Housing Choice Voucher Program (Section 8) FAQ's
What does the Housing Choice Voucher Program (formerly known as Section 8 program) do? The Housing Choice Voucher program assists low income individuals and families with their rental payments. Under the Housing Choice Program, property owners retain the same rights and responsibilities that they have under the Florida State Landlord/Tenant Law. They use their own rental agreement or lease and decide what the term of tenancy will be (not to exceed one year). The tenant has the same obligations as any other tenant under State law. The West Palm Beach Housing Authority (WPBHA) rental assistance payment to the landlord on the family's behalf does not change the normal relationship of property owners or managers to tenants.
How Does the Housing Choice Voucher program work? In the Housing Choice Voucher Program, participants find suitable housing offered by a private owner using a voucher issued by the Housing Authority (HA). All housing selected by the family must meet local requirements and federal standards called Housing Quality Standards (HQS).
Housing Choice Vouchers give a family flexibility to pay more than 30 percent of their income for rent and utilities if they desire. However, families who are new admissions or move to a new unit cannot pay more than 40 percent of their income during the Initial leasing process.
The subsidy is calculated by using the lower of the voucher payment standard or the gross rent minus the total tenant payment. In addition to meeting HQS requirements, units must meet a rent reasonableness test, i.e., the rents cannot be higher than similar units in the area. This test is performed on each unit leased during the initial HQS inspection and when an owner requests a rent increase.
In the Housing Choice Voucher program, families pay their share of the rent directly to the property owner or manager.
How much does the tenant pay for their rental share? The tenant pays an amount that is roughly equivalent to 30% of their monthly income. The Housing Authority pays the balance of the total rent to the property owner.
In some cases, the tenant may pay more than 30% of their income. If the family rents a unit for which rent and utilities exceed the payment standard, the family's portion of the rent may be higher. However, this formula does not mean the family can pay the difference between the requested landlord rent and the PHA's approved amount. If the rent for the unit is more than the payment standard, the family will be required to pay more than 30 percent of their adjusted monthly income but not to exceed 40% of their monthly adjusted income.
Families are prohibited from paying more than 40% of their monthly adjusted income for rent when the gross rent exceeds the payment standard. After the initial lease term, the family can pay more than 40% of their adjusted monthly income for rent.
Why are annual re-certification necessary? WPBHA is required by federal regulations to review each family's income and family size at least once a year. This is done to insure that the right amount of rent is being paid based on actual income and the home is the right size for the family.
What happens during the recertification? WPBHA will mail a recertification package to your home to be completed and returned to WPBHA during the time of your annual recertification appointment. Recertification packages must be returned in person.
How do I qualify for a utility check? Whether or not a family receives a utility allowance check is determined by family income and the utilities for which the family is responsible. The tenant total payment (approximately 30% of their monthly adjusted income) includes the rent portion and utilities. If the tenant's rent amount is less than the utility allowance for the unit, the family will receive the difference in a utility check.
The utility allowance is based on the average cost of utilities, size of the unit, and the location of the unit. Allowances are not based on an individual family's actual energy consumption.
What are my tenant obligations? All participants are responsible for meeting their family obligations, which include, but are not limited to the following: All Changes must be reported in person within 14 days that the change is effective.
Reporting all money coming into the household, changes in family members and related information as required.
Supply any information the PHA or HUD determines to be necessary including evidence of citizenship or eligible immigration status and information for use in a regularly scheduled reexamination or interim reexamination of family and composition.
- Must allow the PHA to inspect the unit at reasonable times and after reasonable notice.
- All information supplied by the family must be true and correct.
- Pay utility bills; maintain appliances that the owner does not provide under the lease.
- Not engage in or threaten abusive or violent behavior towards WPBHA personnel (physical or verbal)
- Breech an agreement to pay amounts owed to WPBHA or amounts paid to an owner by WPBHA on the family's behalf.
- Giving WPBHA and the owner at least 30 days written notice of your intent to move.
- Cannot sublet or lease any part of the assisted unit.
- Cannot own or have any interest in the unit.
- Cannot use illegal or controlled substances.
- Cannot be involved in drug related violent criminal activities.
- May not allow anyone who is not a member of your household to use your address to receive mail, register vehicles, etc.
- Cannot violate the terms of the lease.
- Cannot have your utilities disconnected.
- Cannot interfere with peaceful enjoyment of neighbors.
- Maintain the interior and exterior of the unit (including front and back yards).
