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Information for Program participants


Program Participant
Reporting Changes to the Housing Authority
Requesting Changes to Household Composition
Removing any Household Member
Adding Adults
Adding Children
Reporting Changes to Your Income:
Increases in Family Income
Decreases in Family Income
Annual Re-certifications:
“Get Ready” Letter
Annual Review Packet
Verification of Employment Income
Verification of Other Income and Benefits
Verification of Assets
Voucher Size Redetermination
Rent Changes
Interim Examinations
Inspections
Terminating a Lease
Moving within the Area – Transfers
Moving outside the Area – Portables
Housing Plus Program
HCV Homeownership Program
Special Needs
Program Fraud
Informal Hearing Procedures
Questions?

Program Participant

Once you lease a unit with Section 8 assistance, you are considered a program “participant.” Because you can lose your voucher if you do not adhere to program requirements, you should keep your Briefing Packet in a safe place and read your Voucher from time to time to remind yourself of the requirements.

More about the rules governing the program can be found at www.hud.gov and at www.hacosantacruz.org/adminplan

Listed below are some of the most common areas of participant issues and questions; however, this web site does not cover all rules and regulations and for definitive answers you should discuss areas of concern with Housing Authority staff.

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Reporting Changes to the Housing Authority

You are required to report all changes in your income, assets, or household composition to the Housing Authority, as outlined below. Additionally, you are required to provide any and all requested information to the Housing Authority in a timely manner. If you are late in providing documents, forms, or information to the Housing Authority, your assistance may be terminated.

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Requesting Changes to Your Household Composition

All changes in your household composition must be reported promptly to the Housing Authority. Some changes require prior approval or you risk losing your voucher. The following rules apply when making any changes to your household composition.

Removing any Household Member: If any member of your household moves out, you must notify the Housing Authority in writing within 14 calendar days of the move out date. Please complete the form Request to Remove Members from the Household and submit it to the Housing Authority within 14 days of the member leaving. The Housing Authority will verify the information and may conduct an Interim Re-examination, if warranted.

Adding Household Members: If you wish to add someone to your household you must get approval from the Housing Authority before allowing the person to move in. Please read How to Add New Members to your Household for more information on restrictions.

The Application to Add New Household Members must be completed and submitted to the Housing Authority. Once all information is received regarding the person being added, an Interim Examination will be performed. Depending on the volume of work, it may take several weeks to process the approval. You will receive a letter notifying you of the approval and the change in your rent, if any.

Adding Adults: If you would like to add an adult to your household, you must request advance permission in writing, and receive written permission from the Housing Authority before the additional adult moves in. Please use the Application to Add New Household Members form. The Housing Authority will conduct its standard eligibility screening at that time.

The following adults may be added to the household (if approved in advance by the Housing Authority).

  • The adult child of the head of household.
  • The parent of the head of household.

The following adults may be added to the household (if approved in advance by the Housing Authority), but will NOT increase the family’s voucher size:

  • The spouse, registered domestic partner, or significant other of the head of household.

Adding Children: If you would like to add a child to your household, you must request advance permission in writing if possible, and receive written permission from the Housing Authority before the child moves in. The Housing Authority understands that in some cases it may not be possible to request advance permission for the addition of a child. In such cases, you MUST notify the Housing Authority within 14 calendar days of the addition of the child. However, the Housing Authority may not approve the request.

The following children may be added to the household.

  • Birth child of head of household.
  • Birth child of the spouse or registered domestic partner of the head of household.
  • Children added through adoption, foster placement, or court awarded custody to the head of household or to the spouse or registered domestic partner of the head of household.

The following children may be added to the household, but will NOT increase the family’s voucher size.

  • Birth child of any existing household member, as long as the addition of that child does not cause overcrowding in the unit.

No other adults or children may move into the assisted unit, other than those specifically identified above.

Please be aware that if you fail to provide proper notification and / or request advance permission regarding any changes in your family composition, your housing assistance may be terminated, or you may be responsible for paying back any overpayment of subsidy caused by the unreported information or violation.

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Reporting Changes to Your Income

You are required to notify the Housing Authority in writing within 14 calendar days of any change to the income of any household member. Please report income changes with the Income Change Form. Failure to report changes on time to the Housing Authority is considered a program violation and your assistance may be terminated.

The following rules apply when reporting changes to your family income:

Increases in Family Income: If the income of any family member has increased, you must notify us in writing within 14 calendar days of the date of the increase. Please report income changes with the Income Change form.

We will verify the information you have provided, and make any necessary changes to your rental assistance. If there is an increase in income and you do not notify us in writing within 14 calendar days of the date of the increase, you will be required to pay a retroactive rent increase, effective the first day of the month following the date of the income increase. Additionally, if you do not notify the Housing Authority of any changes to your family income within the required timeframe, your housing assistance may be terminated.

Decreases in Family Income: If the income of any family member has decreased, you must notify us in writing within 14 calendar days of the date of the decrease. Please report the change in income with the Income Change form. We will verify the information you have provided, and make any necessary changes to your rental assistance. If you do not notify us in writing within 14 calendar days of the date of the decrease, your rent will not be lowered retroactively. Additionally, if you do not notify the Housing Authority of any changes to your family income within the required timeframe, your housing assistance may be terminated.

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Annual Re-certifications

At least once a year, the Housing Authority will conduct a mandatory re-examination in order to recertify your household composition, income, assets, and allowable expenses.

The re-examination can occur at any time up to 12 months from your entry into the Section 8 program or your last re-examination.

“Get Ready’ Letter: the Housing Authority will send a “get ready” letter to alert you a few weeks before you receive your annual re-examination packet. It is important to check your mail frequently during your annual re-examination process. You do not want to risk termination of your assistance just because you were not available to receive your mail.

Annual Review Packet: once you receive your packet you will have a limited time in which to complete and return the documentation, therefore, when you receive the “get ready” letter you should gather current, original documentation of all your income and assets (including pay stubs, benefits letters, bank statements, etc.) Failure to provide documents within the deadline can result in termination of your housing assistance.

