Landlord FAQ

Federal Housing Quality Standards Criteria

The Housing Choice Voucher (Section 8) program was the first federal housing program that offered low and moderate income families an opportunity to access affordable housing while maintaining the traditional roles of a private-sector property owner and tenant.

Program Purpose
The Housing Choice Voucher program is designed to assist eligible families with rent so that residents are provided with a decent, safe and sanitary home. It is the landlord’s responsibility to collect the tenant’s share of the rent and enforce the lease.

What’s involved?
You enter into a lease agreement with the tenant and a Housing Assistance Payment Contract with the housing authority. There is a HUD required Tenancy Addendum that must be attached and made a part of all voucher program participants lease agreement. You sign a contract assuring that a portion of your rent will be paid by the BWCHA. Your property must be inspected and meet certain federal Housing Quality Standards (HQS), essentially ensuring the home is safe and sanitary.

What’s in it for the owner?
A portion of the rent is guaranteed by HUD and paid directly to you by the BWCHA. Then the tenant pays a reasonable portion of their monthly adjusted income for rent and utilities. You have the option to directly select (and screen) for suitability any family issued a voucher by the BWCHA. You may also post your vacancies at the BWCHA and save on advertising costs.

Owner’s Rights
Your rights are the same as they are in the private market. You have the right to evict the tenant in accordance with state law. In addition, you deal directly with the tenant for any tenant-caused damages.

Owner’s Responsibilities
Basically, these are the same as they are in the private market:

·        You must screen families who apply to determine if they will be good renters

·        You must meet the obligation of the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP Contract and the lease).

·        You have the responsibility for maintaining your unit.

·        You pay the utilities and service unless specified in the lease as the tenant’s responsibility.

·        You collect the tenant’s portion of the rent.

·        You must comply with the Fair Housing Act.

If I choose to rent to a voucher holder, what is the process involved? 

  • The prospective tenant submits the completed Request for Tenancy Approval (RFTA) 
  • You will be contacted by an Inspector to schedule an inspection of the unit. 
  • Once the unit is approved, lease and HAP Contract are signed, the tenant pays the security deposit and their portion of the rent the tenant moves in. 
  • Shortly thereafter, you will receive your first payment from the housing authority.

Does the housing authority screen tenants? 

The Housing Authority does screen for income eligibility as well as certain criminal history (in limited circumstances). Screening for tenant suitability remains the landlord's responsibility.

If I sign the Request for Tenancy Approval (RFTA) form, am I committed to renting to the family? 

No. The Request for Tenancy Approval form is simply your intention to rent to the tenant and sets the terms for the tenancy. Either party may withdraw from the process before a lease or contract is executed. Your lease is the binding agreement with your tenant.

After I sign the RFTA and the family submits it to the Housing Authority, how long before an inspection is scheduled? 

The Housing Authority's goal is to conduct an inspection within 7 business days of when the unit is vacated or otherwise ready for occupancy by the assisted household. Prior to Housing Authority staff contacting the owner, the family's share of rent is calculated and the preliminary screening for rent comparability is completed for discussion with the owner.

What are the most commonly failed inspection items? 

The following list will help identify the most common items that arise during inspections. Please correct any deficiencies prior to the inspection date. There may be additional considerations at the time of inspection.

1. Smoke detector inoperable or missing

2. Light switch cover is cracked

3. Windows are either broken or won't lock

4. Leak under bathroom or kitchen sink

5. Lead based paint

6. Vinyl pulling up

7. Refrigerator handle and/or kick-plate missing

8. Must have working stove and refrigerator (all burners on stove must work properly).

9. Carpet seam bad

10. All outlets must have plate covers

How do I get paid? 

The tenant pays their portion of rent directly to the property owner.

What about security deposits? 

Property owners are entitled to collect a security deposit from Housing Choice Voucher participants.  The security deposit cannot exceed amounts collected from non-subsidized tenants and must be in compliance with Washington state landlord and tenant law.

Who takes care of tenant-caused damages during the tenancy? 

As in all tenancies, repairs for tenant-caused damages are the responsibility of the tenant.  Failure to make repairs may be grounds to terminate the lease and participation in the Section 8 program. The security deposit may also be used for reimbursement costs.

How do I terminate the tenancy of a Housing Choice Voucher tenant? 

If a tenant falls behind on the rent or violates any of their lease obligations, you are encouraged to use appropriate remedies defined in your lease or established by Landlord-Tenant Law (such as a 3 or 10-day notice).

May I rent my property under the Housing Choice Voucher Program to a relative? 

Federal regulations do not allow the Housing Authority to subsidize the rent of any participant if the property owner is the parent, child, grandparent, grandchild, sister or brother of any member of the participant's household unless as a reasonable accommodation for a family member with disabilities.

I am interested in the housing choice voucher program but still have questions. Who do I contact 

Call the Housing Authority at (360) 676-6887 and ask for one of the Leased Housing Supervisors. Explain that you are interested in renting your property through the voucher program and we will be happy to discuss more about the process or answer any questions you may have.

The Housing Authority offers a FREE Landlord information book for anyone interested in becoming a Housing Choice Voucher landlord participant. These books are available for pick-up at our main office at 208 Unity Street Bellingham WA 98225.