How do I rent to people with Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers?
Screen tenants with vouchers the same way you screen other renters. Once you agree to rent to a voucher-holder, all you have to do is fill out a few forms and make sure the unit passes a SHA inspection. Rent charged for the unit will be reviewed by SHA and it must be determined reasonable as compared to other similar units in the market.
Can I charge a voucher holder a screening fee?
You may charge the tenant a screening fee as long as you charge all other renters the same screening fee.
Will the unit require an inspection and what standards and frequency are required?
The Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Housing Quality Standards (HQS) ensure that voucher holders reside in safe and livable units. SHA requires an initial inspection before you can rent to a tenant with a voucher. If the unit does not pass, you must fix all failed items before a tenant moves in. The unit will then be inspected at least once every two years to maintain compliance.
How long does an inspection take?
The length of an inspection can vary depending on the size of the residence and whether the unit is occupied or vacant. Generally, an inspection will take approximately 15-30 minutes.
Do I need to be present during the inspection?
There is no requirement that the property owner or manager be present at the time of the inspection as long as arrangements have been made to allow the inspector access to the unit. A summary of any deficiencies and required repairs will be mailed out following the inspection.
Is previous landlord history available for voucher holders?
If the voucher holder has used their voucher to rent from another landlord, SHA may be able to provide contact information for the landlord. To request previous landlord history, email [email protected] and they will assist you. You will be required to produce written authorization to obtain this information – usually, this is part of your rental application.
Can I collect a tenant’s part of the rent before the initial inspection?
No. The unit must first pass inspection. SHA will notify you of the exact amount of the tenant’s part of the rent after the inspection.
How do I know what a voucher is worth?
SHA’s voucher payment standards define the highest amount we will pay each month to help tenants with rent and utilities. We also give tenants an estimate sheet along with their voucher. This offers a general idea of both their portion and the total contract rent. We determine the actual amount after the property passes inspection.
Can tenants accept concessions?
Yes, but SHA should be part of concessions that involve money. (For example, one month’s free rent will be pro-rated over the 12-month lease term.) A tangible concession, such as a free microwave, goes directly to the tenant.
How are utilities paid? Should I include utility costs in the rent amount?
Tenants pay utilities based on the terms of the lease. As long as the rent is reasonable, the rent amount can be higher if you pay for more of the utilities. Separate meters are required if you wish to have the tenant pay for electric, gas, oil, or propane. Water, sewer, and garbage costs may be split among properties as long as the split is clearly detailed in the lease. Some cities may also require you to pay for certain utilities.
Do you take landlord-paid utilities into account when you calculate rent reasonableness?
Yes. SHA also looks at the features of the unit.
When do I get paid?
In order to receive your first payment, the Housing Assistance Payments Contract must be signed and received by SHA. This document then generally takes one to two weeks to process into our payment system. SHA issues HAP payments the second business day of each month and around the 15th of the month. You will receive your first payment on the first check run after your HAP contract has been input and processed. After that, you will receive your regular monthly payment on the second business day of each month.
We encourage landlords to enroll for direct deposit; however, you may also be paid by check. To sign up for direct deposit, complete the Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) form Direct Payment – Authorization Agreement and attach a voided check. Mail both items to:
Spokane Housing Authority
25 W Nora Avenue
Spokane, WA 99205
You can also email the items to [email protected] or fax them to 509-323-2364.
Although direct deposit takes away the need to mail checks, SHA may still need to send you important information. Please contact SHA at [email protected] in writing if your mailing address changes.
Can I raise a tenant’s rent after the first 12-month lease ends?
Yes. The process takes three steps:
- You provide 60-day written notice to the tenant and SHA.
- SHA determines if the new rent is reasonable. If you operate a large apartment complex you must provide at least three rent comparables for recently rented, non-Section 8 units.
- SHA calculates the tenant and SHA portions of the rent. We notify you and the tenant of the new amounts in writing within 30 days.
SHA views rent changes as month-to-month agreements. Signing a new lease is a transaction between you and the tenant.
I’m considering rent increases. The first unit to receive an increase is rented by a Voucher tenant. Their rent would be higher than the other units. Is this okay?
If the new rent will apply to all tenants, then yes. You may also need to provide rent comparables for similar units in the area when you request an increase. In addition, SHA will review the new rent for reasonableness. We take these steps to ensure you are not charging a voucher holder more than market rate.
Can a tenant transfer to a different unit on the same property?
Yes, but SHA must inspect the new unit before the tenant moves in. The tenant should also contact their Eligibility Specialist to set up a moving appointment.
Are tenants required to stay in a unit for 12 months after transferring?
Yes. Every new unit requires a 12-month lease.
Can a tenant add a roommate to their lease?
Yes, but the person must meet one of four criteria. They must be:
- Related to the head of household by blood.
- Legally adopted, with court custody papers.
- The domestic partner of the head of household.
- Disabled, with verification of their disability status and income.
SHA must approve any person before you add them to the tenant’s lease. We will verify their relationship to the tenant and run a background check. SHA will also confirm their income and citizenship. Adding anyone to the lease requires your written approval.
Is there a limit to the amount of time a tenant can stay in the program?
Tenants keep their voucher until one of three things happens:
- They earn enough money to pay the full rent for six months in a row.
- They choose to leave the program.
- SHA terminates them because of violations.
After an inspection, how does SHA decide what I must fix and what the tenant must fix?