The annual re-examination packet will contain a letter of instruction and forms requesting the information needed to complete this process. You will have at least two weeks to complete and submit the required forms and documentation.

Verification of Employment Income

You will be required to provide current, original documentation of your income, assets and other information. Here is a list of typical documents and information you should submit:

Wages: you will be asked to provide the three most current consecutive paystubs for all employed adults in your household. At least one of the three paystubs must be dated after the date of the “get ready” letter.

Self-employment: if a member of your household is self-employed, you will be asked to provide tax returns, 1099s, and/or profit and loss statements for the most recent twelve months.

Verification of Other Income and Benefits

Social Security and/or Supplemental Security Income (SSI): you will be asked to submit all pages of a current original statement of benefits letter or action notice for any source of Social Security pension and/or Supplemental Security Income showing the amount of benefits that you or member of your household are currently receiving. The letter must be dated AFTER the date of the “get ready” letter. To obtain a new letter from the Social Security Administration, call them at 1-800-772-1213 or visit their web site at www.ssa.gov.

Other Benefits: you will be asked to submit all pages of a current original statement of benefits letter or action notice for any type of Cash Aid or Welfare Assistance, such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), previously called assistance to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), or CALWORKS, showing all benefits that you or members of your household are currently receiving. The letter must be dated AFTER the date of the “get ready” letter.

Other Documentation: you will be asked to submit documentation of any other income that any member of your household receives.

Verification of Assets

Bank Accounts: you will be asked to submit all pages of a current bank statement for all checking, savings and other types of bank accounts. The statement may be either an original or a copy, but it must include the name of the account holder, the account number, balance and bank name and address. The statements must be dated within 30 days of the date of the “get ready” letter.

Other Assets: for all other assets (such as stocks, bonds, CDs and other assets, you will be asked to provide current original statements from the financial institution. The statements must be dated within 30 days of the date of the “get ready’ letter.

Note: the Housing Authority may independently verify information you submit. There are also sources available to the Housing Authority which may indicate information you have not submitted. If later it is found that you did not fully inform or comply with the application, your voucher could be terminated and you could be responsible for rental subsidy paid on your behalf by the Housing Authority.

It is better to over-declare information than under-declare. Housing Authority staff will advise you if information you have supplied does not apply.

You must respond to all Housing Authority requests for information by the due dates established, or you could lose your housing assistance.

The sooner you submit all requested information to the Housing Authority, the sooner we can complete your recertification and notify you of any changes to your portion of the rent.

Voucher Size Redetermination

Your voucher size will be re-determined at your annual re-examination. Changes in voucher size impact the level of subsidy you receive. Therefore, if your voucher size reduces for any reason, including decreases in your family composition, your portion of the rent could increase substantially.

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Rent Changes

Your share of the rent may change for several reasons: your income or household composition has changed; your landlord is requesting a change in rent or the Housing Authority subsidy standards or Payment Standards have changed.

You will receive a letter that outlines the reasons for any rent changes but depending on the reason, reporting dates or verification delays, the letter advising you of the rent change may require you to be prepared to pay a rent increase retroactively.

You may receive less than thirty days notice regarding the results of your annual re-examination and any change in your portion of the rent. If your income has gone up, your subsidy maybe reduced; if so, you should be prepared to pay more for your share of the rent and put aside funds accordingly.

You can calculate an approximation of what your rent will be by figuring 30% of your household income. Make sure you set this amount aside until you receive the letter giving you the exact amount of your share of the rent.

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Interim Re-Examinations

If the changes you report cause a change in your share of the rent, an Interim Examination will be done. Information required for an Interim Examination is similar to that requested for an Annual Re-examination (see above) but may be more limited in scope. After the Interim Examination is complete, you will receive a rent change notice.

Please see Rent Changes above regarding the timing of the change and the letter notifying you.

Depending on timing and/or the extent of the changes you report, an Interim Re-examination may be changed to an Annual Re-certification.

For more information, please see above or the Reporting Changes Q&A.

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Inspections

The Housing Authority will conduct annual Housing Quality Standards (HQS) inspections for the home or apartment you are living in with your housing assistance; the check list for the annual HQS inspection is similar to the initial inspection.

For answers to the most common questions about inspections and re-certifications, go here.

Each rental unit must pass annual inspection by the Housing Authority.For more information, see our Inspection Q&A. The Housing Authority inspects to HUD Housing Quality Standards (HQS). See the HQS Inspections Check List.

The landlord may choose to be present for any inspection. If deficiencies are found, the landlord is notified in writing and given a certain time to make repairs. If repairs are not done, the housing assistance cannot continue and you may be required to move. If you are the cause of the deficiency, you can lose your voucher.

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Terminating a Lease

If you wish to move you must check the terms of your lease to ensure that you will not be in violation of the lease terms by moving. You must also give your landlord appropriate notice according to your lease. If you intend to stay in the Section 8 program and use your voucher, you must receive prior approval from the Housing Authority by submitting a Transfer Request Form (see below).

If you violate the terms of your lease the landlord can take any action, up to and including eviction, in accordance with the law and the terms of the lease. You can also lose your voucher if you are evicted for cause.

The landlord can leave the program at the end of any lease term. If you are in good standing with no lease or program violations, you may use your voucher to find another rental.

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Moving Within the Area – Transfers

Moving to a new unit within Santa Cruz County (or city, in the case of Hollister or San Juan Bautista), is called a “transfer.”(If you wish to move out of the area, see below Moving Outside the Area – Portables.) If you move out of your unit without notifying the Housing Authority, your voucher may be canceled.

If your landlord gives you notice to move you must notify the Housing Authority immediately and provide a copy of the notice.

Once you have moved out of your unit with Housing Authority approval, you will have only 60 days to find another approvable rental unit.

If you wish to transfer, you must request approval from the Housing Authority before you move by completing a Transfer Request Form. The Housing Authority will not give approval if you owe the Housing Authority money.

