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Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Rental Assistance Basic Information

What is Section 8?
Section 8 is a housing program to help lower income families, senior citizens and disabled persons rent decent, safe and sanitary housing at a lower cost. Many households qualify for assistance; however, help can be given to you only if you have been issued a Housing Choice Voucher. Your initial rent will be no more than 40% of your gross adjusted income, at the time you first lease a unit.

Funding for this program is made available through the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Please see the HUD Fact Sheet on Section 8 Housing Vouchers for more information.

Who is eligible?
Renters whose total yearly family income falls below 50% of the income limit as set yearly by the U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for the Sonoma County area, are eligible to have their rent subsidized under this program. Because the interest in this program far exceeds the available funding, a waiting list is established and managed by the Housing Authority.

Persons in Family Unit Size*
1 - 2 1 Bdrm
2 - 4 2 Bdrm
4 - 6 3 Bdrm
6 - 8 4 Bdrm

* Family composition determines whether you will be eligible for the smaller or larger unit listed.

How does it work?
If the waiting list is open, you may fill out a "Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Waiting List Lottery Form" and answer all the questions.  Selection is made by lottery.  If you are already on the waiting list and your mailing address changes, be sure to fill out the Waiting List Update form

When a Voucher is available to issue to you and you have reached the appropriate position on the applicant Waiting List, a letter is mailed notifying you to call to schedule an appointment.

We verify that the information supplied by you is true and accurate, and notify you of your eligibility.

Once it is verified that you are eligible, you will attend a briefing workshop where you will be issued a Voucher.

What are the rent limits?
Rents are individually negotiated between the owner and the Housing Authority based on the condition and location of the unit, whether any utilities are included in the rent, and the current rent for comparable units in the community. The current maximum allowable limits for rent for the Section 8 Program for the City of Santa Rosa will be given to you at the briefing. The maximum rent is limited by two things; your income and the rental market. The Housing Authority will not approve a rent amount that exceeds the market and won't approve a unit if your portion of the rent exceeds 40% of your income even if the rent amount is at or below market rents.

You pay approximately 30%-40% of your income for rent. Your rent is determined by your income, assets and expenses (including medical and child care). The monthly housing assistance payment by the Housing Authority is the difference between the contract rent in the lease and the tenant rent.

You are responsible to pay your portion of the rent, promptly, on the first of the month. The subsidy from the Housing Authority is paid directly to the landlord, on the first of each month, after the landlord has signed a Housing Assistance Payment contract.

Finding a unit.
You are expected to find your own housing. You may move to a new home or you may stay where you are. In either case, the owner must be willing to participate in the program, and the home must:

  1. Meet Housing Quality Standards, (physical and safety standards)
  2. Afford the family enough space to avoid overcrowding, and
  3. Rent for no more than the rent amount that is permitted.

If you want to lease the unit, you should explain the Section 8 Housing Assistance Payment Program to the owner. In this packet is an Owner Information Brochure and a copy of an addendum and contract. This material should answer most of the owner's questions. If the owner has questions you cannot answer, refer him or her to the Housing Authority's Section 8 staff, (707) 543-3300.

Security Deposit.
The owner can demand no more than is normally required in the area or an amount not to exceed the amount allowed by law. You are responsible for paying the deposit.

Housing Quality Standards.
The home must be decent, safe and sanitary. As basic requirements, the home must include the following:

  1. Adequate sanitary facilities. The bathroom must be in good condition, and the kitchen must have adequate and sanitary space for food storage and preparation;
  2. Enough room to provide sleeping space for no more than two people per bedroom;
  3. Exterior doors and windows which lock;
  4. A sound basic structure;
  5. No roaches, rats, mice or other dangerous vermin;
  6. A neighborhood environment which is safe and healthy; and
  7. Protection against lead paint poisoning.

Request Approval of Tenancy.
If the owner agrees to lease to you under the program, first fill out the Request for Approval of Tenancy. You and the owner sign the Request for Approval of Tenancy. You call your assigned Section 8 staff person, your "Technician", for an appointment to bring in your Request for Approval of Tenancy and the How To Inspect form. Once the Request for Approval of Tenancy has been approved, you will complete the rest of your paperwork, and an inspection will be scheduled with you and/or the owner.

Inspecting the unit.
First you inspect the unit using the How To Inspect form in the packet provided at the briefing. After the Request for Approval of Tenancy has been approved, the Housing Authority inspects the unit you want to lease under this program.

The Section 8 housing assistance payment will not be made on your behalf until the unit passes inspection; there are no exceptions.

The Lease
The lease term is negotiated between you and the property owner or manager.

The Housing Authority requests you sign a lease of the owner's choice. You must provide a copy of the lease to your Technician. A Tenancy Addendum will be attached to the lease which identifies family obligations under the Program.

The Housing Assistance Payments Contract.
The Contract that the Housing Authority signs with the owner will be for the same time period as the lease. Any continuation or renewal of the lease and the contract will be permitted only for the term of the Housing Authority's contract with the U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The Housing Authority may refuse to extend your Voucher. In such a case, you may file a new application when applications are being taken for a waiting list.

RESPONSIBILITIES OF SECTION 8 PARTICIPANTS
There are three basic participants in this program. Listed below are responsibilities of each of these participants.