Termination of Assistance
Can I lose my rental assistance? There are a number of ways families can lose their rental assistance. Here is a partial list of typical reasons that are usually sufficient to cause WPBHA to stop rental assistance to a family:
- Not complying with the terms of the Housing Choice Voucher Program(Section 8) family obligations.
- If any member has been evicted from public housing.
- Any member commits fraud, bribery or any other corrupt or criminal act in connection with any federal housing program.
- Vacating the housing unit without proper notice.
- Allowing unauthorized persons to live in the housing unit.
- Failing to report or under reporting changes in income or provide information required by the HA for re-certification of the family's continued eligibility for rental assistance.
- Owing money to any Public Housing Authority.
- Any family member residing in the unit that is involved in drug-related or criminal activities.
- Serious or repeated lease violations.
What is considered drug related or violent criminal activity? Drug related crime and violent crime are problems everywhere across the country. Be sure that you and members of your family residing in your unit are not involved. Federal regulations provide for termination of assistance to those who participate in these activities. The regulations also state that a person does not have to be arrested or convicted in order for their assistance to terminate.
Questions for participants regarding Housing Quality Standards
What are Housing Quality Standards? Housing Quality Standards (HQS) are the HUD minimum quality standards for housing assisted under the Rental Assistance program. HQS have been developed for program use nationwide and help to insure that your home will be safe, decent and sanitary. These standards are applied by the Housing Inspector during the inspection.
Are inspections required? Yes. Inspections will be completed prior to the unit being placed under Housing Assistance Payment Contract and annually. For the annual inspection, the tenant will receive advanced notification of their scheduled inspection. A special inspection may be requested by tenants or landlords under different circumstances.
Do I have to be present when an inspection occurs? No. However, there must be a responsible adult present, age 18 or over, to let the inspector into the unit. We advise tenants to be present for the initial inspection, so that you will know firsthand why the unit did not pass inspection.
I was not at home for my inspection how can I reschedule? You may reschedule your inspection by contacting the inspector on your appointment letter. If you miss an inspection, you may jeopardize your rental assistance, so you must contact the Inspector immediately. If you miss an inspection, you must call in advance to reschedule.
Who should I report maintenance problems to? Maintenance problems should be reported to the landlord or property manager in writing. If the problem is not corrected in a prompt or satisfactory manner, the problem should be reported to Housing Authority in writing for possible action.
What are the tenant HQS responsibilities in the unit? Practice good housekeeping habits in your home. Keep the home in a clean, safe, and orderly condition. Do not damage the property. Cut the grass, hedges and shrubbery and maintain the exterior of the property. Let the property manager or landlord know as soon as possible when maintenance or repair work is needed.
How can I help my unit to pass inspection the first time? A list of helpful tips for landlords in preparing for inspections is listed in the Good Place to live booklet. Tenants are issued "A Good Place to Live" handbook during their briefing with tips for maintenance.
Why was my rent or unit abated? The WPBHA is required to inspect units at least annually. Rent is abated (stopped) when the repairs are not completed by the re-inspection deadline date. The unit will be taken out of abatement if it passes inspection and payments will resume the day after the unit pass inspection.
I didn't receive a payment this month. Why not? There could be several reasons why you did not receive a payment this month. If the unit is in abatement (failed inspection) payments are stopped until repairs are made, and the unit passes inspection. If your tenant has had a recent re-certification his/her income may have increased to a level where he/she is no longer eligible for Housing Assistance payments and they are responsible for paying the total Contract Rent. If this is the case, you will receive a letter from the housing counselor regarding the changes. Also, you should receive notification in writing of why your payment was stopped prior to it being effective. If the Housing Authority receives a Notice to Vacate from the landlord or tenant, no payment will be made to the owner after that date. If a move-out extension signed by the landlord and tenant is submitted, the housing counselor will process the payment. If you have questions about your payments, please contact the housing.
How can I tell if my unit is eligible for the Housing Choice Voucher Program? Any type of housing may be rented - apartments, houses, duplexes, row houses etc - as long as the unit is located within the West Palm Beach Housing Authority jurisdiction(Palm Beach County), meets HUD Housing Quality Standards, qualifies as an eligible type and the rent is reasonable for the size, type, and location of unit.