You must be at the end of your lease term (check you lease to determine if you are on a fixed term or month-to-month at the time you wish to move) or have your landlord agree that you can move before the end of your lease.

When you move, your voucher size will be determined according to your household size and current Housing Authority subsidy standards that govern the number of bedrooms allowed. Subsidy standards may have changed and you may be issued a different voucher size when you move.

Once the Housing Authority approves your transfer, you will be sent a “Transfer Packet.” The packet will contain a Request for Tenancy Approval that you will need to give a new landlord. Please go to the Information for New Voucher Holders on this web site for information on finding a new rental and submitting Request for Tenancy Approval.

Once a new rental unit is inspected and approved by the Housing Authority and you have moved, you must promptly return the keys to your old unit to the landlord and get a receipt. In case of a dispute regarding your vacate date, you may need a receipt indicating the date you returned the keys. The Housing Authority will not pay rental subsidy on two units, therefore, you should take the shortest time possible to move out of one unit and into the other once approval is given.

For more information, please see our Transfer Q&A.

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Moving Outside the Area – Portables

Under the Housing Choice Voucher program, families can move with their voucher assistance to another area. This is called “portability” or “porting.”

There are restrictions on when you can port. Before deciding to port, please read the Informational Bulletin on Portability within the Section 8 Program by clicking here.

If you decide to port to another area, you must request permission before you move by completing a Portable Request Form.

On the Portable Request Form, you will identify the area to which you wish to move. The Housing Authority will contact the housing authority in that area and advise them that you wish to “port in.” The new housing authority must confirm it is receiving vouchers before you can port to that locality.

Both your current housing authority and the receiving housing authority must give their approval before you can port.

The housing authority you are moving to will have its own policies and restrictions which may be different from your current housing authority. You will need to contact the new housing authority to find out what restrictions it might have.

The process of transferring documents, gaining approvals and the new housing authority issuing you a voucher can take a long time. You must wait for your approvals before moving or you could lose your voucher.

For more information, please see our Portability Q&A.

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Housing Plus Program

The Housing Plus program allows families to save money while they pursue their self-sufficiency goals and increase their earned income. For more information, see our Housing Plus Q&A.

Housing Choice Voucher Homeownership Program

If you meet the program requirements, you may have the option of using your Housing Choice Voucher to help purchase a home. For more information, read our HCV Homeownership Q&A and see the HCV section of the Forms page. Also, please visit the Homeownership section of our site for more information about programs for first time homebuyers.

Special Needs

If you are a person with disabilities and you have special needs related to a Housing Authority program, please see the Special Needs Q&A and the Special Needs section of our Forms page.

Program Fraud

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

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Informal Hearing Procedures

When you may Request an Informal Hearing

The Housing Authority will give program participants an opportunity to request an informal hearing to consider whether the following determinations are in accordance with law, HUD regulations and/or Housing Authority rules, in the following cases:

  1. The family’s annual or adjusted income, and the use of such income to compute the housing assistance payment.
  2. The appropriate utility allowance (if any) for tenant-paid utilities from the Housing Authority’s utility allowance schedule.
  3. The family unit size under the Housing Authority subsidy standards.
  4. Termination of assistance for a participant family because of the family’s action or failure to act.
  5. Termination of assistance because the participant family has been absent from the assisted unit for longer than the maximum period permitted under Housing Authority policy and HUD rules.

For information regarding how to request an informal hearing, please see the Hearing and Appeals Q&A, included in this packet.

Questions?

For answers to more of your questions, please call the Housing Authority at 831-454-5955.

Information for New Voucher Holders

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 Information for Potential 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 831-454-5977 for more information regarding your voucher.

Attending the Voucher Briefing
Tenant Information-Initial Briefing Packet
          Term or Your Housing Choice Voucher
          Voucher Suspension Policy
          Things to Consider when Choosing a Unit to Lease
          Where You May Lease a Unit
          Subsidy Standards
Security Deposit Information for the Tenant
          Providing Tenant Information to Landlords
          How to Submit your Request for Tenancy Approval
          Reporting Changes to the Housing Authority
          Obligations of the Family
          Reasons for Termination of Housing Assistance
          Fair Housing – It’s Your Right
Housing Search
Leasing In Place
          AffordableHousing.com
          Rent Calculation Form
          Utility Allowance Chart
          Payment Standards
          Housing Quality Standards Checklist
          Tenant Resume Guide
More Resources:
Family Contact List
          Voucher Extension Request
Program Fraud
Additional Information and Forms Included in the Briefing Packet
Questions?

Attending the Voucher Briefing

When a voucher becomes available, you will be invited to a “briefing”, where the program rules are explained, and the voucher is issued. A “Voucher Briefing” is required by the federal government before you can receive your voucher. A briefing lasts about one and a half hours and children are not permitted. Briefings are held in groups of 20 to 40 people.

Families arriving late to the briefing will not be allowed to attend the briefing. The briefing is a pre-set presentation including information the Housing Authority is required by federal regulations to cover. If you are late through no fault of your own, you will be notified of a future briefing date. If you miss two briefings, your voucher will be canceled and your name removed from the waiting list.

After Housing Authority staff explains the program requirements and how the program works, time will be spent with you individually to discuss your particular Voucher size and rent subsidy. You must agree to the rules and regulations regarding the voucher. There are certain limitations regarding rentals that are covered at the briefing.

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Tenant Information – Initial Briefing Packet

Term of Your Housing Voucher

Your Housing Choice Voucher is valid for sixty (60) calendar days. During the 60 days, you must find a suitable unit where the landlord is willing to participate in the program and you must submit a Request for Tenancy Approval (RTA) located in the briefing packet. (Note: only a sample RTA is available through this web site; an original RTA must be used to submit a unit for approval and can be obtained by calling 454-5977)

When you have found a unit you want to rent and the landlord is willing to participate in the Section 8 program, you must submit your Request for Tenancy Approval” (RTA). This form must be completed and signed by you and the landlord. If the RTA is complete and meets all requirements, the Housing Authority will schedule a Housing Quality Standards Inspection on the unit. You will be notified as quickly as possible as to the results of the inspection. If the unit passes inspection, you and your landlord will sign a lease (provided by landlord) and a Tenancy Addendum issued by the Housing Authority. The lease addendum will contain your portion of the rent.

