Thank you for your interest in the Housing Choice Voucher program! Landlord participation is integral to this program’s success and the lives of so many in our community. If you’re already a participating landlord, thank you! If you are interested in becoming a Housing Choice landlord, please click the link at the bottom of this page.
The Housing Choice Voucher (Section 8) program is the federal government’s major program for assisting very low-income families, the elderly, and the disabled to afford decent, safe, and sanitary housing in the private market. The Housing Choice Voucher program provides rental assistance on behalf of the family or individual and allows participants to find their own affordable housing in the private market.
Why become a Housing Choice Landlord?
- Be a part of solving our community’s affordable housing crisis.
- Guaranteed & on-time payment of BHA’s portion of the rent.
- Stable rent. If a tenant’s income drops, BHA may be able to increase its share to ensure landlords continue to receive full rent.
- BHA conducts initial and biennial unit inspections. BHA may also complete additional inspections at the Landlord’s request if circumstances are warranted.
- Assistance with completing the City of Bellingham’s Rental Registration Safety Inspection Program.
The common questions asked by current and potental landlords.
Once you’re ready to become a landlord with BHA, simply click the link at the bottom of the page.
What are the roles of the tenant, the landlord, the housing authority, and HUD?
Once BHA approves an eligible family’s housing unit, the family and the landlord sign a lease. At the same time the landlord and BHA sign a “housing assistance payments contract” that runs for the same term as the lease. This means that everyone (tenant, landlord & BHA) have obligations and responsibilities under the voucher program.
What are the tenant's obligations?
When a family selects a housing unit and BHA approves the unit and lease, the family signs a lease with the landlord for at least one year. The tenant may be required to pay a security deposit to the landlord. BHA does not pay security deposits. After the first year the landlord may initiate a new lease or allow the family to remain in the unit on a month-to-month lease.
When the family is settled in a new home, the family is expected to comply with the lease and the program requirements, pay its share of rent on time, maintain the unit in good condition and notify BHA of any changes in income or family composition.
What are the landlord's obligations?
The role of the landlord in the voucher program is to provide decent, safe, and sanitary housing to a tenant at a reasonable rent. The dwelling unit must pass the program’s housing quality standards and be maintained up to those standards as long as the owner receives housing assistance payments. In addition, the landlord is expected to provide the services agreed to as part of the lease signed with the tenant and the contract signed with BHA.
What are BHA's obligations?
BHA administers the voucher program locally. BHA provides a family with the housing assistance that enables the family to seek out suitable housing and BHA enters into a contract with the landlord to provide housing assistance payments on behalf of the family. If the landlord fails to meet the owner’s obligations under the lease, BHA has the right to terminate assistance payments. BHA must reexamine the family’s income and composition at least annually and must inspect each unit at least biannually to ensure that it meets minimum housing quality standards.
What is HUD's role?
HUD covers the cost of the program by providing funds to allow housing authority’s to make housing assistance payments on behalf of the families. HUD also pays the housing authority a fee for the costs of administering the program. HUD monitors housing authority administration of the program to ensure program rules are properly followed.
Can I charge a security deposit?
Landlords are entitled to collect a security deposit from Housing Choice Voucher participants. The security deposit cannot exceed amounts collected from unassisted tenants and must be in compliance with Washington state landlord and tenant law.
What happens if the tenant violates their lease?
Landlords are responsible for enforcing their lease and have the same rights under the voucher program as they do for non-voucher tenants. Lease violations – including lease termination and eviction – should be handled in accordance with the terms of the landlord/tenant lease directly with the tenant.
Does BHA complete tenant screening?
BHA completes limited tenant screening to determine program eligibility. Landlords may and are encouraged to complete their own screening to determine tenant suitability.
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 Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) Contract are signed, the tenant pays the security deposit and their portion of the rent and the tenant moves in.
- Shortly thereafter you will receive your first payment from BHA.
If I sign the Request for Tenancy Approval form (RFTA), am I committed to renting to the family?
No. The RFTA 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 BHA, how long before an inspection is scheduled?
BHA’s goal is to conduct an inspection within 7 business days of when the unit is ready for occupancy by the assisted household.
What are the most commonly failed inspection items?
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 flooring 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. Bad carpet seams
10. All outlets must have cover plates
How will I receive my rent payment?
The tenant pays their portion of rent directly to the property owner and BHA’s portion is generally deposited into a bank account of the landlord’s choosing on the first business day of each month. Please note the first month’s payment may be delayed depending on turnaround time for contract documents.
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 Housing Choice Voucher program. The security deposit may also be used for reimbursement costs.
May I increase the rent I charge my Housing Choice Voucher (Section 8) tenant?
Yes, after the initial 12-month lease term has ended you may change the rent and the terms of the lease. To do so, you must submit written notification to the housing authority at least 60 days before the proposed effective date of the increase. To request a rent increase, feel free to email us at: Inspections@bellinghamhousing.org.
How much rent may I charge?
The rent charged must be reasonable. The HUD definition of a reasonable rent is one that does not exceed the rent charged for comparable, unassisted units in the same market area. HUD also requires that owners not charge more for assisted units than for comparable units on the premises. The only exception to this rule is for units assisted under the LIHTC program.
Additionally, at move-in, the tenant’s portion of the rent may not exceed 40% of their adjusted monthly income. The Housing Choice Voucher program pays the difference between 30% of a client’s adjusted monthly income and the payment standard. Any rent charged that is above the payment standard is paid solely by the tenant. HUD regulations allow tenants to spend up to 40% of their adjusted monthly income on rent at move-in but anything higher than that is considered unaffordable and cannot be approved by the housing authority. After the initial 12-month lease term, this affordability rule no longer applies and the housing authority can approve any rent that is reasonable.
How is rent determined as "reasonable"?
BHA uses market data to complete a rent reasonableness review considering the following HUD-prescribed variables:
- Location and age of the unit
- Unit size including the number and square footage of rooms
- The type of unit
- The quality of the unit including original construction, maintenance and improvements made
- Amenities, services and utilities included in the rent
Who do I contact if I still have questions about the Housing Choice Voucher Program?
Call BHA’s Community Engagement Coordinator at (360) 527-4618.
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.
WA State Landlord Mitigation Law (RCW 43.31.605)
Washington state’s Landlord Mitigation Law (RCW 43.31.605) became effective on June 7th of 2018 to provide landlords with an incentive and added security to work with tenants receiving rental assistance. The program offers up to $1,000 to the landlord in reimbursement for some potentially required move-in upgrades, up to fourteen days’ rent loss and up to $5,000 in qualifying damages caused by a tenant during tenancy.
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