When you come to work in the United States, your employer may encourage you to live in housing provided by the company. While such an arrangement may seem convenient, in some cases employer-provided housing can make it easier for your boss to steal your wages or pressure you into living in unsafe and inhumane conditions. To avoid these kinds of abuses, it is important to know your rights and know how to protect them.
If you are working in the United States on an H-2A visa, you have a right to free employer-provided housing that is clean and safe. This housing must include at least:
A bed and storage lockers for personal items;
100 square feet of living space;
Protection from weather (windows, walls, a working roof);
Heating in cold climates;
Accomodations free of garbage and other refuse;
Access to toilet, laundry, hand washing and bathing facilities;
Access to clean water and a working kitchen free of charge. If a kitchen is not included, your employer must provide three meals a day for a maximum of $10.64 per day.
Although migrant workers with other visas like H-2B, and those without legal status in the U.S. usually do not have the right to free housing, they have other important protections that their employers must respect. The most important of these rights are:
Employer-provided housing must be optional or be free. If your employer charges you for housing, you must have the option to live somewhere else. If your employer requires you to live in housing provided by the company, which is common in industries like home care or in jobs based in remote locations, the housing must be free of charge.
Rent must be reasonable. If you choose to live in employer-provided housing, your employer can’t charge you more than a “reasonable cost,” which can’t be more than what the company pays for it. In other words, the employer can’t profit from providing you housing.
Your employer must tell you in writing what you’re being charged. The employer must keep accurate records of housing-related expenses and provide you with written notice of what you’re being charged. These requirements apply whether the employer deducts your rent from your pay or makes you pay out of pocket.
Note: This summary of housing-related rights is NOT legal advice. It is important to always consult a lawyer for advice about your specific situation. If you believe that your employer is charging you excessive rent, providing unacceptable or inhumane accommodations, or violating your housing rights in any other way, please click “report abuse” at the bottom of this page to email or call Centro de los Derechos del Migrante, Inc. (CDM): 1-855-234-9699 from the US and 01-800-590-1773 from Mexico.