If your Housing Choice Voucher is about to expire, you may submit a written request for an extension on the Housing Search Extension Request form, or in our office lobby. Such requests must be received at least five (5) calendar days prior to the expiration date of your voucher.

You must also include your completed Family Contact List (located in the briefing packet). The Housing Authority will review each family’s request to evaluate the efforts made to find a rental unit and any problems that are causing the delay in finding suitable housing. If an extension is allowed, the Housing Authority may grant one extension not to exceed a total of sixty (60) days. If your Housing Choice Voucher expires, your application for housing assistance through the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program will be cancelled.

Warning: The Housing Authority has a limited amount of funding with which to administer the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program. Therefore, although you have been given a deadline by which to find a unit and begin participation in the program, the Housing Authority cannot guarantee that funding will be available to assist you while you are locating a unit. Therefore, it is in your best interest to find an acceptable unit as soon as possible, in order to maximize your chances of beginning your rental assistance.

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Voucher Suspension Policy

If the Housing Authority determines that there is insufficient funding to enter into additional HAP contracts, and / or insufficient funding for the HAP contracts that are already in place, the Housing Authority will suspend vouchers in the following way. Prior to delaying or suspending the assistance of any applicants or participants (families under contract), the Housing Authority will first take any and all administrative steps available to remedy the situation.

  1. Applicants who have been issued vouchers but have not yet leased a unit will have their vouchers suspended until such time as funding becomes available.
  2. If funding is still insufficient, participants who are in the middle of a transfer and have not leased up in a new unit will have their transfer voucher suspended until such time as funding becomes available.
  3. As a last resort, if funding is still insufficient, the Housing Authority will suspend the contracts of existing program participants beginning with the families most recently admitted to the program.

When funding becomes available, assistance will be restored in the following order:

  1. Recently admitted families who had their contracts suspended (#3, above) will have their assistance restored first.
  2. Participants who were in the middle of a transfer (#2, above) will have their assistance restored second.
  3. Applicants who had been issued an initial voucher but had not yet leased up (#1, above) will have their assistance restored last.

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Things to Consider When Choosing a Unit to Lease

Condition

Having a good place to live is important. You are free to choose any dwelling you like, as long as it meets certain HUD requirements known as Housing Quality Standards (HQS). Please read the enclosed brochure entitled “A Good Place to Live”. It explains the purpose of HQS and the HQS inspection. If the unit fails inspection there will be only one chance for the landlord to bring the unit up to the HQS standards. The time on your voucher will continue to run. If repairs take too long or if the unit fails a second inspection and your voucher has expired, your voucher will be cancelled, therefore, it is important that you select a rental that is in good condition.

Rent Reasonableness

The landlord must not charge more rent for the dwelling (unit) than rents charged for comparable units in the private market. Comparable rents are monitored by the Housing Authority and will be used to determine rent reasonableness. If the requested rent exceeds comparable rents, the rent is too high. You will need to negotiate a lower rent or find another unit.

Location

When selecting a rental unit, you should consider the safety of the neighborhood and whether the unit is close to public transportation, centers of employment, schools, shopping, etc.

Cost of Utilities/Energy Efficiency

Depending on your lease agreement, you may be responsible for payment of some or all of the utilities of your rental unit. To keep costs as low as possible, rental units should be energy-efficient. P. G. & E recommends that you consider items such as:

  • Energy efficient appliances
  • Heating source – electric heat is the most expensive type of heat
  • The following conservation measures should be considered:
    • ceiling insulation to R-19
    • caulking around windows, doors and anywhere air leaks in and out
    • weather-stripping around windows and doors
    • heat and cooling ducts wrapped with duct wrap or duct tape
    • energy-saver showerheads
    • insulation blanket around the water heater

Ownership Limitations

You, nor any member of your household, can own or have any interest in the property or be a beneficiary; the landlord cannot be a relative of anyone in the family except under certain limited conditions for persons with disabilities. The landlord cannot live in the rental unit with you and your family.

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Where You May Lease a Unit

One of the top priorities of HUD is to improve housing choices for low-income families. The Section 8 program does not restrict where in the city, county, state or country you may live. Without rental assistance, families with low incomes are often limited to high poverty areas. If you live in such an area, you now have the means to move and you are encouraged to do so.

Moving out of areas of high poverty or low opportunity offers significant advantages. Moving will allow you to select a unit within a neighborhood that offers the amenities you desire. Advantages of moving into a lower poverty neighborhood often include increased safety, improved schools for children, proximity to jobs or job opportunities, better quality housing, more responsive landlords, improved access to transportation, day care, and other neighborhood services.

Landlords can add a rental unit to our Rental Referral list by going to AffordableHousing. This list is maintained by bedroom size and includes additional information about accessibility features, if such information is posted by the landlord. To assist you in your housing search, go to AffordableHousing for information. If you have special housing needs relating to a disability, and need assistance locating a unit that meets your needs, please call 831-454-9455, 286.

Selecting the Location of Your First Section 8 HCV Unit

You may lease a unit anywhere in the jurisdiction of the HCV Voucher you have received, as explained in the briefing presentation.

If you are interested in leasing a unit in a different location, outside of the jurisdiction of the voucher you have receive, please see the Portability Q&A. Porting, or portability, is a term used for transferring your assistance to another location. Additionally the following is a list of neighboring housing agencies that you may contact if you are considering “porting out” of the area. Please note that there strict eligibility criteria regarding
eligibility to “port out” of the jurisdiction.

