Landlords in the private market can lease their apartments to families in the Housing Choice Voucher Program. The program is federally funded and administered by Hingham Housing Authority (HHA). The process of renting to a family in the Section 8 Housing Voucher Choice program is similar to renting to a family in the private market – the landlord screens and selects tenants, collects rent and maintains the property.
Participating in the Housing Choice Voucher Program
When you rent an apartment to a HHA Section 8 Voucher holder you become a HHA landlord.
How it Works
Eligible families will receive a “Voucher” from HHA. The Voucher will state the number of bedrooms the family is eligible for. The Families must find housing within a certain time frame of receiving a Voucher, usually 120 days. You may ask to see the family’s Voucher.
HHA screens Voucher holders for program eligibility only – to determine how much rent HHA will subsidize and how much rent the tenant will pay on their own. As in the private market, the property owner is responsible for screening applicants for suitability as tenants. Selecting tenants, whether Voucher holders or not, is limited only by fair housing requirements and the prohibition of discrimination as established by federal and state law.
What Steps are Involved in Renting to a Family with a Voucher?
Step 1: Request Tenancy Approval
If you choose to rent to a family with a Voucher, complete the Request for Tenancy Approval (RTA) package and return the package to HHA. Once we receive the RTA package we will conduct an analysis to determine if the rent is reasonable for that unit under program guidelines and affordable for the voucher holder. HHA will also ask that you certify that you are the present owner of the property and provide a copy of the registered deed with the book and page number listed by the county’s Registry of Deeds. If the deed is more than 10 years old, HHA will ask you to provide a copy of the property’s current tax bill.
HHA pays all of our landlords via Direct Deposit, which ensures safe and timely payment of the subsidy. So we will also ask to provide a direct deposit authorization, a copy of a voided check, a copy of your government ID and a signed form W-9 for tax purposes. Payments can be tracked via the online landlord portal.
Step 2: Agree on Rent
Under the Housing Choice Voucher program guidelines even if the rent is reasonable for that unit under the Fair Market Rates for the area, it must also be affordable for the tenant. You will make a rent agreement with HHA and the tenant that meets both of those goals. At this time, you will know how much HHA will pay you each month for the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) and how much the tenant will pay you. The HAP and tenant share will equal the total contract rent.
Step 3: Inspection
After the determination of rent reasonableness and affordability has concluded and the rent amount agreed upon, HHA will need to inspect the unit. All units funded by the Housing Choice Voucher program are required to meet Housing Quality Standards (HQS) The HHA Leased Housing Inspector will contact the landlord directly to schedule an inspection.
Step 4: Sign the Lease
Once the unit passes inspection, you will be contacted by the Housing Search Specialist to set an agreed upon move in date for your new tenant. The lease is between the landlord and the new tenant. If you have lease of your own you may use it or if you do not have a lease available, a standard lease will be provided by the Hingham Housing Authority. Under Massachusetts law, you may take a security deposit equal to one month’s rent once the lease is signed.
Step 5: Sign the Housing Assistance Payments Contract
The Housing Assistance Payments Contract is your agreement with the Hingham Housing Authority. It guarantees you the subsidy payment and other benefits as long as the family remains in the apartment and the apartment remains in compliance with the State Sanitary Code & HQS standards. If the unit falls out of compliance, both the tenant and HHA may withhold payment under the HAP contract. The HAP contract is the contact between the landlord and the Hingham Housing Authority. The assigned Leasing Officer will coordinate the signing of the HAP contract.
Step 6: Your Tenant Moves In!
- Rent Increase Request–If you are landlord requesting a rent increase, please send a request letter along with the Hingham Housing Authority Rent Reasonable Form and Utility & Contract Rent Certification forms to the Hingham Housing Authority for a review determination. Download a letter template and the forms here.
What Happens After I Rent to the Family?
Every year, HHA will determine whether the family is still eligible for the Housing Choice Voucher program and whether the apartment is still in compliance with the State Sanitary Code. A change in the family’s income or size may result in a change in their share of the rent and subsidy payment.
The unit will be inspected either annually or bi-annually, depending on the program. If the apartment is no longer in compliance with the State Sanitary Code or HQS standards, HHA will notify you in writing, and you will be given time to make the repairs. If repairs are not made in the prescribed timeframe, both the tenant and HHA may withhold payment under the HAP contract.
You may request an increase in the rent annually (as stated in your lease), but HHA must determine that the requested amount is reasonable in comparison to other market rate apartments in the same building and neighborhood.
Can the Lease be Terminated, if Necessary?
Whether you use your own lease or a standard lease provided by HHA, the lease will state what circumstances are for termination of the lease and how much notice you must give your tenant if you want to terminate the lease. The eviction process is the same for a family with a Voucher and an unassisted family. You may consult an attorney or bring the matter to the local Housing Court. You do not need HHA permission to evict a tenant who is in violation of the lease. You should send HHA copies of the eviction notice or any other lease violation documents.
Benefits and Responsibilities
What are the Benefits of Renting to a Tenant with a Housing Choice Voucher?
- HHA will pay the rent subsidy every month, on time and guaranteed, as long as the unit is in compliance with HQS standards.
- You are protected from financial loss if your tenant suffers unexpected financial hardship which reduces the tenant’s income. When this happens, the subsidy payment is increased to compensate for your tenant’s lower income, provided HHA is notified of the income change in a timely manner.
- HHA can help prevent your vacant apartments from remaining empty for too long since there are hundreds of qualified tenants waiting for housing.
- If you attempt to evict a tenant for good cause, you will continue to receive HHA portion of the rent until the tenant leaves the apartment or is evicted.
Are there any Additional Responsibilities Placed on Owners when Participating in the Housing Choice Voucher Program?
The Housing Choice Voucher program requires little beyond that which is required by law. Property owners have the same responsibility to enforce leases and maintain the property for Housing Choice Voucher subsidized tenants as they do for non-subsidized tenants.
Once a year, HHA will inspect the apartment and make sure that it complies with HUD’s minimum Housing Quality Standards, Chapter II of the State Sanitary Code, and laws regarding lead paint compliance. Please see the HQS Inspection Checklist reviewed during HHA inspection of apartments.
Similarly, Housing Choice Voucher tenants have all the rights and responsibilities of unassisted tenants, except that they are responsible for only paying a portion of the rent. As with unassisted tenants, irreconcilable differences between the owner and the tenant must be settled by the Housing Court.
Are there any Restrictions?
Federal law does not allow HHA to approve an apartment for rental when the owner is the parent, child, grandparent, grandchild, sister, or brother of the Voucher holder or of any member of the Voucher holder’s family. The only exception is if the apartment would provide reasonable accommodation for a member of the Voucher holder’s family who is a person with a disability.