Responsibilities of Family

  1. Provide accurate information to the Housing Authority regarding family composition, income, medical and child care expenses. Comply with the conditions of the Voucher. Promptly notify the Housing Authority in writing of changes when they occur.
  2. Look diligently for a decent, safe and sanitary living unit.
  3. Submit Request for Approval of Tenancy and the How to Inspect a Unit form.
  4. Negotiate and execute a lease with the property owner. Provide a copy of the lease to the Housing Authority.
  5. After leasing, maintain the dwelling in decent, safe and sanitary condition and report unsafe or broken appliances, heating, leaking plumbing or roofing immediately in writing to both the landlord and the Housing Authority.
  6. Promptly pay rent.
  7. Notify the Housing Authority and the property owner of intention to vacate with a written 30 day notice.
  8. Promptly report all family income from all sources and the names of all persons who will be living in the household.
  9. If, at any time during the year, anyone in the family moves in or out, it must be reported immediately, in writing, to the Housing Authority. A person who stays more than 30 days per year or who uses the unit address as his/her address is considered to be a resident of the household. Only those family members listed on the lease as approved by the Housing Authority may live with the family.
  10. If, at any time during the year, any member of the family has a change in income or income source, it must be reported to the Housing Authority, in writing, no later than 10 days after the change occurs. This includes any family member who gets a job or changes jobs, goes on or off public assistance, goes from part-time work to full-time work or goes on or off unemployment benefits or Social Security benefits.
  11. Any rent overpaid by the Housing Authority may have to be repaid by the tenant, and the tenant's rental assistance eligibility may be terminated. Cases of program abuse will be turned over to the appropriate investigative office for further investigation and possible prosecution.
  12. The tenant is responsible for the behavior of all persons in the household, and the tenant must keep the unit in clean and sanitary condition at all times. The family is responsible for Housing Quality Standards violations caused by the family. Failure to pay for tenant-supplied appliances and/or damage caused by the family or guests of the family to the unit or premises constitutes Housing Quality Standards (HQS) violations. The Housing Authority may terminate assistance to the family for these HQS violations.
  13. The tenant will allow the Housing Authority to inspect the unit, at least annually, at a reasonable time after being given reasonable notice. The tenant will be at home at the scheduled inspection time or will make arrangements for a responsible person, at lease 18 years of age, to be present in the unit for any scheduled inspection.
  14. As a program participant, if the tenant has not already done so, the tenant will disclose, verify (and certify as appropriate) to the Housing Authority the assigned Social Security numbers (SSNs) of all current and future household members who are at least six (6) years of age, in accordance with the policies set forth by the Housing Authority. Failure to do so may result in termination from the program.
  15. The head of household or any other family members or guests will not engage in drug-related criminal activities or in violent criminal activities.
  16. Your participation in the Program may be terminated if you do not comply with the conditions of your Voucher, or other obligations under the program, as outlined above.

Responsibilities of Owner

  1. Pay for utilities and services (unless paid directly by family), insurance, taxes.
  2. Maintain unit and promptly correct violations or deficiencies requested by tenant or Housing Authority.
  3. Collect family rent.
  4. Prepare and furnish information required under the Contract.
  5. Comply with all Fair Housing requirements and other applicable laws and requirements.
  6. See the Owners and Managers Guide to Section 8.

Responsibilities of the Housing Authority (HA)

  1. Publish and advertise information on availability and nature of housing assistance.
  2. Publicly invite owners to make dwelling units available; develop relationships and contacts with owners, managers and appropriate associations and groups.
  3. Receive and review applications for Housing Choice Vouchers, establish eligibility and maintain a Waiting List.
  4. Issue Housing Choice Vouchers to eligible families.
  5. Notify families or individuals determined to be eligible.
  6. Provide information to family for finding units as it becomes available.
  7. Determine amount of Housing Assistance Payments and Gross Family Contribution.
  8. Explain program procedures to owners.
  9. Review and act on Request for Approval of Tenancy.
  10. Make Housing Assistance Payments to participating owners.
  11. Reexamine and redetermine amounts of family contribution and Housing Assistance Payments, at least annually. Reexamine family income, assets, composition, medical and child care expenses.
  12. Inspect units before leasing and annually thereafter.
  13. Administer and enforce Contracts with owners.
  14. Comply with Fair Housing and other laws and requirements.
  15. The Housing Authority may reveal to your owner:
    • Your current address (as shown in the Housing Authority records); and
    • The name and address (if known to the Housing Authority of the owner of the family's current and prior address.
  16. When a family wants to lease a dwelling unit, the Housing Authority may offer the owner other information in the Housing Authority's possession about the family, including information about the tenancy history of family members.

CONTINUING IN THE PROGRAM

Changes in Income or Family Composition
You must notify the Housing Authority immediately, in writing, if your income or your family composition changes. Such changes may cause your rent to be lowered or raised. If you do not report these changes, you are defrauding the Federal Government and may be found to be no longer eligible for the Program. In such a case, the Housing Authority could end its contract with your owner and you could be denied continued rental assistance.

Moving and Continuing in the Program
If you decide to move, Section 8 rental assistance may be transferred to the owner at your new address. However, you must still be eligible for assistance and you must legally end your lease with your present owner. You must inform the Housing Authority of your intentions with a copy of the 30 day notice to vacate as given to your landlord, and you will be scheduled to recertify and be reissued a Housing Choice Voucher.

Annual Inspections
The Housing Authority is required to inspect your unit once a year. The purpose is to make sure that the unit still meets Housing Quality Standards (HQS). You must allow inspections after reasonable notice is given (at least 24 hours).

If the Housing Authority finds that you or the owner has not maintained the unit consistent with Housing Quality Standards, housing assistance payments will be stopped until the problem(s) is/are corrected and the unit is reinspected and passes HQS.

Evictions
The owner may exercise his right to evict you as long as California law is obeyed. Written notice of eviction must be given to the Housing Authority.

Owner's Request for Rent Adjustments
If the owner wants to increase the total rent charged for the unit, he must submit a 60-day written request to the tenant with a copy to the Housing Authority. Your portion of the rent will generally change.

Informal Hearing Request
If the Housing Authority sends you a termination notice you have the right to a fair hearing. You must request a fair hearing within 14 days of receiving the termination notice.

Other Important Information