Housing Authority of the County of Alameda
22941 Atherton Street
Hayward, CA 94541-6613
(510) 445-8946

Housing Authority of the County of Monterey
123 Rico Street
Salinas, CA 93907
(831) 424-2892

Housing Authority of the County of Santa Clara
505 West Julian Street
San Jose, CA 95110
(408) 993-2974

Housing Authority of San Mateo County
264 Harbor Blvd. Bldg. A
Belmont, CA 94002
(650) 802-3300

Oakland Housing Authority
1619 Harrison Street
Oakland, CA 94612
(510) 874-1550

Housing Authority of the County of Merced
405 “U” Street
Merced, CA 95340
(209) 722-3501

Please remember that you may not have to move at all. If you like the unit you are currently living in, and your landlord is willing to participate in the Section 8 HCV Program, you may be able to begin receiving rental assistance for the unit in which you are already living. See below “Leasing In Place.”

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Subsidy Standards

The Housing Authority determines your voucher size based on your family composition and a set of subsidy standards. The subsidy standards determine voucher size in the following way. The household is assigned one bedroom for the head of household and their spouse or domestic partner. Additionally, the household is granted one additional bedroom for every two additional household members, regardless of age or sex.

The standards must provide for the smallest number of bedrooms necessary to house a family while avoiding overcrowding. This method is only used to determine the voucher size assigned to the household. The household may distribute the total bedrooms among household members in any way they choose.

Subsidy standards may change over time. If you move to a different unit, we will re-determine your voucher size based on the current subsidy standards. Additionally, if you add or remove household members, we will apply current subsidy standards at your next annual reexamination to determine the voucher size your family is eligible for.

The Housing Authority may grant an exception to the subsidy standards if it makes a determination that the exception is justified by health, handicap, or other extreme circumstances on a case by case basis. Requests for exceptions to voucher size must be made in writing to the Housing Authority. Please see Special Needs Q&A for more information.

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Security Deposit Information for the Tenant

The landlord may require you to give a security deposit. The landlord may collect a security deposit equivalent to that collected in the private market. You are responsible for the full amount of the security deposit. Be sure this amount is entered on your Request for Tenancy Approval form. Return of the security deposit upon the termination of your lease is between you and your landlord.

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Providing Tenant Information to Landlords

If requested, the Housing Authority must provide a prospective landlord information on the family’s current address and the name and address of the family’s current and prior landlord, if known. The landlord must request this information in writing.

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How to Submit Your Request for Tenancy Approval

When you have found a unit you would like to rent, the following is required:

  • You have inspected the unit and it meets your approval (refer to booklet “A Good Place to Live”).
  • The landlord is willing to accept the Section 8 program.

Both you and the landlord are now ready to complete the Request for Tenancy Approval. This form must be completed and signed by you and the landlord.
Once the form is complete, please mail, fax or deliver to

Housing Authority of the County of Santa Cruz
2160 41st Avenue
Capitola, CA 95010-2040

If the Request for Tenancy Approval is complete and meets all requirements, the Housing Authority will schedule a Housing Quality Standards Inspection on the unit. You will be notified as quickly as possible as to the results of the inspection. If the unit passes inspection, you and your landlord will sign a lease. The lease addendum from the Housing Authority will contain your portion of the rent.

If there are problems with the Request for Tenancy Approval, if the unit does not pass inspection, or if the rent charged by the landlord is not determined to be reasonable, you will need to find another unit. You will be notified as quickly as possible whenever there are problems with your request.

You may pay your share of the first month’s rent as soon as you receive official confirmation that:

  1. the unit has passed inspection and
  2. the Housing Authority has given you permission to move in and
  3. the landlord has signed the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) contract with the Housing Authority.

If the landlord allows you to move in before all three of the above have been accomplished, please be aware that if the landlord does not sign the HAP contract, you could be responsible for the full amount of the rent.

The Housing Authority will pay its share of the first month’s rent after execution of the contract with the landlord and on the first of the month thereafter.

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Reporting Changes to the Housing Authority

You are required to report all changes in your income, assets, or household composition to the Housing Authority, as outlined below. Additionally, you are required to provide any and all requested information to the Housing Authority in a timely manner. If you are late in providing documents, forms, or information to the Housing Authority, your assistance may be terminated. Please go to Information for Program Participants for more information.

Requesting Changes To Your Household Composition

The following rules apply when making any changes to your household composition.

Removing any Household Member: If any member of your household moves out, you must notify us in writing within 14 calendar days of the move out date.

Adding Adults: If you would like to add an adult to your household, you must request advance permission in writing, and receive written permission from the Housing Authority before the additional adult moves in. The Housing Authority will conduct its standard eligibility screening at that time.

The following adults may be added to the household (if approved in advance by the Housing Authority).

  • The adult child of the head of household.
  • The parent of the head of household.

The following adults may be added to the household (if approved in advance by the Housing Authority), but will NOT increase the family’s voucher size.

      • The spouse, registered domestic partner, or significant other of the head of household.

Adding Children: If you would like to add a child to your household, you must request advance permission in writing if possible, and receive written permission from the Housing Authority before the child moves in. The Housing Authority understands that in some cases it may not be possible to request advance permission for the addition of a child. In such cases, you MUST notify the Housing Authority within 14 calendar days of the addition of the child. However, the Housing Authority may not approve the request.

The following children
may be added to the household.

      • Birth child of head of household.
      • Birth child of the spouse or registered domestic partner of the head of household.
      • Children added through adoption, foster placement, or court awarded custody to the head of household or to the spouse or registered domestic partner of the head of household.

The following children may be added to the household, but will NOT increase the family’s voucher size.

      • Birth child of any existing household member, as long as the addition of that child does not cause overcrowding in the unit.

No other adults or children may move into the assisted unit, other than those specifically identified above.

Please be aware that if you fail to provide proper notification and / or request advance permission regarding any changes in your family composition, your housing assistance may be terminated, or you may be responsible for paying back any overpayment of subsidy caused by the unreported information or violation.

Reporting Changes to Your Income

You are required to notify the Housing Authority in writing within 14 calendar days of any change to the income of any household member. The following rules apply when reporting changes to your family income.

