FAQs About Leasing in the Housing Choice Voucher Program
When you're dealing with households whose rent is subsidized through the Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program, formerly known as the Section 8 Tenant-Based Assistance Program, it is important to remember that it is not the same as the Project-Based Section 8 program you are familiar with.
Although the voucher program is federally funded, HUD does not administer it directly. Instead, state and local public housing agencies (PHAs) throughout the country administer the program on behalf of HUD. PHAs set some of their own policies and procedures, so it is best to contact the local agency to confirm the details on how to begin a voucher tenancy in one of your units. However, there is some general information that applies to most PHA HCV programs. Here are answers to the most common questions asked by managers of sites that accept vouchers.
Q: How do I pass an HQS inspection the first time?
A: The housing authority (not HUD) must inspect the unit at the beginning of each HCV tenancy. HUD's Housing Quality Standards (HQS) are available on the HUD Web site, (http://www.hud.gov/offices/adm/hudclips/guidebooks/7420.10G/7420g10 GUID.pdf). Before the initial inspection, you should ask the PHA for a list of common HQS “fail items.” To avoid having a unit fail inspection, conduct your own walk-through of the unit and correct any outstanding items on the common-fail list.
For instance, all windows and exterior doors must have working locks. The oven must heat, and all burners on the stove must work. All stove or range knobs must be present and operable. Water heaters must have pressure relief valves and a discharge line. Electrical outlets and switches must be properly installed, with secure cover plates and no exposed wiring. Each level of the unit, including basements (but not unfinished attics), must have an operable smoke detector. In units built before 1978, surfaces with deteriorated paint must be stabilized. Hazards to occupants—like insecure handrails, loose flooring, or sharply broken bath fixtures—must be repaired.
The inspector must give you a written report, including documentation of each specific HQS fail item you must correct. Be sure to keep it on file, and be able to show the follow-up inspector that you've corrected everything cited. Although the follow-up inspector may cite any new or existing HQS violation in the unit, he will focus on clearing the previously cited fail items. Be sure to get a new HQS inspection report with the current date and all fail items cleared.
Q: When do I get paid?
A: Normally, owners receive checks from the PHA for its portion of the rent in the first few days of each month. Some PHAs pay new owners in the middle of the month, or the PHA may pay only at the beginning. Owners are responsible for collecting the resident's portion of the rent themselves. Residents are responsible for following the terms of the lease regarding rent payment.
Q: Do I get paid for the full first month?
A: No. The payment for the first month of a voucher holder's tenancy is prorated according to the date the housing assistance payment (HAP) contract begins. However, the owner receives the full month's HAP for the month the resident moves out, no matter what day of the month the move-out takes place.
Q: How do I handle resident damages?
A: The lease determines how an owner should handle resident damages. The owner retains the right to enforce the lease, unless it contradicts something in the HAP contract or tenancy addendum. In all policies and practices, the owner should treat a voucher tenant no differently than a non-voucher renter, unless the HAP contract says otherwise.
Q: Can I get a security deposit from a voucher holder?
A: Yes. As long as the rules and procedures for the security deposit are set forth in the lease agreement and the amount of the security deposit is set on the lease and in the HAP contract, the owner may collect a security deposit. According to the HCV HAP contract, the owner cannot collect a security deposit in excess of private market practices or in excess of the amount charged to his unassisted residents.
Q: What do I do if the resident won't let me in for a repair?
A: The lease should indicate when and under what circumstances the owner may enter the unit. The lease should also state the owner's recourse if the tenant doesn't comply. Use the same standard lease form for voucher holders that you use for unassisted residents.
Q: Why doesn't the same agency that runs the Project-Based Section 8 program in my area also run the HCV program?
A: It is confusing, but it is important to remember that even though the HCV program is still sometimes called the Section 8 program and its funding comes from HUD, local housing authorities actually administer the program on HUD's behalf. The voucher program, or the “tenant-based” Section 8 program, is not the same as the “Project-Based” Section 8 program.
In the HCV program, private property owners deal with the PHA directly, not with HUD or a contract administrator. In the HCV program, the HAP contract is a legal agreement, in a form standardized by HUD, between a property owner or manager and a PHA. The PHA agrees to provide a fixed rental subsidy for a specific period on a specific tenant's behalf, according to the rules of the HCV program. Keep in mind that not only are the agencies and personnel administering the HCV program and the Project-Based Section 8 program different, the HAP contract terms are also different. Compliance in one program does not guarantee compliance in the other. For example, HUD Handbook 4350.3 does not apply to the HCV program, though many of the rules and requirements in the Handbook are similar to HCV requirements. Some requirements are identical. The HCV program has its own Guidebook (available at http://www.hud.gov/offices/adm/hudclips/guidebooks/7420.10G/).
Search Our Web Site by Key Words: Housing Choice Voucher program; HQS inspection; Section 8