The success of the Housing Choice Voucher Program (previously known as: Section 8) largely depends on the participation of private property owners. The Housing Authority currently works with more than 120 property owners in the Baldwin County area who rent to more than 270 participant families. The Housing Authority remains grateful to property owners who continue to rent to Housing Choice Voucher participants who are faced with the challenges of finding housing within the county. As a property owner participating in the Housing Choice Voucher Program, you must comply with certain regulations and procedures established by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Housing Authority (HA). The HA is committed to improving the efficiency of procedures to ensure that participating in the Program is a positive experience for owners. To follow you will find some of the most frequently asked questions that we are asked by many landlords and prospective landlords. We hope this will help further your understanding of some of our guidelines.
1. What is the Housing Choice Voucher Program?
The Housing Choice Voucher Program (HCV) is a form of federal rent subsidy which assists participating low-income households with monthly rental payments to ensure that the resident has a safe, decent and sanitary place to live. The Housing Authority administers funds received from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and distributes them in the form of Housing Choice Vouchers to eligible families and individuals. Currently, the HCV Program assists over 270 households in Baldwin County. Many more households qualify for housing assistance by income level, but because of limited funding, the Housing Authority is unable to help them at this time. A Voucher allows participating households (tenants) to rent housing that meets their needs. The tenant pays a portion of the rent directly to the landlord. The Housing Authority pays the landlord the difference between the tenant's portion of the rent and the total rent amount due.
2. How is the Initial Contract Rent Determined?
The initial contract rent must be "rent reasonable" and the tenant's total payment cannot exceed more than 40% of their monthly adjusted income for the initial term of the contract. Rent reasonable means that the total rent cannot be more than rent for similar units in the same general area or neighborhood. Criteria used to determine the rents include:
• Which utilities will be paid by the owner; • The overall unit condition;
• Any improvements made to the unit; • A comparison of similar rental units within that general area.
Please note that subsidized rents may not be more than non-subsidized rents for similar units.
3. After I submit the Request for Tenancy Approval Form, When Will I Be Notified If the Requested Contract Rent Amount Meets the Financial Requirements?
You should be notified within approximately three (3) business days if the contract rent amount meets the requirements for the tenant. You should allow time for this calculation process to be conducted prior to calling the housing authority office as interruptions will delay our efforts.
4. When is the Effective Date of Lease/Beginning of Subsidy?
The effective date of the Lease and Contract will be determined after the unit has passed a Housing Quality Standards (HQS) inspection and the tenant has terminated any previous Lease and Contract. If the Tenant is subsidized at another unit in an existing Lease and Contract, the tenant must return the keys to their previous unit to establish a termination date for that Lease and Contract. If the tenant takes possession of your unit before the Housing Authority's approved contract start date, the tenant will be responsible for the full market rent.
5. How Often Does the Housing Authority Conduct Unit Inspections?
The Housing Authority will conduct an initial inspection prior to the tenant taking possession. Afterwards, the Housing Authority will conduct an inspection once a year to ensure the unit continues to meet Housing Quality Standards (HQS). You and your tenant will receive a letter from the Housing Authority if the unit does not pass inspection. The letter will list the items requiring repair and will give you a date by which the repairs must be corrected. If the violations are not corrected within the time limit given, the Housing Authority will abate (or stop) the Housing Assistance Payment.
6. Can I Request Rent Increases?
Yes, you may request a rent increase. Rent increases are not automatic and must be requested in writing. These are the requirements for rent increases: • A 60-day written Notice must be served to the family and a 60-day written Notice/request to the Housing Authority.
• Rent increases must be rent reasonable and must be approved by the Housing Authority.
• When the rent increase has been approved, the Housing Authority will send you and the tenant a notice of rent adjustment and it will state the effective date.
NOTE: Once the 'rent increase' has been approved, the Housing Authority will process the necessary paperwork. This could result in an increase in the Tenants portion, the Housing Authority's portion or both. However, it is NOT permitted to charge the increased amount (to the tenant or the HA) until the specified effective date given by the Housing Authority. Once the rent calculations have been completed the Housing Authority will send a "Notice of Rent Adjustment" to the Section 8 Participant and the Landlord.
7. Who Can I Charge For Damages?
The Tenant is responsible for damages caused by them and/or their guests if the damages are caused as a result of abuse or neglect.
8. What Can I Do If the Tenant Has Moved Owing Me Money?
You should contact the Housing Authority immediately and provide a copy of the invoice sent to the tenant regarding the balance due. This gives us the information needed to follow up with the tenant. The Housing Authority's policy is that the tenant must leave you in good standing in order to continue receiving the rental subsidy. It is the responsibility of the Landlord to notify the Housing Authority (HA) of any balances owed by the tenant. Failure to provide this information to the HA serves as confirmation of good standing for that tenant.
9. If the rent is higher than the Payment Standard, can the resident simply pay me the difference?
Only if approved by the Housing Authority. Otherwise, this is a form of FRAUD on both the Tenant AND the Landlord's end. Both parties risk being fined and/or imprisonment. The same is true if the Landlord neglects to charge the Tenant for their portion of rent.
10. What If I Have More Questions about the HCV Program?
You may call the the Section 8 Coordinator at your convenience. You will need to leave a message on the proper extension (ext. 5 for the Coordinator). Our main office phone number is (251) 943-5370. Our typical work hours are 7:30 to 4:30. It is our goal to return all calls within a 24 hr. time frame. We encourage you to only leave one message as multiple messages from the same person may delay our response time. If we still have not contacted you after 2 business days, please call again.