Increases in Family Income: If the income of any family member has increased, you must notify us in writing within 14 calendar days of the date of the increase. We will verify the information you have provided, and make any necessary changes to your rental assistance. It is important to note that we will no longer postpone increases to your portion of the rent. If you do not notify us in writing within 14 calendar days of the date of the increase, you will be required to pay a retroactive rent increase, effective the first day of the month following the date of the increase. Additionally, if you do not notify the Housing Authority of any changes to your family income within the required timeframe, your housing assistance may be terminated.

Decreases in Family Income: If the income of any family member has decreased, you must notify us in writing within 14 calendar days of the date of the decrease. We will verify the information you have provided, and make any necessary changes to your rental assistance. If you do not notify us in writing within 14 calendar days of the date of the decrease, your rent will not be lowered retroactively. Additionally, if you do not notify the Housing Authority of any changes to your family income within the required timeframe, your housing assistance may be terminated.

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Obligations of the Family

Please be aware that if you fail to comply with any of the obligations outlined below, your housing assistance may be terminated, and / or you may be responsible for paying back any overpayment of subsidy caused by the unreported information or violation.

Obligations of the Family

A. When the family’s unit is approved and the HAP contract is executed, the family must follow the rules listed below in order to continue participating in the housing choice voucher program.

B. The family must:

Supply any information that the Housing Authority or the department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) determines to be necessary including evidence of citizenship or eligible immigration status, and information for

      1. use in a regularly scheduled reexamination or interim reexamination of family income and composition.
      2. Disclose and verify social security numbers and sign and submit consent forms for obtaining information.
      3. Supply any information requested by the Housing Authority to verify that the family is living in the unit or information related to family absence from the unit.
      4. Promptly notify the Housing Authority in writing when the family is away from the unit for an extended period of time in accordance with Housing Authority policies.
      5. Allow the Housing Authority to inspect the unit at reasonable times and after reasonable notice.
      6. Notify the Housing Authority and the landlord in writing before moving out of the unit or terminating the lease.
      7. Use the assisted unit for residence by the family. The unit must be the family’s only residence.
      8. Promptly notify the Housing Authority in writing of the birth, adoption, or court awarded custody of a child.
      9. Request Housing Authority written approval to add any other family member as an occupant of the unit.
      10. Promptly notify the Housing Authority in writing if any family member no longer lives in the unit.
      11. Give the Housing Authority a copy of any landlord eviction notice.
      12. Pay utility bills and provide and maintain any appliances that the landlord is not required to provide under the lease.

C. Any information the family supplies must be true and complete.

D. The family (including each family member) must not:

      1. Own or have any interest in the unit (other than in a cooperative, or the landlord of a manufactured home leasing a manufactured home space).
      2. Commit any serious or repeated violation of the lease.
      3. Commit fraud, bribery or any other corrupt or criminal act in connection with the program.
      4. Engage in drug related criminal activity or violent criminal activity or other criminal activity that threatens the health, safety or right to peaceful enjoyment of other residents and persons residing in the immediate vicinity of the premises.
      5. Sublease or let the unit or assign the lease or transfer the unit.
      6. Receive housing choice voucher program housing assistance while receiving another housing subsidy, for the same unit or a different unit under any other Federal, State or local housing assistance program.
      7. Damage the unit or premises (other than damage from ordinary wear and tear) or permit any guest to damage the unit or premises.
      8. Receive housing choice voucher program housing assistance while residing in a unit owned by a parent, child, grandparent, grandchild, sister or brother of any member of the family, unless the Housing Authority has determined (and has notified the landlord and the family of such determination) that approving rental of the unit, notwithstanding such relationship, would provide reasonable accommodation for a family member who is a person with disabilities.
      9. Engage in abuse of alcohol in a way that threatens the health, safety or right to peaceful enjoyment of the other residents and persons residing in the immediate vicinity of the premises.

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Reasons for Termination of Housing Assistance

The Housing Authority may deny or terminate program assistance at any time for any of the following reasons:

      • If the family violates any family obligations under the program.
      • If any member of the family has been evicted from public housing.
      • If any member of the family has been previously terminated from the Section 8 program.
      • If any member of the family commits drug-related criminal activity or violent criminal activity.
      • If any member of the family commits fraud, bribery or any other corrupt or criminal act in connection with any federal housing program.
      • If the family currently owes rent or other amounts to the Housing Authority or to another Housing Authority in connection with Section 8 or public housing assistance under the 1937 Act.
      • If the family has not reimbursed any Housing Authority for amounts paid to a landlord under a Housing Assistance Payment contract for rent, damages to the unit or other amounts owed by the family under the lease.
      • If the family breaches an agreement with the Housing Authority to pay amounts owed to the Housing Authority or amounts paid to a landlord by the Housing Authority.
      • If the family has engaged in or threatened abusive or violent behavior toward Housing Authority personnel.
      • If any member of the family fails to sign and submit consent forms for obtaining information.
      • If any member of the family fails to submit required evidence of citizenship or eligible immigration status.

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Informal Hearing Procedures

When you may Request an Informal Hearing

The Housing Authority will give program participants an opportunity to request an informal hearing to consider whether the following determinations are in accordance with law, HUD regulations and/or Housing Authority rules, in the following cases:

      1. The family’s annual or adjusted income, and the use of such income to compute the housing assistance payment.
      2. The appropriate utility allowance (if any) for tenant-paid utilities from the Housing Authority’s utility allowance schedule.
      3. The family unit size under the Housing Authority subsidy standards.
      4. Termination of assistance for a participant family because of the family’s action or failure to act.
      5. Termination of assistance because the participant family has been absent from the assisted unit for longer than the maximum period permitted under Housing Authority policy and HUD rules.

For information regarding how to request an informal hearing, please see the Hearing and Appeals Q&A, included in this packet.

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Fair Housing – It’s Your Right

Basic Facts About the Fair Housing Act: What Housing Is Covered?
The Fair Housing Act covers most housing. In some circumstances, the Act exempts landlord-occupied buildings with no more than four units, single-family housing sold or rented without the use of a broker, and housing operated by organizations and private clubs that limit occupancy to members.

