Frequently Asked Questions
What is the purpose of Housing Quality Standards?
The goal of the Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program is to provide “decent, safe and sanitary” housing at an affordable cost to low-income families. Housing Quality Standards help HUD and local Public Housing Authorities (PHAs) accomplish that goal by defining “standard housing” and establishing the minimum quality criteria necessary for the health and safety of program participants. All HCV housing units must meet these housing quality standards in order to participate in the HCV program.
What are the 13 key aspects of housing quality covered by performance requirements and acceptability criteria in the HQS?
The 13 key aspects of housing quality covered by the HQS include:
- Sanitary facilities
- Food preparation and refuse disposal
- Space and security
- Thermal environment
- Illumination and electricity
- Structure and materials
- Interior air quality
- Water supply
- Lead-based paint
- Site and neighborhood
- Sanitary condition
- Smoke Detectors
How are Housing Quality Standards enforced?
HQS inspections are conducted by PHA staff and contractors to ensure that potential and current HCV housing units meet the minimum performance and acceptability criteria for each of the 13 key housing quality aspects.
When do HQS inspections occur?
HQS inspections come in three different varieties. Initial Inspections occur when a voucher holder indicates to their PHA that they desire to lease a specific housing unit. The unit must pass the initial inspection before the execution of the assisted lease and housing assistance payments (HAP) contract and the initiation of payments. Annual Inspections occur once a year on housing units that are currently under lease by an HCV participant family. Annual inspections ensure that HCV housing units continue to meet HQS throughout the tenancy of the HCV participant family. Special Inspections may be complaint inspections or quality control inspections. Complaint inspections occur when a tenant, owner, or member of the public complains about the condition of an HCV housing unit. Quality control inspections examine a sample of housing units within a given PHA’s jurisdiction each year and occur throughout the year.
Have the tenants been screened by EHA to make sure they will be reliable?
Owners have the responsibility to screen the tenants, check references, and take all steps necessary to be sure that a prospective tenant is acceptable. EHA can provide you with the name of the current landlord, the previous landlord, and the tenant’s current address (if known).
Lease – What type of lease should be used? What about any special clauses which need to be added to the lease?
We require a 12-month lease. The owner will be responsible for preparing the lease with the tenant and to send a copy of the lease to EHA. As part of the basic HUD requirements, the Tenancy Addendum is to be attached to the lease.
Can a security deposit be required?
Yes. EHA will not determine the Security Deposit for an owner nor whether the Security Deposit is reasonable; the owner can decide what amount needs to be collected. However, the amount collected cannot be in excess of amounts charged to tenants residing in unassisted units.
Who is responsible for ensuring that the tenant pays the rent punctually?
The tenant is responsible for paying the rent and the owner is responsible for taking action if the tenant fails to do so.
Can the portion of the rent paid by the housing authority change?
Yes. If the tenant’s income changes, both the rent payments from the tenant and EHA can be adjusted, but the total rent the owner receives remains the same until a new contract rent has been approved by EHA.
How will I receive rent for my Housing Choice Voucher (Section 8) tenant?
Landlords will receive a Housing Authority Payment (HAP) and rent directly from the tenant. You will receive a letter which details how much rent the housing authority will pay and how much the tenant is responsible for. Landlords should collect the tenant portion of the rent in accordance with the terms of their lease.
The Housing Authority Payment (HAP) can be received in one of two ways, by check or by direct deposit. EHA is transitioning to issuing all payments by direct deposit and strongly encourage our landlords to sign up now.
When will I receive the Housing Authority Payment?
EHA issues payments one time a month, at the beginning of the month. Checks are mailed on the last business day of the previous month. Electronic Funds Transfers are made on the third business day of the month.
Please note, EHA cannot issue the first HAP payment for a tenant until the signed HAP contract and lease have been received. The landlord will receive payment at the beginning of the month following the month in which the signed lease and HAP contract are received. Per the HAP contract, EHA has up to two months to issue the first HAP payment. However, rent will be paid from the HAP contract start date. After this initial payment, landlords will receive regular monthly payments.
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 Everett Housing Authority at least 60 days before the proposed effective date of the increase. (EXAMPLE: If you wish to increase the tenant's rent on January 1, your written notice must be received by EHA no later than November 1).
The best way to submit this notification is to email firstname.lastname@example.org.
EHA has also made a form available that landlords may use to request a rent increase. It can be found here.
How much rent may I charge a tenant with a Housing Choice Voucher?
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 does EHA determine whether or not a rent is reasonable?
In making the rent reasonableness determination, EHA takes into account 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
The housing authority utilizes a database of rents compiled annually by a local research company to conduct their comparability analysis and determine if a rent is reasonable.
A rent increase I requested was denied, what are my options?
- The owner may accept the amount of rent that was deemed reasonable.
- The owner may submit information about other comparable units in the market area within 5 business days. EHA will confirm the accuracy of the information and consider it when making a final rent determination.
- The owner may refuse to accept the reasonable rent as determined by the housing authority and give the tenant appropriate legal notice to vacate the premises.
- The owner may not charge the tenant for the additional rent.
I requested a rent that is lower than the current EHA payment standard, why was it denied?
The payment standards define the highest amount EHA will pay each month to help a tenant with rent, they are not indicative of the value of a specific housing unit. The payment standards are based on current average market rent rates for a geographic area that includes locations with more expensive housing than EHA's jurisdiction.
The rent that you request for your unit should not be based on the EHA payment standard, it should be based on how much the unit is worth in the current rental market regardless of whether or not the tenant has a Housing Choice Voucher.