The Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program uses federal funds to provide rental assistance to eligible families, helping them to obtain decent, safe and affordable housing. Applicants and participants are counseled on their rights and responsibilities in the owner and tenant relationship. Tenants under the program pay a portion of the monthly contract rent, based on their adjusted monthly income and Way Finders pays the remaining portion of the rent directly to the owner.
Rental Owners & Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers
Following is information to help rental property owners who accept Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers to understand the ins and out of the program.
Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program
Way Finders’ Policy on providing information to Owners about Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Participants
It is the responsibility of the owner, not Way Finders, to interview tenants, to check the tenants’ references, and to ensure in the same manner as with any other tenant, that tenants meet normal suitability standards. Upon written request only, Way Finders will provide the owner the following information:
- A tenant’s current and prior address, as shown in Way Finders’ records
- The name and address, if known, of the property owner of a tenant’s current and prior address.
Way Finders will not provide the owner with other information about a tenant’s family, nor does Way Finders’ provision of the above information in any way constitute a reference. The selection of a family for participation in the rental assistance program is not a representation by Way Finders about the family’s expected behavior or suitability for tenancy. Determination of tenant suitability is the responsibility of the owner. Owners are permitted and encouraged to screen families on the basis of their tenant histories. An owner may consider a family’s background with respect to such factors as:
- Payment of rent and utility bills
- How the tenant maintains their apartment and the premises
- How well the tenant respects the rights of others to the peaceful enjoyment of the premises
- Drug-related or other criminal activity, past arrests and/or convictions
- Compliance with other essential conditions of tenancy, as specified in the lease
Key Steps in Initial Lease-Up
- Request for Tenancy Approval (RFTA) and Other Required Documentation: The HUD Request for Tenancy Approval must be completed and signed by the Tenant and the Property Owner and submitted to Way Finders before the lease-up process can begin. The Property Owner must also complete and sign a W-9 Request for Taxpayer Identification Information form and Way Finders’ Appointment of Agent form. Units housing or which will house a child under six years old, built prior to 1978, must have a valid Letter of Compliance (LOC) submitted to and approved by Way Finders, prior to the scheduling of an initial inspection. For units constructed after January 1, 1978, a Building Permit is required. (Note: A Certificate of Occupancy is not a Building Permit.)
- Rent Burden and Rent Reasonableness: Way Finders will review the requested initial rent to determine whether it is affordable to the tenant. The requested rent is not affordable if the tenant would have to pay more than 40% of adjusted monthly income towards the gross rent (contract rent plus utilities). Additionally, initial rents, which are negotiated by the Market Analyst, must be “reasonable” in accordance with HUD guidelines. The owner must certify that the rent requested is not more than what is charged for comparable unassisted units under his/her ownership. The initial inspection is a critical part of Way Finders’ determination of reasonable rent. Overall condition of the property and the specific unit, quality and timeliness of repairs, significant site or neighborhood characteristics, as well as rents charged for comparable units in the same geographical area are all part of the final rent determination.
- Inspection: Way Finders must inspect and pass the unit before rental assistance payments can begin. No payments can be made for any prior period. Please see below for more information about inspections.
- Security Deposit: It is the tenant responsibility to pay the security deposit. The owner can require up to a month’s rent as a security deposit.
- Execution of Lease, HUD Required Lease Addendum and Housing Assistance Payments Contract: After the initial rent has been approved and the unit has passed inspection, leases and contracts will be executed and can be signed. The owner can submit his/her own lease for review and approval by Way Finders, or use a model lease provided by Way Finders. In either case, the HUD Lease Addendum must also be used. Way Finders will provide the owner with a HAP Contract to sign. These documents must be signed no later than 60 days after the effective date of the lease and HAP contract. Once these documents have been signed and returned to Way Finders, subsidy payments can commence.
After Initial Lease-Up
- Renewing the Lease: The model Lease and Way Finders Contract are self-renewing. However, they can be terminated by mutual agreement signed by the owner and the tenant. If the owner uses his/her own form of a lease agreement, the renewal provisions may be different. In either case, termination of the lease between the owner and tenant has the effect of also terminating the Way Finders Contract.
