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Section 8 Contracts & Rent

Section 8 Program Contracts and Rent Negotiations (FAQ)

1.   A Section 8 voucher holder would like to move into my unit.  What is the Section 8 leasing process, and how long does it take?

A:   It generally takes under thirty days, from the time a Section 8 voucher holder applies to rent your unit, until you receive your first payment from the Housing Authority.  Your first payment from the Housing Authority is retroactive to the contract effective date. When a Section 8 voucher holder applies to rent a unit, they ask the owner to complete a Request for Tenancy Approval form .  Attached to this form is the New Contracts Process Sheet , which contains detailed instructions on the Housing Authority’s contracting process.  Also attached is a sample lease, a Lead Paint Disclosure form , and some ownership documents.Once the Housing Authority receives a completed Request for Tenancy Approval form and any required attachments from the owner (please refer to the New Contracts Process Sheet for more information), we will schedule an inspection of the rental unit, usually within 5-7 days, depending on how quickly we are able to reach you by telephone.  If we are unable to reach you by telephone, a contact letter may be mailed to you to initiate the inspection scheduling process.The purpose of the inspection is to check that the rental property has been vacated by its previous tenant; to ensure the unit is in decent, safe and sanitary condition, and to verify that the proposed rent amount is reasonable for the unit.  Rent reasonableness is determined based on factors including size, quality and amenities.  For tips on passing the unit inspection, see Inspection Question 5.  To prepare for your upcoming inspection, you may download the self-inspection sheet. After the unit passes inspection (see Inspection Question 7 to learn how to access inspection results), it will take about 1-2 weeks for the Housing Authority to review the lease, verify ownership, authorize payments and conduct any necessary post-negotiation of the rent with the owner. Next, the Housing Authority and the owner enter into a Housing Assistance Payments (HAP) contract .  Payments will begin as soon as the HAP contract has been executed by the owner and the Housing Authority. The HAP contract effective date is the later of the following: the date the unit passes inspection, or the date the family receives authorization (and key) from the owner to move into the unit.Payments are made on the first day of each month.  Payments are made retroactive to the contract effective date, through the Housing Authority’s direct deposit program (see the Finance and Ownership page for more information), which guarantees timely, hassle-free payments.

2.   Can I use my own lease? 

A:   Yes, you must use your own lease.  The Housing Authority will simply review it to make sure it complies with program requirements.

3.   How much of a security deposit can I charge a Section 8 tenant / how much can I keep if they move? 

A:  You may collect a security deposit from a Section 8 tenant.  The security deposit amount cannot exceed amounts collected from non-Section 8 tenants and must be in line with local and California law.  The amount of the security deposit that you reimburse or keep also must be the same as for unassisted families, in accordance with what the law permits.  For more information, please refer to the California Tenant Guidebook on the Department of Consumer Affairs website. The Housing Authority does not provide security deposit assistance to families.  

4.   What is the payment standard? 

A: The payment standard is used in the calculation of how much rent subsidy can be paid to an owner by the Housing Authority on behalf of a Section 8 tenant, but it does not limit or affect the amount of rent an owner may charge or the Section 8 tenant may pay.  A Section 8 tenant can select a unit with rent that is below or above the payment standard, however a tenant is not allowed to pay more than 40% of their income toward rent in the first contract year  (Note: These payment standards do not apply to the Housing Authority’s Section 8 Moderate Rehabilitation Program.) The payment standard is the amount generally needed to rent a moderately-priced dwelling unit in the local housing market.  The Housing Authority sets this amount between 90% to 110% of the Fair Market Rent that HUD determines each year for Los Angeles County. Setting payment standards at this level keeps them high enough to ensure that quality housing is available, and also keeps them in a range that allows us to assist as many families on the waiting list as possible.

5.   How much will the Housing Authority pay for my unit? 

A:  Under the Section 8 program, the Housing Authority subsidizes housing costs, so that low-income families can pay an affordable percentage of their monthly adjusted income towards rent. The payment standard is used in calculating how much the Housing Authority contributes to the rent payment.  If the unit’s gross rent (rent plus utilities) is equal to or below the payment standard, the family’s contribution is based on 30% of their income, and the Housing Authority subsidizes the balance.  If the unit’s gross rent exceeds the payment standard, the family will need to contribute a larger percent of their income towards rent. In a family’s first year in a contracted unit, their rent portion is not allowed to exceed 40% of their monthly adjusted income. The Housing Authority encourages families to find rental units that are affordable based on their income. Both owner and tenant are notified of the tenant’s portion of rent in the lease rider.

6.   How much rent can I charge? 

A:   The rent you charge should be comparable to the rent of other privately rented units, and it must not be higher than what you would charge a non-Section 8 tenant.  The Housing Authority’s approval of a proposed rent is based solely on a rent reasonableness test.  Rent reasonableness is determined on a case-by-case basis.  We compare your proposed rent to the rents currently charged by other owners for comparable units in the area.

7.   How do you determine which units are comparable?

A:   Comparable units are units that are of the same number of bedrooms, unit type, age and quality, taking factors such as amenities and facilities into consideration.  Comparable units must be in the same area, which the Housing Authority defines by census tract.  The Housing Authority generally relies on non-Section 8 units to determine comparability with the private market, though a Section 8 unit may be calculated into a rent reasonableness test under certain circumstances. The data for unassisted units are gathered from newspapers, realtors, professional associations, inquiries from owners, market surveys and other available sources. Our inspectors conduct visual and market surveys to verify rent comparable information provided. Our rent reasonableness test relies on current (within the last 12 months) market rents.  Rent comparable information is updated in the Housing Authority’s database on an ongoing basis.

8.   Can I charge the tenant more than their portion of the rent?

A: No, the Section 8 tenant must pay only the amount authorized by the Housing Authority.  Any amount paid by the tenant other than the authorized amount is considered an unauthorized side payment, and is considered grounds for termination of the housing assistance contract and may adversely affect your ability to participate in the program in the future.  The Housing Authority may authorize payments for additional services or amenities, such as parking spaces or appliances (other than range and refrigerator).  However, any payment agreement between the tenant and owner, for items not included in the lease, must be made in writing, and pre-approved by the Housing Authority.

9. How do I request a rent increase?  When can I request a rent increase?

A:  To request a rent increase, you must submit a Rent Increase Request Form to both the tenant and to the Housing Authority at least 60 days in advance of the proposed effective date.  On the form you will be asked to list the unit address, current and proposed rent, and the proposed effective date. If the Section 8 unit is in a complex of 2 or more units, you will also be asked to submit a rent roll. A rent roll is the owner’s up-to-date official ledger/list of all rental units on the premises, including each unit's address and apartment number, rent amount, and bedroom size, and indicating which units are subsidized or unsubsidized. Your rent increase request must be in accordance with the terms of your lease and the HUD tenancy addendum.  Rent increase requests will be denied if they are made during the first twelve months of the lease, or made by owners whose contracts are in abatement for owner violations. When the Housing Authority receives a rent increase request, the proposed rent amount is subject to a rent reasonableness test, as explained in Question 8 and Question 9

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