How can a landlord increase rent? Rent increases are not automatically implemented and can only be requested 90 days prior to the annual renewal. The landlord must give the tenant at least a ninety (90) day written notice of an increase before it can go into effect. A copy of the increase with the tenant's signature must be submitted to WPBHA before the rent increase can take effect. WPBHA does not put a limit on the amount the landlord can request for an increase; however, the new requested rent must be reasonable in comparison with other similar units in the area. Once WPBHA receives the notice of rent increase, a rent comparability study is conducted to determine if the new rent for the unit is reasonable in comparison to unassisted private market units in the area. If it is determined that the rent is not reasonable, WPBHA will contact the landlord and advise him/her of a reasonable rental amount for the unit. If the landlord does not agree to the amount, the Housing Authority and landlord will have to negotiate another acceptable amount or the owner can provide the family with a notice to vacate.
What are the terms of the lease? WPBHA requires the tenant and landlord to enter into a written lease agreement annually. WPBHA must review and approve all leases before the landlord can use their lease for the program. The initial term of the lease must be for 1 year here in West Palm Beach. The lease will automatically convert to a month-to-month lease unless the tenant and landlord renew the lease for another lease term. The landlord must agree to include the HUD Lease Addendum as an attachment to the lease. If the landlord's lease contradicts anything in the HUD Tenancy Addendum or program regulations, the addendum and program regulations shall prevail.
How much may a landlord charge for security deposit? Tenants are responsible for their own security deposit in accordance with State and local laws. Landlords are allowed to charge a security deposit similar to what is being charged to renters in the private rental market. The Housing Authority prohibits security deposits in excess of two months of contract rent. Landlord's security deposit amounts charged to a Housing Choice Voucher family must be consistent with the unassisted tenants on the private open market.
What if the landlord wants to terminate the lease? If the landlord wants to terminate the lease, the landlord can only give the tenant a notice WITH CAUSE and with the proper action according to the Florida Landlord Tenant Law. The landlord and tenant can also mutually agree to terminate the lease (in writing). Force evictions, such as changing the locks, turning utilities off, illegally taking precession of the unit under false pretenses, are illegal in Florida and will subject the landlord to severe criminal charges and civil penalties.
A landlord may choose not to renew the lease at the end of the lease term. The owner must give the family a minimum thirty (30) day notice to vacate the unit. Due to the time required to process a family to move, it would be advantageous for the landlord to provide the tenant with sixty (60) days notice to vacate.
WPBHA does not conduct move-out inspections. Landlords must conduct their own move-out inspections of the unit.
What to do when you find someone who is interested in your unit? You must screen the prospective tenant carefully to insure that you are making a good selection. WPBHA does not screen families for suitability or behavior. We only screen families for income eligibility and criminal background. Therefore, WPBHA cannot provide a reference as to their expected behavior as tenants. You may use any or all of the following screening procedures to approve or deny an applicant:
- Credit Check
- Criminal Check
- Home Visits
- Landlord References
WPBHA strongly encourages landlords to screen prospective tenants and to use all or any of the above screening methods as long as they do not discriminate. Discrimination includes any tenant selection based solely on race, color, religion, sex, familial status, national origin or handicap (disability).
Your satisfaction as a landlord will be directly proportionate to how well you screen potential renters. Screening and selection are completely landlord responsibilities.
What are the some of the Benefits of Being a Section 8/Housing Choice Voucher Landlord? Free advertisement and marketing of available units: Landlords are welcome to list their units with us through Gosection8.com.
Landlords select their own tenants: Landlords are encouraged to screen tenants. Landlords are not required to rent to a family who does not meet their non-discriminatory screening requirements.
Quality Housing: The Housing Authority conducts an initial property inspection, annual inspections and special inspections upon the request of the landlord or tenant. Along with the landlord's periodic checks, these inspections help insure that the property is well maintained.
Guaranteed Monthly Housing Assistance Payments: The portion of rent paid by WPBHA is paid to the landlord timely each month.
Reduced Amount of paperwork: WPBHA prepares all Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) contracts. Landlords complete the Request for Tenancy Approval forms and provide the executed lease. Most of the required paperwork is prepared by WPBHA.
What are my rights and responsibilities as a landlord? Landlords have the same rights and responsibilities in the Housing Choice Voucher program as they have with any open market renter, including:
Maintain your property in good condition.Complete all necessary repairs within a reasonable amount of time upon request by the Housing Authority or tenant, including all 24 hours emergency items. The amount of time that is considered reasonable depends upon the nature of the problem. Usually 30 days or any approved extension by the Housing Authority.Set reasonable rules about the use of unit and common areas.Except for emergencies or tenant's requested repairs, do not enter a unit without tenant's permission and/or proper notice.Collect appropriate security deposit as directed under the program and use it only in accordance with local and state law.Comply with equal housing opportunity requirements.Enforce tenant obligations under your dwelling lease (be fair, firm and consistent)Take action through the Court system in order to evict a tenant when they violate the lease (no self-help evictions tactics).