- Criminal Activity: The property owner must provide a unit in a safe and drug-free building. Failure by the Property Owner to take corrective action can result in Way Finders’ termination of the Section 8 Housing Choice contract. If any family member engages in illegal drug or a violent criminal activity, this can result in Way Finders' termination of the family’s participation in the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program, as well as the Way Finders Contract.
- Damages: The tenant is responsible for any damages, beyond normal wear and tear, done to the unit or premises by household members or guests.
- Annual rent increases: Annual rent increases must be found reasonable by Way Finders based on its evaluation of the current rental market. Because the tenant may be required to pay some or all of the rent increase, the tenant must also agree to the rent increase. A rent increase must be requested in writing, include a signature by the tenant agreeing to the increase and must be submitted at least 60 days in advance of the lease anniversary date and the effective date of the rent increase.
- Assignment of Contract: An owner choosing to sell or transfer ownership of the property should inform the new property owner prior to the sale of the property, that the unit(s) is being transferred subject to a Way Finders Contract and lease. The owner should also contact the Rental Assistance Housing Counselor as soon as the date of the transfer is known, so that the appropriate documentation, including an Assignment of Contract, W-9 Request for Taxpayer Identification Information and a copy of the deed can be processed in a timely manner and a disruption in Way Finders payments can be avoided.
Inspection Policies and Procedures
Way Finders Inspection Department is required to insure that the federal Section 8 funds are used to provide decent, safe and sanitary housing. With that come responsibilities of the property owner, the tenant and Way Finders staff. Please review the following information:
- Insure the unit is ready for inspection: Units should be properly turned-over between tenants and any repairs completed prior to the first inspection. Failure to do so may result in a cancellation of the inspection.
- Maintain the unit in compliance with HUD’s Housing Quality Standards (HQS): A unit must be in compliance for the Way Finders Contract to begin or continue. For new tenancies, failure to bring the unit into compliance within thirty (30) days of the first scheduled inspection will result in Way Finders’ rejection of the Request for Tenancy Approval (RFTA). After the initial lease-up, inspections will be conducted at least annually as well as in response to tenant or owner complaints or for audit purposes.
- Accomplish required repairs promptly: A determination that a unit under Contract has been out of compliance for more than thirty days will result in the withholding of subsidy payments. Existing conditions that pose an immediate threat to the occupants, if not corrected within 24 hours, will also result in the withholding of subsidy payments. Prolonged noncompliance will result in contract termination and in an unrecoverable abatement of 25% to 100%. NOTE: Subsidy payments will not be withheld from owners due to tenant caused violations.
Cooperate with Way Finders during the inspection process: Inspectors must have access to all common areas and the basement.
- Maintain the unit in safe and sanitary condition.
- Be responsible for tenant (including guest) caused damage beyond normal wear and tear to the unit. A family can be terminated from the program for failure to properly maintain the unit or for failure to correct tenant (including guest) caused HQS violations (i.e. damage beyond normal wear and tear).
- Inform the owner/agent promptly when repairs are needed.
- Cooperate with Way Finders in the completion of all inspections.
Inspectors are responsible to inspect each unit objectively and fairly without regard to personal preferences. They should also:
- Identify conditions that present immediate threat to the health and safety of the occupants.
- Identify non-life threatening conditions and allow adequate time for repairs, usually 30 days.
- Identify conditions that may be a violation of Family Obligations (tenant caused violations).
- Identify and report instances of possible fraud or program abuse by Owner or Family.
- Hold and abate payment to owners who do not complete repairs in the allotted time.
NOTE: Way Finders inspections are performed to determine compliance under the Section 8 Program. Way Finders does not inspect for compliance with the State Sanitary Code. In all instances, it is the Property Owner’s responsibility to maintain the property with all applicable state and local codes and a tenant’s right to request an inspection by the local Code Enforcement Agency.
You must continue to maintain the unit in compliance with the lead paint laws so long as a child under six occupies the unit. If you have a question regarding your building’s lead-based paint compliance, it is strongly recommended that you contact either a MA licensed lead inspector or local Code Enforcement Agency or Massachusetts Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program at 1-800-532-9571.
For questions regarding any of the above inspection related information, please contact our Inspection Department at 413-233-1554. Your call will be directed to the appropriate person.