Fact check: False claim that Hunter Biden paid Joe Biden $50,000 in rent for Delaware home

The claim: Hunter Biden paid Joe Biden $50,000 a month in rent for home with classified documents

A Jan. 16 Instagram post (direct link, archived link) from conservative commentator Carl Higbie shows a screenshot of his tweet about President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden.

"Hunter Biden paid his dad $50,000 a MONTH in rent for the home that housed classified documents," reads the tweet. "During the same time frame, @JoeBiden only claimed less than $20,000 in rent payments PER YEAR."

The post generated over 7,000 likes in less than a month. Colorado Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert shared a similar claim to Twitter on Jan. 15, where it accumulated over 67,000 likes.

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Our rating: False

The claim stems from a misinterpretation of a form Hunter Biden signed in 2018. The form actually shows quarterly payments he made for office space in the House of Sweden, a building in Washington, D.C., according to a spokesperson for Sweden's National Property Board. The payment was not rent paid to Joe Biden for the use of his Delaware home.

Conspiracy theory on Hunter Biden's rent started on Twitter

The claim about Hunter Biden paying his father rent originated with a background screening request form that Hunter Biden signed in 2018 that went viral on Twitter.

The White House revealed on Jan. 12 that classified documents were found in the garage of Joe Biden’s home in Wilmington, Delaware. That same day, a conservative Twitter account tweeted an image of the form.

The form lists Joe Biden’s Wilmington home as Hunter Biden’s current address and $49,910 as the monthly rent paid between March 2017 – the move-in date – and February 2018 – the move-out date – in a separate section titled "current residence."

After New York Post reporter Miranda Devine tweeted the image, social media users and conservative commentators began wrongly asserting the $49,910 payment on the form was rent Hunter Biden paid to his father for the Wilmington home.

Fact check: Biden did have the authority to declassify documents as vice president

Fox News television host Tucker Carlson also questioned the form on his show "Tucker Carlson Tonight" on Jan. 16.

"Did Hunter Biden actually buy his father's home in Delaware?" Carlson said on the show. "Was he making rent payments to live there? Does that amount that he was paying refer to another property? It was a big amount. On the form, Hunter Biden claims he is paying nearly $50,000.00 a month in housing costs. $50,000.00 a month. Where did that money come from?"

Payment linked to office space in Washington, D.C.

Contrary to the post's claim, Hunter Biden "did not pay any member of his family rent money for any property" – including that Delaware home, a spokesperson for Hunter Biden's legal team told USA TODAY in an emailed statement.

The image of the form came from the hard drive of Hunter Biden's laptop left at a repair shop in 2019, the contents of which were published by former White House Trump staffer Garrett Ziegler.

But the $49,910 payment on the form is not related to that Delaware home.

Hunter Biden made $49,910 quarterly payments in that time span for office space he rented at the House of Sweden, a building in Washington, D.C., that is home to the Swedish Embassy, Maria Uggla, a spokesperson for Sweden's National Property Board, told USA TODAY in an email.

Uggla said the House of Sweden signed the lease with Skaneateles LCC – a California-based firm that Hunter Biden owned. However, Uggla said the email address Hunter Biden used for the lease was from a different firm he owned – Rosemont Seneca Advisors L.L.C – that was registered at the House of Sweden address.

Hunter Biden also said the lease was under his company name Rosemont Seneca in a 2017 email exchange with the House of Sweden recovered from his laptop and confirmed by the Swedish government, according to the Washington Post.

The Post reported that Hunter Biden rented the space when energy conglomerate CEFC China Energy paid $4.8 million to entities that he and his uncle controlled. That business deal fell apart in early 2018.

Fact check: False claim that classified documents were found at the University of Delaware

It is unclear why the form listed "Owasco P.C." as the company name under the current residence section. Owasco P.C. is a LosAngeles-based firm that Hunter Biden owned before it dissolved in 2021, according to corporate records.

Bryan Sullivan, Hunter Biden's attorney, sent a letter to Carlson and Fox News' executive vice president of corporate development, Bernard Guger, alleging Carlson and the network spread "false and defamatory" claims about Hunter Biden paying rent to his father.

Fox News spokesperson Jessica Ketner told USA TODAY in an email that Carlson "accurately cited the rental application form that Hunter Biden signed" and noted in his show that it "raises quite a few questions, not all of which we can answer." Fox News noted in later reporting, including a Feb. 2 opinion column, that the rent was for the House of Sweden office space.

Background screening request form
Background screening request form

The post is correct that Joe Biden claimed less than $20,000 in income earned from rent in that time span. He claimed he received $19,800 in rent on his 2017 tax return and did not report any rental income on his 2018 tax return, according to Jeffrey Hoopes, research director at the UNC Tax Center.

USA TODAY reached out to the social media users who shared the claim, including a spokesman for Boebert, who  did not respond to USA TODAY's request for comment.

The Washington Post, AFP Fact Check and PolitiFact also debunked the claim.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: False claim Hunter Biden paid Joe Biden $50,000 in rent