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Information for New Participants


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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INFORMATION FOR NEW PARTICIPANTS

 

The information in this section is directed to those who have recently received their Voucher and are in the process of looking for or leasing a rental unit.  For general information on the Housing Choice Voucher (Section 8) program or how to apply, please go to Applicants.  For information for those already on the Section 8 program please go to Information for Current Participants.

Note to New Voucher Holders: the information below was given to you at your briefing.  The information on this web page can be used to review or replace the general information given to you at the time of receiving your voucher.  Information about your specific voucher is not available through this web site.  Please call 207-493-4234 for more information regarding your voucher.

 

 STEPS TO SUCCESS IN THE SECTION 8 PROGRAM

 

STEP 1 – APPLY & INTERVIEW

For reference, here’s a brief overview of the application and interview process

Eligibility of Assistance

If a family wants to participate in the Section 8 Program, the following must be true:

  • The family is the Section 8 Program waiting list
  • The family passes a background check
  • The family’s income is not more than HUD’s income limits for Caribou
  • The family provided Social Security Numbers for all household members
  • The family has at least one member who is a U.S. citizen or has eligible immigration status

Denial of Assistance

If CHA denies your assistance into the Program, you will receive a denial letter that will tell you the reasons for the rejection as well as how you can request an Informal Review to take a second look at the decision.

STEP 2 – VOUCHER BRIEFING

Once you are determined eligible, you will be invited to a voucher issuance briefing.  At the briefing, you will learn about how the program works and receive the documents you will need to start your unit search.  The briefing will also provide information on how to lease a unit, explain owner responsibilities, and family obligations under the program.

Vouchers

The voucher is the HUD form that allows you to begin looking for housing.  The voucher is tied to your family, not your unit.  In other words, when your family moves, the subsidy goes with you.  The voucher tells you the size unit your subsidy payment will cover and the date the voucher will expire.

The voucher also includes the HUD Section 8 Family Obligations that your family must follow in order to continue to qualify for the subsidy.  When you sign the voucher, you agree to follow those obligations.  If you do not follow the Family Obligations CHA may have grounds to remove you from the HCV program.  

Voucher Size

CHA uses what are called subsidy standards to determine the size voucher you receive.  CHA  applies the following subsidy standards when determining your voucher size:

  • Single person families are given a one-bedroom voucher
  • Generally, two people are expected to share one bedroom
    • A single head of household parent is not required to share a bedroom with their child
  • Exceptions may also be granted if they are justified by the age, sex, health, disability, or relationship of family members
  • Children of opposite sex who are over the age of six are not required to occupy the same bedroom or living/sleeping room
  • A live-in aide may be assigned up to one bedroom if approved as a reasonable accommodation
    • No additional bedrooms will be provided to accommodate the live-in aide’s family members.

Term of the Voucher

The term of the voucher is the amount of time you are provided to search for a unit. The initial term is the time between the “Issue Date” and the “Expiration Date”. The initial term of the voucher will never be less than 60 days. 

Expiration of the Voucher

The voucher will have an expiration date on it.  You must submit a completed Landlord Package prior to the expiration date, with any applicable extensions, of your voucher. 

If your voucher expires prior to you submitting a completed Landlord Package, you will be considered no longer eligible for the Section 8 Program and will need to reapply  to the Waiting List.

Suspension of Voucher

When you submit a Landlord Package, CHA will “stop the clock” on your voucher.  If the Landlord Package is not approved, you will be notified in writing and you will be provided the remaining search time.  

For example, you were issued a voucher on March 1, 2018 with an expiration date of April 30, 2018.  You turn in an RFTA on March 15, 2017 but it is denied on March 30, 2017.  Including the day you turned it in, the RFTA took 16 days to process which means your voucher was suspended for 16 days.  These days are automatically added as a mandatory extension and your voucher would now expire on May 16, 2018. 

