Section 8, or the Housing Choice Voucher program, is a program providing rental assistance to low income individuals and families. Federally funded, the program is administered nationally by HUD. Program participants normally pay minimum 30% (and not more than 40%) of monthly adjusted income towards rent and utilities – the housing authority subsidizes the balance of the rent to the landlord.
A property owner does not have to be formally approved in order to become a Section 8 landlord. The Section 8 voucher holder will find a suitable apartment and will give the landlord a packet of forms to be completed by the landlord. This packet includes the “Request for Tenancy Approval” which will provide the housing authority with required information regarding the unit to be leased. Based on this information the housing authority determines if the requested rent is reasonable for the area and affordable for the tenant.
The Lease up process for Section 8
Screening the tenant
The landlord is responsible for the screening and selection of the tenants. The housing authority does not screen for tenant behavior or suitability. A voucher holder has been determined by the housing authority to be eligible for the Section 8 program based on income and citizenship status. A criminal background check (CORI) and a sex-offender check (SORI) is also run on each adult member of the family.
Please note: in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts a prospective tenant cannot be discriminated against because they are receiving public assistance or a housing subsidy.
Landlord Information to Housing Authority
After agreeing to lease an apartment to a voucher holder, the landlord must complete all documents in the landlord packet and provide a proof of ownership (a copy of a deed, tax bill or water bill), Lead Certificate or Lead Compliance Certificate (if tenant family includes a child under the age of six) and a copy of the lease. This lease will be reviewed by the housing authority before signing.
Once the landlord information is received the housing authority will determine if the rent requested by the landlord is reasonable for the area and affordable for the tenant. Reasonable rent is defined as not exceeding rents charged for comparable unassisted units in the same area.
An affordability check will also be performed to assess whether the tenant will be able to afford the rent requested. At time of initial lease up a tenant is required to pay a minimum of 30% of gross monthly adjusted income and no more than 40%. A major component of the affordability check is the payment standard. HUD publishes FMRs for each area annually and the payment standards are derived from those and set by the housing authority. Please note that the payment standard assumes all utilities are paid by landlord so therefore if tenant is paying any unit utilities the affordable rent may well be below the payment standard. Any gross rent above the payment standard is assigned to the tenant portion.
Housing Quality Standards (HQS) Inspection
The next step in the eligibility process is the unit must be inspected and found to be in a decent, safe and sanitary condition. An HQS inspection will be conducted once paperwork has been reviewed and unit affordability determined. The unit must pass this inspection before the tenant can move in.
Lease and Tenancy Addendum
It is a requirement of the Section 8 program that the tenant and landlord execute a lease agreement. This is a contract between the tenant and landlord and the Housing Authority is not a party to this agreement. Generally, the initial period of the lease is 12 months after which time it is assumed that the lease becomes a tenancy at will unless a new lease is executed between landlord and tenant for another 12 months.
The HUD Tenancy addendum must be attached to the lease. It includes the tenancy requirements for the program, and is considered part of the lease. In the even of a dispute the Tenancy Addendum shall prevail.
Once the unit has passed inspection the Housing Authority will execute a HAP Contract with the landlord. The HAP contract details the program requirements and responsibilities of the landlord and housing authority under the Section 8 program. The tenancy addendum is also included as part of the HAP contract. No assistance payments will be made to any landlord without a signed HAP contract in place.
The landlord may collect a security deposit from the tenant, but this deposit may not exceed the amount of one month’s rent. The Chelmsford Housing Authority is not a party to the security deposit.
Housing Assistance Payments (HAP)
HAP payments will begin from the first day of the lease, or the day after the unit passes inspection – whichever comes last, and only after the contract has been signed. HAP payments are mailed out to landlords on the 1st day of the month or as close to as possible. The final HAP payment will be paid for the last month that the tenant is residing in the unit.
Direct Deposit for HAP Payments
The Chelmsford Housing Authority offers direct deposits for monthly rent payments to owners.
CHA Direct Deposit Authorization Form
If you wish to list your apartment, please visit the Affordable Housing site.