SHA tries not to involve itself in these decisions. Instead, you should inform the tenant in writing of the items they must fix, and send a copy of the notice to SHA. This allows us to address enforcement with the tenant if needed. You will be notified if SHA does not agree with your decision.
What should I do if a tenant cannot pay their rent?
Provide SHA with a copy of any notices served. SHA may be able to refer the tenant to other financial options. If the tenant has lost income, they must report the change to SHA. Once verified, we may lower their portion of the rent. This change can happen as soon as the next month.
Does SHA deny tenancy if a tenant cannot afford the unit?
Tenants cannot initially move into a unit that costs more than 40 percent of their gross monthly income. If they cannot afford the unit after they move in, SHA encourages them to move to a more affordable unit to prevent eviction. This most often happens when family members move out over time, and the remaining family needs to find a smaller unit.
What can I do if a tenant damages the unit?
You have the right to bill the tenant for damages. If they still live in the unit, SHA will work with you to figure out who pays. We do not cover any costs or repair damage. You are responsible for seeking legal judgment if the damage exceeds normal wear and tear. Depending on the judgment, SHA may terminate the tenant’s voucher.
Can I evict a tenant with a voucher?
Yes. You have the same rights with voucher-holders as with other tenants. You can evict a tenant who breaks the terms of their lease, although you must have cause to end the lease during the first year. Cause is not needed if the tenant does not sign a new lease after the first year. You must issue all eviction notices as called for by the lease and local and state law. Please provide a copy of any eviction notice to SHA.
Who do contact to request a vacate inspection?
Contact the [email protected]. Vacate inspections only take place if you think the tenant should be terminated from the program for causing damage to the unit. If the damage is not severe, follow the procedures outlined in the Landlord-Tenant law.
Does SHA cover unpaid utility bills after a tenant moves out
SHA cannot cover unpaid utility bills. However, you should notify us if the tenant has an unpaid balance and has not yet moved out. This allows SHA to enforce payment from the tenant. Tenants who fail to pay their utility bills face possible termination from the program.
If a tenant moves but still owes me money, can they use their voucher again?
It depends. SHA will hold the tenant accountable if you take them to court and receive a judgment. We may also terminate tenants from the program for serious or repeated lease violations. Unpaid rent or utilities are the two violations that most often lead to eviction.
Do evicted tenants lose their voucher, if so for how long?
Yes. Tenants terminated from the program for lease violations cannot apply for another voucher for one to five years. The exact amount of time depends on the nature of the violations.
Does SHA hold tenants accountable for honoring court judgements?
SHA has limited ability to help with the collection of money owed. However, we will terminate a voucher for damages beyond normal wear and tear. SHA also terminates vouchers for repeated lease violations or unpaid utility bills.
Will I violate tenant privacy laws by reporting possible fraud or criminal activity?
No. Tenants have an obligation to follow program rules. Please report suspected criminal activity to Crime Check at 509-456-2233 or the emergency call receives at 9-1-1. Report suspected fraud here. If lease violations occur, serve the tenant a 10-day notice to comply. Send a copy of this notice to SHA. Please note: the information you provide SHA is strictly confidential. Due to federal and state law, SHA cannot comment on the actions taken after your allegation is reported. However, we assure you that all allegations will be reviewed to determine whether fraud or criminal activity is taking place. The appropriate actions will be taken if such activity is proven.
Can I sell my unit if there is a Voucher tenant in place?
Yes. However, prior to the sale, you must disclose the presence of the Voucher tenant to the new owner. If the tenant has lived in the unit for less than 12 months, the new owner must continue the lease with the tenant through the end of the 12-month term. If the sale takes place after the first 12 months, the new owner may ask the tenant to vacate the property. Proper notice procedures to the tenant must be observed. Of course, the new owner is welcome to continue renting to the tenant. If you do sell your property with Voucher tenant who will continue tenancy, you must contact [email protected] or call 509-324-2359 for information on transferring your property to a new owner.
Where can I get a detailed statement for my Housing Assistance Payments (HAP) received?
You may access your account by visiting our Landlord Portal Please note, the current portal will be changing to the MRI Assistance Connect Portal on January 1, 2022. If you are a new landlord and require assistance, please email [email protected] or dial our main number at 509-328-2953, dial ‘2’ for the Section 8 voucher or rental assistance program ‘4’ for Landlords and finally ‘4’ to check on your account.
How can each of my employees to have their own individual access to the Landlord portal to my accounts.
Our Landlord portal only allows one access per entity.
Why doesn’t my HAP payment actually deposit to my bank account on the 1st day of the month?
SHA issues HAP payments on the 2nd business day of the month after funding is received from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Please note that it can take up to 72 hours after SHA issues payment to post to your bank account, depending on your financial institution. If payment is not received within 72 hours, please email [email protected] or dial our main number at 509-328-2953, dial ‘2’ for the Section 8 voucher or rental assistance program ‘4’ for Landlords and finally ‘4’ to check on your account.
I didn’t receive my annual 1099. Who do I contact?
Please email [email protected] or dial our main number at 509-328-2953, dial ‘2’ for the Section 8 voucher or rental assistance program ‘4’ for Landlords and finally ‘4’ to check on your account.
All Spokane Housing Authority offices will continue to be closed to the public until further notice as a proactive measure to decrease the spread of the coronavirus and COVID-19 disease.