§361.240 (D).

If the household where you board is getting SNAP, DTA will either include or exclude you and your income in their SNAP benefits based on how much you pay for food. If excluded, DTA will then count what you pay for room and board (after certain deductions) as income to the host household.

If you do not pay a “reasonable amount” for meals, you must be included in the SNAP household of the household providing meals. That means your income will be counted in figuring the eligibility of the whole household. 106 C.M.R.§361.240(D). A “reasonable amount” is an amount that equals or exceeds the SNAP benefit level for your household size (for ex, $194/ month for 1 person getting three meals/day). 106 C.M.R.§361.240(D).


Janet and Joe are both age 25 and married. They move into Janet’s mother’s house, Francis - who receives SNAP benefits. Francis does all of the food shopping and makes all of the meals for Janet and Joe. Janet and Joe pay Francis $300/month for food and $400/month rent. They are considered “boarders” in Francis’s home. Because $300 is less for food than the maximum SNAP benefit amount for a household of 2, Janet and Joe must be part of Francis’ SNAP household and their income counts. If Janet and Joe started purchasing and preparing their food separately, instead of giving Francis money for food, they would not be required to be in Francis’ SNAP household. They might qualify for their own SNAP benefits, depending on their income.

If you are elderly or disabled and live with others who provide meals for you, See What if I live with others but I have a disability that makes it difficult to prepare my food?

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