What Is Prohibited?

In the sale and rental of housing: No one may take any of the following actions based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status or handicap:

      • Refuse to rent or sell housing
      • Refuse to negotiate for housing
      • Make housing unavailable
      • Deny a dwelling
      • Set different terms, conditions or privileges for sale or rental of a dwelling
      • Provide different housing services or facilities
      • Falsely deny that housing is available for inspection, sale, or rental
      • For profit, persuade landlords to sell or rent (blockbusting) or
      • Deny anyone access to or membership in a facility or service (such as a multiple listing service) related to the sale or rental of housing.

In mortgage lending: No one may take any of the following actions based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status or handicap (disability):

      • Refuse to make a mortgage loan
      • Refuse to provide information regarding loans
      • Impose different terms or conditions on a loan, such as different interest rates, points, or fees
      • Discriminate in appraising property
      • Refuse to purchase a loan or
      • Set different terms or conditions for purchasing a loan.

In addition, it is illegal for anyone to:

      • Threaten, coerce, intimidate or interfere with anyone exercising a fair housing right or assisting others who exercise that right
      • Advertise or make any statement that indicates a limitation or preference based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, or handicap. This prohibition against discriminatory advertising applies to single-family and landlord-occupied housing that is otherwise exempt from the Fair Housing Act.

Additional Protection if You Have a Disability

If you or someone associated with you:

      • Have a physical or mental disability (including hearing, mobility and visual impairments, chronic alcoholism, chronic mental illness, AIDS, AIDS Related Complex and mental retardation) that substantially limits one or more major life activities
      • Have a record of such a disability or
      • Are regarded as having such a disability

Your landlord may not:

      • Refuse to let you make reasonable modifications to your dwelling or common use areas, at your expense, if necessary for the disabled person to use the housing. (Where reasonable, the landlord may permit changes only if you agree to restore the property to its original condition when you move.)
      • Refuse to make reasonable accommodations in rules, policies, practices or services if necessary for the disabled person to use the housing.

Example: A building with a “no pets” policy must allow a visually impaired tenant to keep a guide dog.

Example: An apartment complex that offers tenants ample, unassigned parking must honor a request from a mobility-impaired tenant for a reserved space near her apartment if necessary to assure that she can have access to her apartment.

However, housing need not be made available to a person who is a direct threat to the health or safety of others or who currently uses illegal drugs.

Requirements for New Buildings

In buildings that are ready for first occupancy after March 13, 1991, and have an elevator and four or more units:

  • Public and common areas must be accessible to persons with disabilities
  • Doors and hallways must be wide enough for wheelchairs

All units must have:

  • An accessible route into and through the unit
  • Accessible light switches, electrical outlets, thermostats and other environmental controls
  • Reinforced bathroom walls to allow later installation of grab bars and
  • Kitchens and bathrooms that can be used by people in wheelchairs.

If a building with four or more units has no elevator and will be ready for first occupancy after March 13, 1991, these standards apply to ground floor units. These requirements for new buildings do not replace any more stringent standards in State or local law.

Housing Opportunities for Families

Unless a building or community qualifies as housing for older persons, it may not discriminate based on familial status. That is, it may not discriminate against families in which one or more children under 18 live with:

  • A parent
  • A person who has legal custody of the child or children or
  • The designee of the parent or legal custodian, with the parent or custodian’s written permission.
  • Familial status protection also applies to pregnant women and anyone securing legal custody of a child under 18.

Exemption: Housing for older persons is exempt from the prohibition against familial status discrimination if:

  • The HUD Secretary has determined that it is specifically designed for and occupied by elderly persons under a Federal, State or local government program or
  • It is occupied solely by persons who are 62 or older or
  • It houses at least one person who is 55 or older in at least 80 percent of the occupied units, and adheres to a policy that demonstrates an intent to house persons who are 55 or older.
  • A transition period permits residents on or before September 13, 1988, to continue living in the housing, regardless of their age, without interfering with the exemption.

If You Think Your Rights Have Been Violated

The Housing Authority and HUD are ready to help with any problem of housing discrimination. If you think your rights have been violated, the Housing Discrimination Complaint Form is available for you to download, complete and return, or complete online and submit, or you may write HUD a letter, or telephone the HUD Office nearest you. You have one year after an alleged violation to file a complaint with HUD, but you should file it as soon as possible.

What to Tell HUD:

  • Your name and address
  • The name and address of the person your complaint is against (the respondent)
  • The address or other identification to the housing involved
  • A short description to the alleged violation (the event that caused you to believe your rights were violated)
  • The date(s) to the alleged violation

Where to Write or Call:

Send the Housing Discrimination Complaint Form or a letter to:

San Francisco HUD Office
Dept. of Housing and Urban Development
600 Harrison Street, 3rd Floor
San Francisco, CA 94107-1300
Phone: (415) 489-6400, Fax: (415) 489-6419

If you are a person with disabilities, the Housing Authority and HUD also provide:

  • A toll-free TTY phone for the hearing impaired. (HUD: 1-800-927-9275. Housing Authority TDD: 831-475-1146)
  • Interpreters
  • HUD tapes and braille materials
  • Assistance in reading and completing forms

What Happens when You File a Complaint?

HUD will notify you when it receives your complaint. Normally, HUD also will:

  • Notify the alleged violator of your complaint and permit that person to submit an answer
  • Investigate your complaint and determine whether there is reasonable cause to believe the Fair Housing Act has been violated
  • Notify you if it cannot complete an investigation within 100 days of receiving your complaint

Conciliation

HUD will try to reach an agreement with the person your complaint is against (the respondent). A conciliation agreement must protect both you and the public interest. If an agreement is signed, HUD will take no further action on your complaint. However, if HUD has reasonable cause to believe that a conciliation agreement is breached, HUD will recommend that the Attorney General file suit.

