Landlords in the private market can lease their apartments to families in the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program (HCVP). The program is federally funded and administered by Worcester Housing Authority (WHA). 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 WHA Section 8 Voucher holder you become a WHA landlord. You may use the website: “https://www.gosection8.com/ll/benefits.aspx?benefittype=landlord” when you have an apartment available for rent. Once you create an account, you can add listings for any apartment you have available for rent within WHA’s area (Worcester County), free of charge. You may add pictures for better exposure.
How it Works
Eligible families will receive a “Voucher” from WHA, and individual calculation sheets that will state the maximum amount of rent WHA will pay directly to the landlord. The remaining portion is the responsibility of the tenant. Families must find housing within a certain time frame of receiving a Voucher, usually between 120 and 180 days. You may ask to see the family's Voucher.
WHA screens Voucher holders on CORI and SORI, and for program eligibility only – to determine how much rent WHA will subsidize and how much rent the tenant will pay on their own. As in the private market, the 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: List your apartment on www.GoSection8.com
Step 2: Meet with family and conduct usual screening (remember, the WHA screens for CORI and SORI).
Step 3: Negotiate Rent and completely fill out the family’s Request for Tenancy Approval (RFTA), RFTA Addendum and Lead Paint Certification form. If the family will have a child under the age of 6 in their household, then a copy of a letter of lead compliance must also be attached to the returned RFTA. Either family or landlord can hand deliver to WHA.
Step 4: Within 1 to 2 business days, you will be notified either by WHA staff to discuss/negotiate the rent or if it is automatically approved, you will be contacted by the inspection company, McCright and Associates to schedule an Initial Inspection to ensure the unit is in compliance with Housing Quality Standards (HQS) and State Sanitary Code. The WHA will also need to verify that you are the current owner of the unit either by a deed search or you can provide a copy.
Step 5a: If the Initial Inspection fails, the deficiencies must be corrected before being approved. After making the corrections, you would then contact McCright and Associates to schedule a re-inspection. (This must be done within 60 days of the failed Initial Inspection, or another Initial Inspection must be completed.)
Step 5b: If the inspection passes, the Program Representative assigned to this client will contact you with the status. At this time, you will know how much WHA will pay you each month (the Voucher amount) and how much the tenant will pay you. This amount will add up to the total approved contract rent.
Step 6: WHA will prepare a Housing Assistance Payments (HAP) Contract and a Model Lease, for your signatures. It will either be mailed out to you or you can come in person to sign. You will also be required to obtain the tenant’s signature on the lease.
You may use your own lease; however, the lease must be approved by WHA prior to executing a HAP Contract. This may delay the actual execution of the HAP Contract which may delay payments being made.
Under Massachusetts law, you may take a security deposit equal to one month's rent once the lease is signed. The lease is between you and the family.
Step 7: The HAP Contract is your agreement with WHA. 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 HQS and the State Sanitary Code. No payment can be made until the WHA receives the signed HAP Contract and approved leases signed by both you and the tenant.
What happens after the tenant moves in?
After your tenant moves in, every year, WHA will determine whether the family is still eligible for the Housing Choice Voucher program and whether the apartment is still in compliance with HQS and 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. If the apartment is no longer in compliance with HQS and the State Sanitary Code, WHA will notify you in writing, and you will be given enough time to make the repairs.
You may request an increase in the rent annually (as stated in your lease), but WHA must determine that the requested amount is reasonable in comparison to other market rate apartments in the same building and neighborhood. Any rent increase may result in the family having to pay the difference between the original rent amount and the increased rent amount. You must notify the tenant in writing at least 60 days in advance with a copy to the WHA. You will be notified if the rent is approved.
Can the Lease be terminated, if necessary? Whether you use your own lease or a model lease provided by WHA, the lease will state 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 WHA's permission to evict a tenant who is in violation of the lease. You must send WHA copies of the eviction notice. Remember, the lease is between you and the tenant. You must enforce your lease, not the WHA.