Voucher Extensions

You should make every effort to locate a decent, safe and affordable apartment during the 60-day voucher term so that your voucher does not expire.   If needed, you may request an extension to the voucher, giving more time to locate a unit and submit the Landlord Package.    Extensions should be requested in person and should be requested at least one week prior to the expiration date of your voucher.  

STEP 3 – SEARCH FOR A UNIT

At the voucher issuance briefing, you will learn the bedroom size for which your family qualifies under CHA’s subsidy standards and approximately how much rental assistance you will receive from.

You can find information about available housing in a number of places, including:

Renting a Smaller or Larger Unit

While you are allowed to choose a unit with a different number of bedrooms than what’s listed on your voucher, CHA pays out subsidy on your behalf to the owner based on either the number of bedrooms on your voucher or the unit size you select, whatever is smaller. 

You can select a unit that’s smaller than what’s listed on your voucher as long as the unit isn’t overcrowded.  This means that there cannot be more than two people (heartbeats) per living/sleeping room in your unit.  If there are, CHA will not approve your unit. 

If you select a unit that’s larger than what’s listed on your voucher, you may have to pay more rent to the owner since CHA will only pay subsidy on your behalf up to the amount that corresponds with your voucher size.

Location of Your Unit

Where your unit is located should be an important part of your decision about where to live.  If you are looking in a community that you do not know well, you may want to walk or drive around the area to become familiar with the area.

Surrounding communities that Caribou Housing Authority covers are;

Caribou

Caswell Connor
Limestone New Sweden

Washburn

As you are out looking for a unit, you may want to consider:

  • How close it is to your place of employment
  • How close it is to your children’s school(s)
  • How close it is to shopping (such as grocery stores) and other services
  • How close it is to your medical providers

Type of Unit

As you are out looking around in CHA’s jurisdiction, you can look for rentals that are:

  • Apartments
  • Duplex
  • Mobile Home
  • Single Family Home

Basic Unit Features

Your unit must meet CHA’s Housing Quality Standards (HQS) to be approved for the Housing Choice Voucher Program.  These standards ensure that your apartment will be decent, safe, and sanitary.

An CHA HQS inspector will conduct an inspection before your HCV subsidy can begin. For more information, please see Chapter 4: Housing Quality Standards (HQS) Inspections s as well as the HUD publication —”A Good Place to Live!

You may want to ask the following questions when you are searching for a rental

  • Does the unit meet your family’s needs?
  • Are the windows and doors safe and secure?
  • Is the unit large enough for your family?
  • What are the conditions of the appliances?
  • How old is the building?
  • Are the heating and plumbing systems adequate?
  • What are the noise levels in the building?

Amenities

Another important factor to consider in choosing a unit if there are any amenities included:

  • Are there laundry facilities in the building?
  • If you have a car, is parking available?
  • Is there storage space?
  • Is there a playground or space for children to play outside?

Utilities

Before deciding, remember to consider if the rent includes the cost of utilities.  Aare, you responsible for paying utility costs, or are these paid by the landlord?

Watch out for Housing Assistance Scams

  • Do not pay money to have someone fill out your housing assistance application or reexamination forms for you.
  • Do not pay money for anything that is not covered by your lease.
  • Get a receipt for any money you pay.
  • Get a written explanation if you are required to pay for anything other than rent (such as maintenance or utility charges) or anything that is not listed in your lease.
  • Do not pay money to be placed on or to move up on a waiting list. It is against the law.
  • Do not pay money to anyone to receive a Section 8 voucher or voucher extension. It is against the law

For more information on housing scams, click here.

After You Have Found a Unit

Either you or the owner may submit the competed Landlord Package to CHA.  Packets may be turned in one of several ways:With your voucher you received a Landlord Package.  Provide this document to the owner and have him/her complete it and sign it.  It’s very important that the owner complete all fields and leave nothing in blank.  Once the form is complete then the Head of Household (HOH) must also sign the form.  The HOH or the Owner must submit the request to CHA.  However, it is the family’s responsibility to ensure the request gets submitted prior to the expiration date of the voucher (including any extensions). 

