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About the Section 8 Program

Caribou Municipal Building
25 High St
Caribou, Maine 04736
Lisa Plourde, Housing Director
Phone: (207) 493-4234
Fax: (207) 376-0178
E-mail: housing@cariboumaine.org

 


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hank you for your interest in the Housing Choice Voucher program, also referred to as the “Section 8” or “Voucher” program. This program provides rental assistance to low income individuals and families. The participating families select their own rentals from units on the private market. Technically, the Housing Authority does not assist the unit, the assistance is provided on behalf of the family renting the unit.

LANDLORD BENEFITS

The Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program offers many benefits to landlords, including:

  • Landlord choice of the tenant from eligible voucher holders
  • Direct deposit of Housing Authority rent payments
  • Landlord web access to monitor Housing Authority payments
  • Prompt and consistent Housing Authority payments
  • Market-comparable rent levels, with the ability to increase rents as the market adjusts
  • Protection from tenants financial hardships
  • Another entity to assist with tenant matters if landlord needs help

HOW THE PROGRAM WORKS

The HCV program assists people who are already on the Housing Authority waiting list. Landlords can encourage their tenants to get on the waiting list by completing a pre-application, but there will be a lengthy wait, typically years. If one of a landlord’s tenants is issued a Section 8 voucher, he/she has the option of remaining in their unit if the landlord would like to participate in the program.

SELECTING A SECTION 8 FAMILY AS A TENANT

The Housing Authority screens for program eligibility. Families are checked for income eligibility and legal immigration status. The Housing Authority also conducts registered sex offender checks and may deny certain violent or drug-related criminals if the information is disclosed. Eligibility determinations are not the same as reference checks. Landlords renting to Section 8 tenants should perform all reference, background and credit checks used in selecting non-subsidized tenants.

If the prospective tenant is already a voucher holder the Housing Authority may provide, at the request of the prospective landlord, a limited amount of information; that is, the tenant’s current address and the name and address of the tenant’s current and prior landlords, if known to the Housing Authority. To request such information, please submit the Request to Release Information form to the Housing Authority.

A Section 8 Voucher holder authorized to find a rental unit will give the landlord a Request for Tenancy Approval (RTA) to complete. The Housing Authority will review the RTA, discuss the appropriate rent with the landlord (see Rents below), and schedule an inspection.

INSPECTIONS

Each rental unit must pass an initial and annual inspection by the Housing Authority.An initial inspection must be performed by the Housing Authority before rent can be paid for a rental unit. See the Inspection Q&A. The Housing Authority inspects to HUD Housing Quality Standards (HQS). See the HQS Inspections Check List.

After the unit passes inspection, the RTA is approved, and the tenant has signed the landlord’s lease, the landlord can allow the tenant to move in. At this point, the Housing Authority will generate the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) contract. Program participation is not official until the HAP contract is signed. Once the Housing Authority receives all required paperwork, the first rent check will be sent. Please note that if the tenant moves in early, the Housing Authority will not start paying its portion of the rent until the above steps are complete. If the tenant moves in too soon, the tenant would be responsible for the entire rent amount.

Annual inspections are also done by the Housing Authority. The landlord may choose to be present for any inspection. If deficiencies are found, the landlord is notified in writing and given a specific time frame in which to make repairs. If repairs are not done, the housing assistance cannot continue.

HOUSING ASSISTANCE PAYMENT (HAP) CONTRACT

The family pays about a third of its income in rent to the landlord, and the Housing Authority pays the rest, up to a certain limit (see below, Rents and Payment Standards), directly to the landlord.

The Housing Authority payments are authorized by the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) contract between the landlord and the Housing Authority. The HAP contract spells out the landlord’s responsibilities and the relationship between the landlord and the Housing Authority. A sample of the HAP contract can be found here.

The landlord and tenant have a direct relationship that the Housing Authority is not party to. The landlord uses his/her own lease with a Housing Authority-provided Tenancy Addendum incorporating Section 8 requirements..

Rent increases are permitted as long as the total rent is no more than the Housing Authority’s “reasonable rent” standard and approved by the Housing Authority. See Rents below.

HAP PAYMENTS DIRECT DEPOSIT

The Housing Authority’s share of the rent is paid on the first business Friday of each month. Landlords are encouraged to sign up for direct deposit of HAP Payments using the Direct Deposit Form in order to receive HAP payments quickly and safely.

TERMINATING A LEASE

If there are problems with a Section 8 tenant, as with any non-subsidized tenant, the landlord can take any action, up to and including eviction, in accordance with the law and the terms of the lease.

The landlord can leave the program at the end of any lease term. Although the HCV program does not address termination notices to the tenant under normal circumstance; the program does require certain procedures to be followed if foreclosure is involved (see Section 703 of the Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act). State law requires up to 90 days notice under certain circumstances.

To ensure compliance with state and federal tenant/landlord laws, please consult an attorney or apartment association before taking action, and send copies of any notices or lease violations to the Housing Authority.

