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
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
Leasing In Place
Rent Calculation Form
Utility Allowance Chart
Housing Quality Standards Checklist
Tenant Resume Guide
Family Contact List
Voucher Extension Request
Additional Information and Forms Included in the Briefing Packet
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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:
- Recently admitted families who had their contracts suspended (#3, above) will have their assistance restored first.
- Participants who were in the middle of a transfer (#2, above) will have their assistance restored second.
- Applicants who had been issued an initial voucher but had not yet leased up (#1, above) will have their assistance restored last.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
Housing Authority of the County of Monterey
123 Rico Street
Salinas, CA 93907
Housing Authority of the County of Santa Clara
505 West Julian Street
San Jose, CA 95110
Housing Authority of San Mateo County
264 Harbor Blvd. Bldg. A
Belmont, CA 94002
Oakland Housing Authority
1619 Harrison Street
Oakland, CA 94612
Housing Authority of the County of Merced
405 “U” Street
Merced, CA 95340
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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:
- the unit has passed inspection and
- the Housing Authority has given you permission to move in and
- 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.
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.
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
- use in a regularly scheduled reexamination or interim reexamination of family income and composition.
- Disclose and verify social security numbers and sign and submit consent forms for obtaining information.
- 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.
- 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.
- Allow the Housing Authority to inspect the unit at reasonable times and after reasonable notice.
- Notify the Housing Authority and the landlord in writing before moving out of the unit or terminating the lease.
- Use the assisted unit for residence by the family. The unit must be the family’s only residence.
- Promptly notify the Housing Authority in writing of the birth, adoption, or court awarded custody of a child.
- Request Housing Authority written approval to add any other family member as an occupant of the unit.
- Promptly notify the Housing Authority in writing if any family member no longer lives in the unit.
- Give the Housing Authority a copy of any landlord eviction notice.
- 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:
- 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).
- Commit any serious or repeated violation of the lease.
- Commit fraud, bribery or any other corrupt or criminal act in connection with the program.
- 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.
- Sublease or let the unit or assign the lease or transfer the unit.
- 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.
- Damage the unit or premises (other than damage from ordinary wear and tear) or permit any guest to damage the unit or premises.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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:
- The family’s annual or adjusted income, and the use of such income to compute the housing assistance payment.
- The appropriate utility allowance (if any) for tenant-paid utilities from the Housing Authority’s utility allowance schedule.
- The family unit size under the Housing Authority subsidy standards.
- Termination of assistance for a participant family because of the family’s action or failure to act.
- 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.
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)
- 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
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.
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.
Useful Forms and Resources
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- Are You a Victim of Housing Discrimination?
- Housing Search Q&A
- Rental Referral List
- Santa Cruz County Resource Guide
- A Good Place to Live
- Protect Your Family from Lead Based Paint in your Home
- Tenant Resume
- Family Contact List
- How to Figure Out What You Pay in Rent
- Payment Standards and Utility Allowances
- Housing Plus Q&A
- Transfer Q&A
- Portability Q&A
- Special Needs Q&A
- Hearing and Appeals Q&A
- Violence Against Women Act Notice to Tenants and Applicants
These may be useful to share with your landlord.
- Housing Choice Voucher (Section 8 Program) Owner / Landlord Information
- Landlord Introduction Q&A
- Sample HAP and Tenancy Addendum
- Optional Form to Request Tenant Information
- Inspection Q&A
- Inspection Checklist
For answers to more of your questions, please call the Housing Authority at