  • Email to housing@cariboumaine.org
  • Fax to 207-376-0178
  • In-person at the CHA office located at:
    • 25 High Street, Caribou ME 04736

Do NOT move into the unit until CHA gives you final approval.

STEP 4 – SUBMIT LANDLORD PACKAGE

Once you have found a suitable rental unit, there are several things that you will need to do before you can move in.  

Required Documents

Once you have found a unit that you would like to rent, before your voucher expires and before you sign the lease you must submit the following documents to CHA for approval:

  • Completed Landlord Package, including the Request for Tenancy Approval (RFTA) and Lead Based Paint Disclosure forms
  • Copy of the proposed unsigned lease

Landlord Package

CHA will provide you with a blank Landlord Package at the briefing session.  Once you have located a rental unit, you and the owner must complete the Landlord Package and submit it to CHA.

  • Landlord Package: The Landlord Package consists of the forms that the Landlord must complete to provide CHA with basic information about the rental unit and the landlord such as address, rent amount, etc. It also includes the Request for Tenancy Approval form and Lead Based Paint Disclosure forms.
    • Owners must propose a rent for the unit and provide any documentation requested by CHA to verify that the rent is reasonable and that it does not violate any applicable rent regulation.
    • Owners must certify that they are not the parent, child, grandparent, grandchild, sister, or brother of any member of your family, unless CHA has granted an exception to this rule.

CHA will not accept incomplete Landlord Packages.  If your Landlord Package is incomplete, follow up with the landlord right away to get it completed as soon as possible.Owners must certify that the unit, common areas, and exterior are free of lead- based paint hazards and attach a Lead-Based Paint Disclosure form.

Both you and the owner must sign the Request for Tenancy Approval (RFTA) form.

You cannot submit more than one Landlord Package at a time.

CHA will only accept originals of the CHA-provided Landlord Package.  CHA will not accept copies or modified forms.

All questions and fields in the Landlord Package must be completed. 

Incomplete packages will cause a delay of the processing of the selected unit, or cause a denial.

After you submit a completed Landlord Package, and it has been approved as well as the owner registered for participation, CHA will make arrangements to conduct an inspection of the unit and will notify you of the results.

Documentation

To avoid disputes or misunderstandings with your landlord, get everything in writing.  Be sure to keep copies of your correspondence and follow up any spoken agreements with a letter stating your arrangement with the landlord.

CHA Review

CHA will review the proposed lease and RFTA to ensure that:

  • The owner can be approved and there no conflicts of interests
  • The rent is reasonable
  • The rent is affordable
  • The unit meets Housing Quality Standards (HQS)
  • The proposed lease complies with HUD and CHA requirements

If the lease and RTFA are not approved, CHA will notify you and the owner.  You will be given another Landlord Package and you can continue to search for eligible housing.

 STEP 5 – AWAIT RENT REASONABLENESS, AFFORDABLE AND OWNER ELIGIBILITY DECISIONS

After the Landlord Package is submitted, the CHA needs to review it to make sure the owner and the unit passes HUD’s and CHA’s criteria.

Owner Eligibility

Any owner who wishes to lease to Section 8 voucher holders must be approved by CHA.

CHA will not approve a Section 8 assisted tenancy if the owner is debarred, suspended, or subject to a limited denial from HUD

CHA will not approve a Section 8 assisted tenancy in the following circumstances:

  • Violations
    • The owner had violated the Fair Housing Act or other federal equal opportunity requirements
    • The owner has violated obligations under one or more HAP contracts
  • Criminal Activity
    • The owner has committed acts of fraud, bribery, or other corrupt or criminal act in connection with any federal housing program
    • The owner has participated in any drug-related criminal activity, violent criminal activity, or any other type of criminal activity
  • Refusal to Evict
    • The owner has a history of refusing to evict assisted-housing tenant for activity that threatens the residents, neighbor, CHA employees, or owner’s employees, including drug-related criminal activity, violent criminal activity, or any criminal activity
  • Non-Compliance with Housing Quality Standards
    • The owner has current or previous non-compliance with HQS and/or state and local housing codes with applicable housing standards for units leased under any other federal housing program
    • The owner has engaged in or threatened abusive or violent behavior toward CHA personnel
  • Outstanding Obligations
    • The owner fails to pay state or local real estate taxes, fines or assessments
  • Relationship with Family
    • The owner is a parent, child, grandparent, grandchild, sister, or brother of any family member that will reside in the Section 8 assisted unit.

