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Living Quarters Allowance Frequently Asked Questions

1. Q: What is Living Quarters Allowance and what does it cover? What are my responsibilities if I receive it?

2. Q: How do I receive payment for my living quarters expenses?

3. Q: What happens if the landlord requires an advance payment of the rent?

4. Q: On my next overseas assignment, I will be receiving a Living Quarters Allowance for the very first time. I have no clue what I should do to get the ball rolling. What advice can the Office of Allowances give me?

5. Q: Can I use LQA to make payments on personally owned quarters?

6. Q: If I live in Government quarters am I still granted an LQA?

7. Q: What should I do if my rent is being raised so that it will exceed the LQA amount in Section 920 of the DSSR?

8. Q: How frequently does the Office of Allowances adjust LQA rates?

9. Q: What is the source of exchange rate information used by the Office of Allowances in establishing and updating allowance rates?

1. Q: What is Living Quarters Allowance and what does it cover? What are my responsibilities if I receive it?

A: Living Quarters Allowance (LQA) is provided to reimburse employees for suitable, adequate living quarters at posts where the U.S. Government does not provide quarters. LQA may be used to pay for rent, utilities, taxes, and related fees (see DSSR 131.2 for a complete listing).

LQA typically demands a higher level of employee involvement than Government-provided quarters. This involvement includes filing an SF-1190 (Rev. 07/2009), “Foreign Allowances Grant, Application and Report,” once a lease is signed. LQA is meant to cover costs for rent, utilities, and fees required by local law such as insurance and taxes. Refundable Security Deposits are not included in LQA payments. In addition, the rent and other fees paid by some employees may exceed the applicable LQA, in which case they will be out-of-pocket. While posts may submit a new LQA survey to seek to have the allowance raised, the Office of Allowances cannot always set LQA to cover the rent/fees of all employees. LQA is not meant, for example, to cover the housing costs of employees living in premium quarters (e.g., a penthouse apartment) or those exceeding OBO space standards. For OBO space standards, see Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM) Volume 15 Exhibit 237A.

2. Q: How do I receive payment for my living quarters expenses?

A: LQA is paid biweekly via the Earnings & Leave Statement. The allowance is computed and paid at annual rates, divided by the number of days in the calendar year to obtain a daily rate; and then the daily rate is multiplied by 14 to obtain a biweekly rate.

3. Q: What happens if the landlord requires an advance payment of the rent?

A: An employee must complete an SF-1190 in order to apply for an advance payment of LQA. The authorizing officer is responsible for approving the advance based on the requirement in DSSR 113.3. The amount that may be paid in advance is made in accordance with agency guidelines for a period of not more than one year unless specifically approved by the authorizing officer. Refundable security deposits cannot be included in the advance. However, agents’ fees may be included in the advance provided certification is made under Section 131.2. At locations requiring excessive initial rental expenses (e.g., “key” money), employees may receive an advance of LQA not to exceed three months of the annual rate of payment.

4. Q: On my next overseas assignment, I will be receiving a Living Quarters Allowance for the very first time. I have no clue what I should do to get the ball rolling. What advice can the Office of Allowances give me?

A: You should check with your post’s housing office to find suitable housing that also meets security standards. Once you’ve found suitable quarters, you’ll need to sign the lease and file an SF-1190 with the authorizing officer at your post.

5. Q: Can I use LQA to make payments on personally owned quarters?

A: Agencies may allow employees to use LQA to pay up to 10 percent of the original purchase price (converted to U.S. dollars at the original exchange rate) per year, plus utility costs. The total paid cannot exceed the LQA rate set for the post. See DSSR 136 for details.

6. Q: If I live in Government quarters am I still granted an LQA?

A: When an employee to whom LQA has been granted is moved to Government-owned or -leased quarters that are provided to the employee at no personal cost, LQA terminates on the date immediately preceding that on which the Government quarters are made available. Exceptions to this occur if employees occupy Government-owned or -leased quarters only during the temporary absences of the regular occupants and at the same time are obliged to maintain their own quarters. If the local Housing Board determines that it is in the Government's best interest, LQA may be terminated and the employee moved to Government-owned or -leased quarters at any point in time.
 
7. Q: What should I do if my rent is being raised so that it will exceed the LQA amount in Section 920 of the DSSR?

A: You will need to submit a completed Living Quarters Expenditure Worksheet to your Management Officer or the authorizing officer at post along with documentation on the increase in your rent. The Living Quarters Expenditure Worksheet can be found on the Allowances Intranet website at http://aoprals.a.state.gov and Internet website at http://aoprals.state.gov, under "DSSR Table of Contents", "Section 960, Worksheets/Exhibits". Once the Management Officer or authorizing officer receives the form, he/she will forward it to the Office of Allowances for analysis.

8. Q: How frequently does the Office of Allowances adjust LQA rates?

A: The Office of Allowances revises Living Quarters Allowance rates based upon Living Quarters Expenditure Surveys (DS-7604) submitted by posts. The Living Quarters Expenditure Surveys are submitted on an annual basis in accordance with each post's reporting schedule. In addition, the rates may be adjusted biweekly to reflect fluctuations in the exchange rate.

9. Q: What is the source of exchange rate information used by the Office of Allowances in establishing and updating allowance rates

A: The Office of Allowances uses a variety of sources for exchange rates. If the majority of U.S.G. civilian employees at a locality have access to a Department of State-managed official accommodation exchange rate for currency exchange, we use information provided by the Department of State's Global Financial Services Center based in Charleston, South Carolina. These rates can change daily and represent the exchange rates at which the Department purchases foreign currency for official uses. In those countries where official accommodation exchange services are not available to the majority of USG civilian employees, we get data from other sources. For example, in euro countries, the majority of USG employees are affiliated with DOD and use the DOD Community Bank (Bank of America) (http://dodcommunitybank.com/) for personal exchange rate accommodation. For many locations where the Department of State does not offer official accommodation exchange, our diplomatic posts transmit information on a biweekly basis reporting exchange rates from the local banks most used by USG personnel.