SECURITY DEPOSITS

The landlord can charge a security deposit in accordance with his/her practices and state law.The amount of the deposit must be entered on the Request for Tenancy Approval (RTA) form. If the tenant leaves without notice or damages the unit, the landlord may use the deposit as allowed under state law. The Housing Authority is not responsible for claims against the tenant.

RENTS AND PAYMENT STANDARDS

The maximum rent allowed is the “reasonable rent” for the area and unit type. This rent is based on market rents collected by the Housing Authority. Landlords can submit their own “comparable rents” to be considered in determining the reasonable rent.

The rent the landlord charges cannot be more than for comparable unassisted units. In other words, the landlord cannot collect more from an HCV-assisted renter than from any other renter.

The landlord may request a rent increase at the end of any lease term (see below, Rent Increases). However, the Housing Authority must approve the total rent amount, and the rent must meet the Housing Authority’s “reasonable rent” determination.

The share of the rent paid by the Housing Authority is calculated using a formula that includes the tenant’s income, the utilities provided in the unit and the Housing Authority’s Payment Standards. Note: Payment Standards are for use by the Housing Authority in determining the Housing Authority’s share of the rent and do not necessarily reflect the market rent for a particular unit.

Housing Authority staff will work with the landlord to determine the allowable rent for the unit.

FIRST RENT PAYMENT AT MOVE-IN

After the unit passes inspection, the RTA is approved, and the contract is signed, the tenant may move in. The first rent check from the Housing Authority will arrive after all paperwork is processed, usually within 30 days of the Housing Authority receiving all completed documents.  Thereafter, rents are deposited on the first business Friday of each month.

If the landlord and tenant choose to allow the tenant to move in before all paperwork has have been signed, both parties do so at their own risk.

The HAP contract will begin effective the date the unit passed inspection. However, if the tenant is allowed to move in before the unit passes inspection, the tenant would be responsible for the entire rent amount prior to the passed inspection.

If for any reason the HAP contract and lease are not signed by all parties, tenants that move in before the contract is signed risk paying the entire rent amount, and landlords risk not receiving a housing assistance payment from the Housing Authority

COLLECTING RENT FROM THE TENANT

During the initial term of the lease, the tenant may pay no more than 30-40% of income for rent. The Housing Authority will tell both the tenant and the landlord how much the tenant is required to pay in rent based on the family’s income. In order to comply with the program requirements, the tenant must pay this amount, no more and no less, to the landlord every month. The landlord is responsible for collecting the tenant’s portion of the rent.

After the initial lease term, the tenant may pay more than 40% of income in rent. However, please remember that the amount of rent the tenant pays the landlord must be approved by the Housing Authority. The Housing Authority must approve the total rent collected by the landlord, including rent increases.

COLLECTING RENT FROM THE HOUSING AUTHORITY

The Housing Authority’s checks deposited on the first business Friday of every month. Landlords may notify the Housing Authority of ownership or management changes, or make other changes by using the forms available here.

RENT INCREASES

Rent increase can be requested at any time after the initial term of the lease and must be approved by the Housing Authority. The rent requested can be no more than comparable market rents. If the proposed rent increase raises the rent above the current market rent the proposed rent increase would have to be lowered so it does not exceed the current market rent comparables.

To request a rent increase, use the Rent Increase Request form.

If there is disagreement regarding the Housing Authority’s determination of a comparable rent, the landlord may appeal the determination by completing the Owner’s Submittal of Comparable Rents form for review.

CHANGE IN OWNERSHIP OR MANAGEMENT

The HAP contract cannot be assigned to a new owner without the consent of the Housing Authority. The new owner must agree, in writing, to be bound by and comply with the HAP contract and a copy given to the Housing Authority. The conditions of sale and transfer are outlined in the HAP Contract Part B, Section 14. If there is to be a change in ownership, please submit the Change in Ownership and HAP Transfer form

If there is a change in manager or management firm acting on behalf of the owner, please submit the Landlord Signature Authorization form.

PROGRAM FRAUD

The federal government and the Housing Authority take action against those committing program frauds, whether they are Section 8 participants or landlords. Please go to this web site’s section on Program Fraud for more information or report fraud.

NON-DISCRIMINATION AND ACCESSIBILITY FOR PERSONS WITH DISABILITY

For more information about pertinent laws and regulations which mandate non-discrimination and accessibility in federally funded housing and non-housing programs for person with disabilities, please see the following notice issued by HUD (PIH 2010-26).

VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN ACT

In January 2006, Congress passed the Violence Against Women Act. This Act provides certain rights to victims of domestic violence. Click here for more information. Please be aware that the new requirements do not provide any special assistance or preference for victims of domestic violence.

MORE QUESTIONS?

If you have questions about the program, please call us at 207-493-4234 or by e-mail at lplourde@cariboumaine.org