Rent Reasonableness

The property owner will indicate the amount of rent he or she would like to receive for your desired unit on the RTA form. After receiving that rent request, CHA uses a pre-determined set of calculations to determine if it will accept that rent amount — and if not, CHA will offer the owner a different rent amount, which the owner can either accept or deny.

Rental units must be reasonably priced, considering their quality and amenities, to ensure that the federal government does not pay more than the apartment is worth in the private market.

  • Reasonable“ means that the owner’s proposed rent is comparable to the rents that are being charged for similar apartments in the same building or neighborhood. CHA considers the location, size, quality, unit type, age, amenities, services, maintenance, and utilities to be provided in determining whether a rent is reasonable or not.

Affordable Unit

If you request to rent a unit where the rent is above the payment standard, and the rent is determined reasonable, you are responsible for the difference between 30% of your income and the amount by which the rent exceeds the payment standard.

  • If this results in you paying more than 40% of your income, CHA cannot approve you to move into this unit.
  • CHA will offer the owner a different rent with the owner can either accept or deny.
    • If the owner denies the offer, you will need to pick up a new Landlord Package and continue searching for rental unit. 

STEP 6 – AWAIT INSPECTION RESULTS

CHA needs to ensure that a unit is in decent, safe and sanitary condition before allowing a participant to move in. Therefore, every unit must pass an inspection by CHA before your Landlord Package is approved.

SCHEDULING THE INSPECTION

Empty Unit

If the unit that you have chosen is empty and ready for inspection, the CHA will schedule the inspection date and time directly with the owner.  The family does not need to be present.

Living in Unit

If you have chosen to rent the unit that you are already living in, CHA will schedule the inspection date and time directly with you.  You or another family member, 18 years and older, but be available for this inspection, CHA will not go into a unit with no one home.  The landlord may be present at the inspection.

Unit Fails Inspection?

If the unit fails the initial inspection, the owner has 30 days to make the necessary repairs and schedule a re-inspection.  If the unit fails a second time, your Landlord Package will be denied and you will be given one so you can find another unit.

Housing Quality Standards (HQS) Inspection

When performing any inspection, CHA uses a set of criteria called Housing Quality Standards, or HQS.  For more information on HQS, and to learn about additional inspections performed after you move into a unit, see “Housing Quality Standards Inspection“. 

HQS inspections focus on these basic items in every unit:

  • Sanitary facilities
  • Food preparation and refuse disposal
  • Space and security
  • Thermal environment (heat)
  • Illumination (lighting) and electricity
  • Structure and materials
  • Interior air quality
  • Water supply
  • Lead-based paint
  • Access
  • Site and neighborhood
  • Sanitary conditions
  • Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors
  • 911-unit number

When a CHA inspector comes out to your unit, they are looking mainly at these categories.  If your unit is not up to standards in other respects, such as cosmetically (e.g., the house needs to be repainted, the blinds need to be replaced, the owner agreed to replace the carpeting with hardwood, etc.), those factors may not be covered under CHA’s requirements and it is your responsibility to follow up with the owner prior to signing the lease.

STEP 7 – SIGN LEASE & PAY SECURITY DEPOSIT

A lease is a contract between you and the owner of the unit you are renting.  The lease will state rules you must follow while living in the unit, the monthly rent for the unit, the utilities that you must pay and other items. Make sure that the lease also includes the Tenancy Addendum.

