Frequently Asked Questions
Housing Choice Voucher FAQs
- What is the Housing Choice Voucher Program?
- Who is eligible for a Voucher?
- What does the landlord need to do?
- May landlords rent their unit to a family member who is receiving rental assistance through the Housing Choice Voucher Program?
- What does the family need to do?
- What are the rent limits?
- What kind of rental unit qualifies?
- Where can the unit be located?
- Can the rent be raised once the contract has been signed?
- May an owner sell a property while it’s under contract with the Housing Authority?
- How often are the units inspected by the Housing Authority?
- What are the benefits for a participating landlord?
- Can the unit be inspected before an eligible family wants to rent the unit?
- What does a unit have to have in order to pass an inspection?
- What if there is a dispute between the landlord and tenant?
What is the Housing Choice Voucher Program?
The Housing Choice Voucher Program is funded by Congress and the President and is under the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The program is administered by the Housing Authority to provide decent, safe, and sanitary affordable rental housing for very low income families. The Housing Authority assists these families by paying a portion of the contract rent to the landlord and the family pays a portion of the rent to the landlord. The family pays approximately 30 percent of their monthly income as their share of the rent.
Who is eligible for a Voucher?
Families with income that is 50 percent or less of the median income for the area qualify as very low income families. An eligible family can be a singer person household that is elderly or disabled, as well as families of two or more. Please see the Waiting List/Eligibility page for more information.
What does the landlord need to do?
The landlord must attract a family that has already been determined as eligible and has been issued a Voucher indicating eligibility by the Housing Authority. The landlord is responsible to screen the family for suitability as a tenant, just as they would any prospective tenant.
If the landlord decides to rent to the family, a Request for Tenancy Approval (RTA) is completely by the landlord and submitted to the Housing Authority. Eligible families are given the RTA at the time they are issued a Voucher. The Housing Authority schedules an inspection of the rental unit in approximately seven days. If the unit meets HUD Housing Quality Standards and the rent amount is approvable by standards set by HUD, the lease is signed by the landlord and tenant and the contract is signed by the Housing Authority representative and the landlord.
The landlord is expected to collect a security deposit and the family’s share of the rent. The landlord is expected to maintain the property’s overall condition and see that the basic plumbing, electrical, heating and cooling systems, etc. are functioning properly. Should the family violate the terms of the lease or fail to pay their portion of the rent, the landlord would evict the family through normal court eviction process and send the Housing Authority copies of any notices that the tenants were served.
The Housing Authority will deposit its portion of the rent to the landlord’s bank account on the first business day of each month for the Housing Authority’s portion of the rent.
May landlords rent their unit to a family member who is receiving rental assistance through the Housing Choice Voucher Program?
No. Federal Regulations [24 CFR 982.306 (d)] prohibits the Housing Authority from approving a unit for assistance if the owner is the parent, child, grandparent, sister, or brother of any member of the family. The only exception to this regulation is when a family member is a person with disabilities and it has been determined that approving the unit would provide a reasonable accommodation for that family member.
What does the family need to do?
The participating family is responsible to follow all the terms of the lease. The family is responsible for normal housekeeping maintenance of the rental unit. Please see the Participant Responsibilities on our website for additional program responsibilities for the family. Serious or repeated lease violations can result in the termination of housing assistance under the federal regulations. If the family damages the rental unit beyond normal wear and tear, they are responsible to pay for damages. Damaging the unit may also result in the termination of a family’s assistance.
What are the rent limits?
The contract rent represents the total rent to the owner from both the tenant and the Housing Authority. The tenant share is the amount that the tenant pays plus any utilities that the tenant is required to pay. The Housing Authority pays part of the contract rent based the tenant’s income and any applicable utilities in which the tenant is responsible to pay. No payments in addition to the contract rent is allowed.
The Voucher payment standards are the rent amounts at which the participating family would be paying 30 percent of their income toward the rent and utilities. Families may pay slightly more, but they may not pay more than 40 percent of their income toward rent and utilities. The Housing Authority determines the maximum allowable payment to the owner. Voucher rents must also be certified as “reasonable” in comparison to other open market rents in the area.
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What kind of rental unit qualifies?
Any existing rental housing may be eligible: single family homes, condominiums, apartments, mobile homes, townhouses, duplexes, etc. All rental unit must conform to Housing Quality Standards and meet local code requirements.
Where can the unit be located?
The rental unit can be located anywhere in Fairfield County.
Can the rent be raised once the contract has been signed?
Not in the first year of the lease. After the first year, you may request an increase in the rent. The landlord must request any increase in writing at least 60 days prior to the anniversary date in order to get the increase on the anniversary date of the lease signing. If the request is received at a later date, the increase will be effective at least 60 days later. In the event a rent increase is denied, the tenant is not allowed to pay the difference in rent.
May an owner sell a property while it’s under contract with the Housing Authority?
Yes, the owner may sell the property while it’s under contract. The current owner must contact the Housing Authority and request a Property Transfer Form. See the Voucher Contract for more details.
How often are the units inspected by the Housing Authority?
The rental units are inspected prior to a contract being signed and at least annually thereafter.
What are the benefits for a participating landlord?
The Housing Authority portion of the rent is sent to your bank account on the first business day of each month. The Voucher program allows you to fill a vacancy in a rental unit with a tenant who, by being on the program, gives you greater assurance of being able to afford the unit. If a participant’s income decreases and they report the change to the Occupancy Specialist, the Housing Authority may be able to increase payments to make allowances for the decrease in the tenant’s income.
Can the unit be inspected before an eligible family wants to rent the unit?
No. The resources of the Housing Authority are limited and we can only do inspections after your unit is selected by an eligible family and a “Request for Tenancy Approval” form is completed and approved by the Housing Authority. We also request that you make any necessary repairs prior to an inspection to avoid the necessity of another inspection and a delay in the start of the lease and contract effective period.
What does a unit have to have in order to pass an inspection?
The unit needs to meet basic building codes for safe and sanitary housing. Doors and windows must be open, close and lock. Plumbing and electrical systems must work properly. Heating must be adequate. Most well maintained rental units should be able to pass an inspection. For more complete information on inspections, please see the brochure, A Good Place to Live in PDF format.
What if there is a dispute between the landlord and tenant?
If you are a tenant or landlord and are having problems with a tenancy, the Housing Authority encourages both sides to sit down together and review the lease that the two of you have signed. Most leases address problems that could arise during tenancy. The Occupancy Specialists at the Housing Authority are not attorneys and are not allowed to give legal advice to either a tenant or landlord.
Remember that if a participant is evicted from a rental unit due to lease violations they may lose their housing assistance. It is very important for any problems to be resolved as soon as they arise.
To read landlord/tenant laws for the State of Ohio, visit the following website: http://codes.ohio.gov/orc/5321
Federal law prohibits housing discrimination based on your race, color, national origin, religion, sex, family status, or disability. To file a Fair Housing Complaint, visit the following website: http://portal.hud.gov/portal/page/portal/HUD/topics/ housing_discrimination
The Fair Housing booklet, “It’s Your Right” is available from HUD by clicking here.
Tenants may qualify for free legal assistance. Contact Southeastern Ohio Legal Services at 740-653-7705 or 888-835-5902.