Frequently Asked Questions
From the OWNER'S Perspective
- What is the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program?
- How does the subsidy work?
- What happens once I’ve selected a Tenant?
- How is the initial Contract Rent determined?
- Can I collect a security deposit?
- When is the effective date of lease/beginning of subsidy?
- How often does the Housing Authority conduct unit inspections?
- Can I request rent increases?
- What are the Tenant’s responsibilities?
- What are my (Owner) responsibilities?
- What are the Housing Authority’s responsibilities?
- What if I have more questions?
1. What is the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program?
The Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program is a form of federal rent subsidy which assists participating low-income households with monthly rental payments to ensure that the resident has a safe, decent and sanitary place to live. The Housing Authority administers funds received from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and distributes them in the form of Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers to eligible families and individuals
Currently, the Section 8 Program assists over 16,000 households in Santa Clara County. Many more households qualify for housing assistance by income level, but because of lack of funding, the Housing Authority is unable to help them.A Voucher allows participating households (tenants) to rent housing that meets their needs. The tenant pays a portion of the rent directly to the landlord. The Housing Authority pays the landlord the difference between the tenant’s portion of the rent and the total contract rent amount due.
2. How Does the Subsidy Work?
The Housing Authority reviews the eligibility of the tenant based on their income and family composition. The Housing Authority does not pre-screen or select tenants for the rental unit. The landlord is responsible for screening tenants and must follow federal, State, and local Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity Laws.
Tenants with a Voucher have a limited amount of time to find housing. The dwelling unit they choose will have to pass inspection by Housing Authority staff before any rent subsidy can begin.
3. What Happens Once I’ve Selected a Tenant?
Once you have selected a tenant you must complete their Request for Tenancy Approval (RTA) form and submit it to our office. When the RTA has been received, we will call you to schedule an inspection of the property within 5 to 10 business days. It is important that the tenant be present for this inspection. If the unit passes inspection and the rent is approved, you and the tenant sign the Lease, and you sign a concurrent Housing Assistance Payments Contract with the Housing Authority.
If the unit does not pass inspection, we will allow up to ten (10) working days for correction of the repair items. A re-check inspection will be necessary to confirm that the corrections have been made. Tenants have only 120 days to find housing before they risk losing their Voucher, so repairs must be made in a timely manner.
4. How is the Initial Contract Rent Determined?
The initial contract rent must be "rent reasonable" and the tenant’s total payment cannot exceed more than 40% of their monthly adjusted income for the initial term of the contract.
Rent reasonable means that the total rent cannot be more than rent for similar units in the same general area or neighborhood. Criteria used to determine the rents include:
- which utilities will be paid by the owner;
- the overall unit condition;
- any improvements made to the unit;
- a comparison of similar rental units within that general area.
Please note that subsidized rents may not be more than non-subsidized rents for similar units.
5. Can I Collect a Security Deposit?
You are encouraged to collect a security deposit. However, the Housing Authority will prohibit security deposits that are in excess of private market practice or in excess of amounts you charge to unassisted tenants. Security deposits must be held in compliance with State and local laws regarding interest payments and disposition of deposits. It is the tenant’s responsibility to pay the security deposit.
6. When is the Effective Date of Lease/Beginning of Subsidy?
The effective date of the Lease and Contract will be determined after the unit has passed a Housing Quality Standards inspection and the tenant has terminated any previous Lease and Contract.
If the Tenant is subsidized at another unit in an existing Lease and Contract, the tenant must return the keys to their previous unit to establish a termination date for that Lease and Contract.
If the tenant takes possession of your unit before the Housing Authority's approved contract start date, the tenant will be responsible for the full market rent.
7. How Often Does the Housing Authority Conduct Unit Inspections?
The Housing Authority will conduct an inspection every two years to ensure the unit continues to meet Housing Quality Standards (HQS). You and your tenant will receive a letter from the Housing Authority if the unit does not pass inspection. The letter will list the items requiring repair and will give you a date by which the repairs must be corrected.
If the violations are not corrected within the time limit given, the Housing Authority will abate (stop) the Housing Assistance Payment.
8. Can I Request Rent Increases?
You may request an annual rent increase. Rent increases are not automatic and must be requested in writing. These are the requirements for rent increases:
- A written 60-day Notice must be served to the family and a copy to the Housing Authority.
- Rent increases must be rent reasonable and be approved by the Housing Authority.
- When the rent increase has been approved, the Housing Authority will send you and the tenant a notice of change in rent with the effective date.
- The tenant may incur the increase in rent.
9. What Are the Tenant’s Responsibilities?
The Lease is the binding agreement between you and the tenant which states the responsibilities of both parties, including the amount of the tenant rent, utility responsibility, and the security deposit.
By signing the Lease, the tenant is agreeing to abide by al of its terms, which include paying rent on time. The tenant may be responsible for paying certain utilities, as stated in the Lease. The tenant is expected to pay their portion of the rent by the first of each month as stated in the Lease.
The tenant family is also responsible for the cost of repairs for damage caused by any member of the household or a guest. The tenant is responsible for a breach of Housing Quality Standards (HQS) caused by:
- failure to pay for utilities they are responsible for under the Lease;
- failure to provide and maintain the stove or refrigerator if provided by the tenant under the Lease;
- any family member or guest damaging the unit or premises beyond normal wear and tear.
The family assistance may be terminated if they fail to correct HQS deficiencies they have caused. The tenant family must also comply with certain "Family Obligations" with the Housing Authority in order to remain eligible for rental assistance. These obligations include, but are not limited to, providing current information to the Housing Authority on their family composition including any changes, and reporting al amounts and sources of income and assets.
In addition, the tenant must provide at least 30-day written notice to you and the Housing Authority before moving.
10. What Are My (Owner) Responsibilities?
As an owner, you are expected to provide a home that meets Housing Quality Standards. You are responsible for making repairs to the unit in a timely manner. Depending on the Lease, you may be responsible for paying certain utilities.
You are also responsible for enforcing your Lease, including collecting the tenant’s portion of the rent each month.
The only time you can request money from a tenant, outside of the approved monthly rental payments and security deposit, is for reimbursement for tenant-caused damages. We advise the tenant to call their Housing Specialist if any additional money is requested.
It is your responsibility to enforce your lease. The Housing Authority cannot do this for you. You have the right to serve a notice for serious violations of the Lease. If eviction is necessary, you must proceed according to state law. A copy of all notices to the tenant must also be sent to the Housing Authority.
11. What Is the Housing Authority’s Responsibility?
The Housing Authority determines a tenant's eligibility for the Housing Choice Voucher Program based on income and family composition only.
The Housing Authority’s portion of the rent will be mailed to you, the owner, on the first work day of the month. The Housing Authority is not responsible for collecting the tenant’s portion of the rent or management of the property. This is your responsibility.
The Housing Authority provides a free unit listing service for owners who wish to make their rental units available to Voucher holders. If you would like to place your rental unit on this list, please go to Unit Listing page.
12. What If I Have More Questions?
If you have any questions about the Voucher Program, please call our Customer Service Information Center at (408) 275-8770 during normal business hours. We will be glad to answer your questions and refer you to the appropriate staff member as necessary.