What should I expect from Housing Choice Voucher tenants? Pay their rent on time.Keep the unit clean.Maintain exterior of residence and yard.Avoid illegal activities by household members and guest.Allow Housing Authority inspector’s access to the unit to conduct inspections.Permit landlord and designated repairmen access to the unit for repairs.Avoid damage to property by household members and guests.Refrain from disturbing others (respecting the right to peaceful enjoyment by their neighbors).Allow only those occupants on the lease to reside in the unit.Comply with terms and conditions of the dwelling lease and tenancy addendum.
How to Become a Housing Choice Voucher/Section 8 Landlord:
The first step in becoming a West Palm Beach Housing Authority Housing Choice Voucher landlord is
- List your property with www.gosection8.com. Please be advised that listing your property with WPBHA does not guarantee a renter.
- The landlord interviews, screens and selects a tenant.
- Once the landlord approves the tenant, the landlord and tenant completes the Landlord packet. All paperwork (including all required documents) is returned to the Housing Authority by both the family and the landlord. At which time the Housing Specialist will determine if the family is eligibility for the unit.
- If the family is eligible for the unit WPBHA will process for an inspection WPBHA receives the completed paperwork from either the tenant or the landlord, if the tenant income qualifies for the unit, an inspection is scheduled within 7-14 working days.
- The tenant should not move into the unit until it passes initial inspection and all required paperwork is signed and approved, as WPBHA will not pay any rent for a unit until the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) contract is signed by both WPBHA and the landlord.
- In addition to the Housing Quality Standards (HQS) inspection, WPBHA will also conduct a rent reasonableness survey to determine if the requested rent amount is reasonable to comparable unassisted units in the same geographical area (WPBHA will not approve a rental amount that exceeds market rates).
- Once the unit passes the HQS inspection, the rent is deemed "reasonable" and the move-in date is established, the landlord and tenant sign the lease and provide a copy to WPBHA.
- The Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) contract will be prepared by WPBHA. Please note a payment will not be made until after both WPBHA and the landlord sign the HAP contract.
- The landlord and tenant will both be notified in writing regarding how much rent is to be paid by the tenant and how much will be paid by WPBHA on the family's behalf.
How Much Can I Rent My Unit For? WPBHA has established payment standards by bedroom size that is guidelines for determining the maximum subsidy we can pay for a family. This payment standard is generally a gauge of the current rental market. However, each unit is evaluated by the Inspector on a case-by-case basis. Each unit's rent must be reasonable and comparable to unassisted private market rental units of similar size, location, amenities, quality, unit type, maintenance, utilities and services. In no case can the rent be more than comparable available unassisted units. Current payment standards can be accessed from the WPBHA website.
Does the Family Pay For Utilities? Yes, unless the landlord includes utilities in the rent. The landlord decides which utilities they will provide as a part of the rent and which utilities the family will be responsible for. Utility service, including water, must be on at the time of the move-in inspection. Utilities that the Section 8 participant pays for cannot be master metered or shared with another unit or common area and must be billed directly by the utility service provider. If a family is responsible for paying a utility, WPBHA generally will credit the family with a utility allowance that lowers their tenant rental share and leaves them with the necessary money to assist with utility cost.
What Will The Inspector Be Looking For? The housing inspector will be checking to see if the unit is in compliance with Housing Quality Standards (HQS). These are minimum standards that any unit rented under the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program must meet.
When Can I Expect My First Check? After the lease and HAP contract have been executed, the contract is processed for payment. Generally, the first payment takes approximately 30 to 45 days. Payments will be made via direct deposit into your savings or checking account each month.
Who Do I Call If I have a Question or Problem with my Tenancy? Each tenant is assigned a housing counselor. Generally, the role of the housing counselor is to handle any matters concerning the family's income, household composition changes and all matters concerning the unit and payments. To find out who your tenant staff representative is, contact our main office number at (561) 655-3582. In addition, you may send an email to the WPBHA webmaster stating your concern and it will be forwarded to the appropriate person.
Is My Unit Inspected After The Initial Inspection? Yes. WPBHA must inspect all units annually to ensure program compliance. This is generally 60-120 days prior to the contract anniversary date. In addition, in the case of an emergency or complaint by the landlord, tenant, Housing Authority, or general complaint, a special inspection will be done.