Complaint Referrals

If HUD has determined that your State or local agency has the same fair housing powers as HUD, HUD will refer your complaint to that agency for investigation and notify you of the referral. That agency must begin work on your complaint within 30 days or HUD may take it back.

What if You Need Help Quickly?

If you need immediate help to stop a serious problem that is being caused by a Fair Housing Act violation, HUD may be able to assist you as soon as you file a complaint. HUD may authorize the Attorney General to go to court to seek temporary or preliminary relief, pending the outcome of your complaint, if:

  • Irreparable harm is likely to occur without HUD’s intervention
  • There is substantial evidence that a violation of the Fair Housing Act occurred

Example: A builder agrees to sell a house but, after learning the buyer is black, fails to keep the agreement. The buyer files a complaint with HUD. HUD may authorize the Attorney General to go to court to prevent a sale to any other buyer until HUD investigates the complaint.

What Happens after a Complaint Investigation?

If, after investigating your complaint, HUD finds reasonable cause to believe that discrimination occurred, it will inform you. Your case will be heard in an administrative hearing within 120 days, unless you or the respondent want the case to be heard in Federal district court. Either way, there is no cost to you.

The Administrative Hearing:

If your case goes to an administrative hearing HUD attorneys will litigate the case on your behalf. You may intervene in the case and be represented by your own attorney if you wish. An Administrative Law Judge (ALA) will consider evidence from you and the respondent. If the ALA decides that discrimination occurred, the respondent can be ordered:

  • To compensate you for actual damages, including humiliation, pain and suffering.
  • To provide injunctive or other equitable relief, for example, to make the housing available to you.
  • To pay the Federal Government a civil penalty to vindicate the public interest. The maximum penalties are $10,000 for a first violation and $50,000 for a third violation within seven years.
  • To pay reasonable attorney’s fees and costs.

Federal District Court

If you or the respondent choose to have your case decided in Federal District Court, the Attorney General will file a suit and litigate it on your behalf. Like the ALA, the District Court can order relief, and award actual damages, attorney’s fees and costs. In addition, the court can award punitive damages.

You may file suit, at your expense, in Federal District Court or State Court within two years of an alleged violation. If you cannot afford an attorney, the Court may appoint one for you. You may bring suit even after filing a complaint, if you have not signed a conciliation agreement and an Administrative Law Judge has not started a hearing. A court may award actual and punitive damages and attorney’s fees and costs.

Other Tools to Combat Housing Discrimination:

If there is noncompliance with the order of an Administrative Law Judge, HUD may seek temporary relief, enforcement of the order or a restraining order in a United States Court of Appeals.

The Attorney General may file a suit in a Federal District Court if there is reasonable cause to believe a pattern or practice of housing discrimination is occurring.

For Further Information:

The Fair Housing Act and HUD’s regulations contain more detail and technical information. If you need a copy of the law or regulations, ask Housing Authority staff or contact the HUD Office nearest you.

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Housing Search

Useful Forms and Resources

Rent Calculation Form
Subsidy Standards
Utility Allowance Chart
AffordableHousing

Leasing in Place

The quickest way to ensure that a Voucher is not lost is to “lease in place,” that is, using your voucher to rent from your current landlord if that landlord will accept the Section 8 Voucher. Once on the program by using the voucher at your current rental, you can then take your time to look for another rental without having the voucher expire.

AffordableHousing

If you cannot rent your current unit or must find somewhere to live, there are many ways to find a rental unit. One is to drive around neighborhoods and look for “to rent” yard signs. Local newspapers also list rental properties. There are listings on AffordableHousing, where rentals are listed posted by local landlords who will accept Section 8 Vouchers.

Other rental web sites such as Craig’s List can also be a good source of rental listings but take care to ensure that such listings are genuine.

Rent Calculation Form

For help in estimating how much rent you will have to pay, use the Rent Calculation Form.

Utility Allowance Chart

The total rent to the owner will depend on which utilities are paid by the owner and which are paid by you, the tenant. You can use the Utility Allowances chart to see what allowance will be made for the combination of utilities in a particular rental.

Payment Standards

How much rent the Housing Authority will pay on your behalf is determined, in part, by the Payment Standards. Payment Standards change from time to time in response to market trends and guidelines issued by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

Request for Tenancy Approval

Once a suitable rental and a willing landlord is found, you must give the landlord a Request for Tenancy Approval (RTA) to complete. The RTA was given to you at the briefing. Only one RTA is issued at a time. If the rental submitted on the current RTA is not approved, another RTA will be issued. The RTA asks the landlord for information the Housing Authority will need in order to review the rental to see if it meets the program requirements.

Housing Quality Standards Checklist

The Housing Authority staff will talk with the landlord and, once all is agreed to, an inspection will be scheduled. The rental must meet federal Housing Quality Standards (HQS). For more information, please see HQS Checklist.

If a rental is not found within the time stated on the voucher, you must request an extension in writing. It should not be assumed that an extension will be granted.

Tenant Resume

In a tight rental market, Section 8 Voucher holders may have to compete with other people looking for a rental. It can be useful to have a prepared “tenant resume’ that lists your past rentals, how long you stayed, your rent paying habits, the condition you left the rental in when you left, and a reference letter or two. You may use the Tenant Resume form as a guide.

You may still have to fill out the landlord’s own rental application which might ask for this same information but by presenting yourself as a good tenant, the landlord may be more favorably disposed towards you.

To learn more, see the Housing Search Q&A.

More Resources

Whether you are looking for a unit for the first time with your voucher, or moving from one unit to another with a voucher you already have, here are some resources to assist you:

Use the Family Contact List to document every rental you look at, and the outcome of your application.

If you cannot find a rental within the time stated on your Voucher, you must request an extension in writing or by using a Voucher Extension Request form. Do not assume an extension will be granted and it will not be granted without the Family Contact List.

Click here for more online resources.

Program Fraud

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

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Additional Information Included in the Briefing Packet

These may be useful to share with your landlord.

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Questions?

For answers to more of your questions, please call the Housing Authority at
831-454-5977.