The Lease

Do not sign your lease or move in to your new home until the unit passes a Housing Quality Standards (HQS) inspection and CHA approves the rent.  CHA will notify you and the owner when the unit has passed inspection and the rent has been approved.  Once this has happened, you can arrange with the owner to sign your lease.  At that time, you will work with the owner or property manager to schedule a move-in date and arrange for receiving your keys. If the property owner requires a security deposit, you may pay it at that time as well.

The landlord will provide you with a lease, which must be submitted to CHA before you sign it.

  • Your lease must contain:
  • Name of owner and tenant
  • Address of the unit rented (including the apartment number)
  • Term (initial and provisions for renewal)
  • Amount of monthly rent to owner
  • Specifications as to which utilities and appliances will be supplied by the owner and which will be supplied by the family
  • Your lease must comply with state and local law and must include the HUD-required Tenancy Addendum as an attachment.
  • Initial lease terms are a minimum of 12 months.
  • You should consider whether you can get out of the lease/contract if an emergency or unforeseen circumstance arises, and whether there is a penalty or fee if you need to do this.Be sure to review your lease carefully. It is a legally-binding document. Once you have signed it, you are legally responsible for fulfilling the terms of the agreement.

Security Deposit

A security deposit is money you give your property owner, above and beyond any rent, when you move into a new unit.  An owner collects a security deposit to cover any unpaid rent or damage to the unit (above normal wear and tear) when you move out.  You will give the owner a security deposit when you sign your lease.

If you have done excessive damage to the unit or have unpaid rent when you move out, the owner will deduct that amount from your security deposit.  If you pay your rent regularly, keep the unit clean and do not cause any excessive damage to the unit, the property owner should refund your full security deposit when you move out.

Security Deposits are NOT covered by your subsidy with the Caribou Housing Authority.

Lease Expired

CHA does not require you and the Landord to sign a new lease after the initial lease term.  Legally, if you do not sign a new lease, your agreement moves to a month-to-month basis after the initial lease term expires.  

If you do decide to sign a new lease with the Landlord, keep in mind that you will have to remain in the unit for another 12 months.  Whether or not you sign a yearly lease after the initial period is up to the you and the Landlord to decide.

Disputes with Landlord

Clear, open and effective communication with the Landlord is key to maintaining a positive tenancy.  At the time you move in, you should ask the owner for a contact phone number and perhaps a back-up method in case they cannot be reached by phone (e.g., an alternate phone number or email address).  If you are having trouble communicating with your Landlord, ensure that all communication attempts are documented and contact CHA to see if you have the correct contact information.

You may consider contacting the following organization that assists with landlord/tenant related matters:

            Pine Tree Legal Assistance

  • Telephone: 207-764-4349
  • Address: 373 Main Street, Presque Isle
  • Walk-In Hours: 9 AM to 12 PM on Wednesdays & Fridays

STEP 8 – MOVE IN, PAY RENT & UTILITIES

 Your Responsibilities to CHA and the Property Owner

  • You must obey the lease and Tenancy Addendum you signed with the owner
  • You must obey the Family Obligations
  • Before you move out of the unit, you must give CHA and the owner a 30 days’ notice in writing
  • You must keep your unit in the same condition as when you moved in (any damage beyond normal wear and tear can affect your security deposit, prevent you from moving and/or result in your termination from the HCV Program — even after you move out)
  • You must make the unit available for inspections
  • You must attend Re-Examinations every year or as directed, where CHA will take another look at your income, expenses and number of family members to make sure you’re receiving all the assistance you deserve (CHA may also recalculate your portion of the rent)
  • You must make timely payments to the owner or property manager and utility companies

Owner Access

Per the Maine Landlord/Tenant Ordinance, the Landlord must provide you twenty-four (24) hours’ notice before accessing your unit.  An exception is in the case of an emergency or when repairs may unexpectedly require immediate access.

YOU ARE NOW OFFICIALLY A SECTION 8 PARTICIPANT!