Can I Cancel the WPBHA Contract If I'm not satisfied? No. Only WPBHA can cancel the Housing Assistance Payments (HAP) Contract. A landlord is free to terminate a lease agreement pursuant to the State and local laws. Once the Lease agreement ends, the HAP Contract terminates automatically.
How Long Can I Rent To A Housing Choice Voucher Family? The initial lease term is for one year. After the initial term, the lease continues on a month-to-month basis indefinitely as long as there are available funds and the unit, family and landlord are in compliance with program requirements, including family income.
Can a Voucher be used to rent from a relative? Housing Choice Voucher holders cannot rent from their immediate relatives. This includes the participant's mother, father, sister, brother, grandparents, grandchildren, step-family, in-laws, or any member of his or her household. A family can rent a unit from a relative as a reasonable accommodation only if the head of household or a member of the household is a person with a disability. The family must show that renting the unit provides a reasonable accommodation. WPBHA must approve the reasonable accommodation.
What types of housing can someone rent with a Section 8 Voucher? Section 8 Vouchers can be used to rent houses, duplexes, triplexes, apartments, condominiums, townhouses and cottages.
Does the owner have to be present when the inspection occurs? No. There must be a responsible adult present, age 18 or over, to let the inspector into the unit. We advise that landlords be present for the initial inspection. This is an opportunity for you to find out first hand why the unit did not pass inspection.
Who is responsible for repairs? As the landlord and property owner you are responsible for basic maintenance and normal wear and tear of the unit. You must make repairs that are your responsibility within a reasonable amount of time (generally 30 days) or WPBHA will hold or abate your Housing Assistance Payments. Damages caused by your tenant, members of your tenant's household, or your tenant's guest are the tenant's responsibility.
What happens if the tenant damages the unit? As with any tenancy, repairs for tenant-caused damages are the responsibility of the tenant. WPBHA does not reimburse the landlord for tenant caused damages. You should collect a security deposit and enforce your lease provision in the same way you would with any other tenants you rent to on the open market. You should seek reimbursement from the tenant for any damage repair costs paid on the tenant's behalf. If the unit does not pass the annual inspection because of something your tenant is responsible for, then your tenant will need to have repairs made within a reasonable amount of time (generally 30 days unless an emergency 24 hours item) or the family's assistance will be terminated.
Can I transfer the lease and contract to a new owner? The lease and HAP Contract may be transferred to a new property owner. The new owner will need to provide WPBHA with proof of ownership documentation and all required new owner information in order to begin receiving the Housing Assistance Payments.
How is income verified? All income, benefits, and allowances must be verified with documentation. WPBHA staff must obtain written verification from independent third party sources and document tenant files. In addition, the HA reviews employment records through the Income Enterprise Verification (EIV) system. If unreported income is found, this can result in termination of assistance. The family will be required to repay WPBHA for any overpaid assistance.
Can I pay the extra rent to make up the amount the landlord wants for the unit? No. The Housing Authority determines the tenant's portion of the rent. The owner may not, under any circumstances, charge or accept additional payments from the family for their share of the rent that has not been approved by WPBHA.
When are changes reported? Any change in income or family composition must be reported to the WPBHA in person within 14 days of its occurrence. Income change forms are available at the Housing Authority's reception desk. Failure to report or under reporting changes could jeopardize your eligibility for housing program assistance.
Where are Vouchers accepted? You may use your Housing Choice Voucher anywhere within Palm Beach County or in the USA where there is a housing authority to administer the program. Ask your housing counselor for information regarding portability. Wherever you choose to live, the housing must pass a Housing Quality Standards (HQS) inspection. It must also pass a rent reasonableness test to assure that the rent charged is fair.
If a property owner or manager has housing which qualifies and he or she is willing to rent it under the Housing Choice Program, a rental agreement or lease and Housing Assistance Payment contract must be signed. Available properties are listed on the WPBHA website under gosection8.com.
What do I do if I want to move and use my rental assistance in another unit? The Housing Authority must receive a copy of the notice you have given your property owner/manager stating your intention to vacate the unit. You will be required to schedule an appointment with your housing counselor. After that appointment, you will attend a briefing and receive your voucher, Request for Tenancy Approval and a Landlord Packet for the new unit.
Does the Housing Authority assist with Security Deposit funds? No. The tenant is responsible for paying all of the security deposit.
How much can a landlord collect for a Security Deposit? The security deposit amount collected must be in compliance with state and local laws. Owners are prohibited from charging Housing Choice Voucher families more for a security deposit than their unassisted families. The security deposit must be fair and reasonable.