If you have been selected from a waiting list for a Section 8 Housing Choice voucher (sometimes just called "Section 8"), you will be told to come to the housing agency that has the voucher for a briefing. At the briefing, a staff person will give (issue) you a voucher. The voucher is a piece of paper with your name on it which also shows the number of bedrooms that you are eligible for and how long before it expires. The voucher will be good for at least 60 days from when you first get it. This means that you will have at least 60 days to find a place to live that meets the requirements of the Section 8 program.
At the briefing, housing agency staff should explain the rules about finding and leasing a place to rent. They should also tell you how you can ask for extensions for more time to find a place. See What can I do if I have not found a place to live and my Section 8 voucher is about to expire? for more information about how long the voucher lasts while you are searching. This briefing may be with just you or with a group of people who are also receiving vouchers.
Because of the importance of this briefing, if English is not your primary language, ask the housing agency whether they can arrange for an interpreter.1 If you have a disability, the briefing must be held in an accessible place.
If you get your Section 8 voucher from one housing agency and you want to use it in a different community where another housing agency administers the voucher program—which is called portability—there are special rules. Generally, the housing authority that gave you the voucher will tell you how to contact the new housing authority, and you must promptly do so.2
The new housing authority may choose to re-examine your household income. Unless your income makes you ineligible for the program, the new housing authority will give you a voucher.3 That voucher will have an expiration date.4 It will also show how many bedrooms you can have in your apartment.
Request for tenancy approval form
Once you find an affordable place, a landlord who is willing to rent to you must submit a form called a request for tenancy approval to the housing agency. On this form the owner states the number of bedrooms, proposed rent, amount of security deposit, what utilities are included, and date that the apartment can be rented. After the request for tenancy approval form is submitted, the housing authority approves or rejects the rent, inspects the apartment to make sure that it is habitable, and reviews the lease. The place must pass certain minimum standards of habitability.5
When you sign a lease with the landlord, the landlord must also sign a contract with the housing agency called the Housing Assistance Payments Contract (HAP Contract). This contract states the term of your lease (which must be at least one year, although, the housing authority may approve a shorter lease term, after the first year), the names of all household members approved by the housing authority to live in the apartment, the amount of subsidy that the housing agency will pay the landlord, and what utilities and appliances are to be supplied by the owner and by the tenant.
7420.10G (Apr. 2001), § 8.2, p. 8- 2..
2 Portability rules are generally found at 24 C.F.R. § 982.355(c), but they do not apply in Massachusetts. Williams et al. v. Hanover Housing Authority et al., 871 F. Supp. 527 (D. Mass. 1994). For a description of Massachusetts portability rules, see letters to Massachusetts housing authorities from HUD Office of Public Housing, dated Jan. 18, 2002 and Oct. 6, 2003, on file at Massachusetts Law Reform Institute.
3 See 24 C.F.R. § 982.355(c)(9), which allows the new housing authority to deny or terminate assistance for the reasons established in the regulations at 24 C.F.R. §§ 982.552 and 982.553. This probably applies in Massachusetts.
4 24 C.F.R. § 982.355(c)(6). The new housing authority's voucher cannot expire before the first voucher was set to expire. This probably applies in Massachusetts.
5 See 24 C.F.R. § 982.401 for the program's Housing Quality Standards. The unit must also comply with the state Sanitary Code.