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Finding a Unit | Rent-Related Issues | You and Your Unit
Sanctions & Termination | General Questions

FAQ - Voucher / Section 8 related Questions


DISCLAIMER: While these answers here are believed to be correct and according to HAMC / HUD policy, every situation is different and many factors may influence each individual situation. All HAMC decisions and rules must conform to federal, state and local laws, as well as HUD policy and approved HAMC operational guidelines.

Note: Answers to common questions by applicants can be found here. Questions from landlords are found here.

Finding a unit…

V1. What is the ‘Housing Choice Voucher” Program? Is this the same as Section 8?

The Housing Choice Voucher (HVC) program is basically the new designation for the Section 8 program.

V2. Do you have any pamphlets or handbooks that explain this program?

Yes, we do. Our Participant Handbook (link to Participants Handbook) is available upon request.

Current information about our Voucher program and its status can be found here on the Section 8 page of our website.

V3. Who is eligible for a voucher? What are the requirements?

Eligibility depend on income, citizenship or immigration status, and criminal background check.

For more detailed information on this subject please go to the FAQ section on eligibility requirements and waiting lists.

V4. I have received a voucher, how do I find a house or apartment? How long do I have to find a place to live?

These questions are answered during your briefing where you will receive a Participant Handbook, your Voucher and other paperwork.

You have 60 days from the date your Voucher is issued to locate a unit and turn in a Request for Inspection.

V5. Does the owner have the right not to rent to me? Can they not accept voucher holders?

Yes, landlords can refuse to accept Section 8 tenants.

V6. In what areas can I live?

You must live in areas covered by HAMC jurisdiction. This includes areas and cities within Maricopa County that do not have their own housing department or are unincorporated. Ask an HAMC staff member for more detailed information about areas in which you may use your voucher. Here is a map that shows the general area of HAMC jurisdiction.

V7. I want to live in Phoenix (or Mesa, Tempe, Glendale, etc) near my mother (or job). Is this possible?

When you first receive your initial voucher you must find a rental unit within HAMC’s jurisdiction and remain in that unit until for a minimum of 1 year.

A person with a HAMC voucher may not move into rental units in Phoenix, Glendale, Mesa, Tempe, Scottsdale, or Chandler.

After the end of the initial lease period (one year), a person may exercise the ‘portability’ option and move to another location. More information on Portability...

V8. What size unit is my family eligible for?

Vouchers are issued to eligible families based on the family composition. The federal rules require no more than 2 persons per bedroom or sleeping area (living room, den, etc). The precise determination of the appropriate voucher size depends upon the relationship, age and gender of the household members.

The size of unit you choose must be consistent with the needs of the family and the amount of rent subsidy you qualify for.

V9. I have found a nice rental unit. What do I need to do? Is there an inspection? How long does the inspection take? When can I move in?

These questions are answered during the briefing when you are issued your voucher. Please pay attention during that briefing and refer to the materials that are given to you. One of those items is the Participant Handbook.

Important: Do not sign a lease or pay a security deposit before contacting HAMC. The Housing Authority may not be able to approve the unit and you could have serious problems (liable for a signed lease, loss of your security deposit, etc). HAMC must also have proof of property ownership before approving a contract.  The lease should not be signed until the unit has been inspected and approved by HAMC.

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Rent-related issues

V10. How much will I have to pay? How are rents calculated?

The Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) Program is designed so that the assisted family pays 40% of the adjusted monthly income towards rent and utilities. This works out roughly to 30% for rent and 10% for utilities. There is a required minimum rent of $50.

If you get a job or a pay raise you do not lose your voucher. You must report any changes in household income or composition within 10 days of the change on an HAMC Change Report form. The tenant portion of the rent is adjusted to reflect the new income.

Important: All income declared by a tenant is subject to verification. Unreported income will result in overpaid assistance that must be repaid by the participant, and could lead to termination of housing assistance.

V11. Do I need to pay a deposit?

Yes, your landlord can require a security deposit.

V12. Do I pay for utilities?

Discuss this with the potential landlord. Read your lease agreement. If you are responsible for a utility payment, you must keep those payments current.

V13. Why do some tenants pay more than 30% of income towards rent?

The 40% rule only applies to INITIAL (that is first time) rent determination for a rental unit. If the participant’s household income changes, if the household composition changes, if (after the first 12 months) the rent goes up, then the participant’s portion of rent changes. This may result in the participant paying more than 30% of their adjusted monthly income for rent.

V14. Do I lose my unit if I get a job? I have a voucher but I lost my job so I cannot pay my share of rent. What do I do?

No, you do not lose your unit or rental assistance when there is a change in household income. You are required to report any changes in household income and composition within 10 days of the change on an HAMC Change Report form. Your rent portion will be adjusted accordingly.

V15. My household composition has changed. I got married, I have a new child and a better job. How does this affect my voucher and rent payment?

You are required to report any changes in household income and composition within 10 days of the change on an HAMC Change Report form. Check the Participant Handbook (link) for specifics on adding or removing someone from your household. Your rent portion will be adjusted accordingly.

V16. My landlord wants to raise my rent. What do I do?

Your landlord must give you and the HAMC a 60 day written notice prior to the effective date of the proposed rent increase. HAMC will review the request for rent increase and advise your landlord if it can be granted.

V17. My landlord has asked for is asking for an additional payment that is not in the contract? Is this legal?

Any payments not specified in the rental contract are not allowed. These “side payments” are illegal and will result in legal sanctions against the owner. If the participant has any questions about any charges demanded by the owner, he/she should contact proper HAMC staff.

V18. I can’t pay my portion of the rent. What do I do?

Your rent portion is calculated based on household income, deductions, utility
allowances and unit/voucher size. If you do not pay your portion of the rent as
calculated you will be evicted by your landlord and you will lose your housing

V19. What happens if I get a big raise?  Can I loose my voucher assistance? What is a ‘zero’ HAP?

If, when a tenant family is re-certified and their income has risen to the point that the total tenant payment exceeds the rent amount plus the utility allowance for the unit, HAMC does not make any payment to the landlord and the tenant family is responsible for the full rent.   This situation is called a Zero HAP.

However, the tenant family remains on the voucher program for 6 months.  In this way the tenant is protected in the period in case of a job loss, illness or some other problem. At that time, in this case, the tenant family must request an interim re-certification and resume paying rent according to their income. “Zero HAP” tenants must continue to comply with all Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program rules.

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You and your unit.

V21. I don't like my unit. Can I move? Who do I have to notify?

In most cases you can only move when the Lease Agreement expires. You may move then with a written 30 day notice to your landlord and a copy to HAMC.

V22. My landlord is not doing maintenance and does not repair problems in my unit. What do I do?

HAMC is NOT a management company. Read your lease as to whose responsibility the repair are, then Contact your case manager for more information, if needed.

V23. My neighbors are noisy and rude. Can I move?

No. Talk to your landlord or complain to city officials (police). You may change units when the lease expires.

V24. I am moving out. My lease has expired. What should I do? Who do I notify?

You must give 30 day written notice to your landlord and give a copy to HAMC. If you are staying on the voucher program, your voucher will be reissued and you will need to find a new unit within 60 days from the issue date of the voucher. If you are moving out of the area you must notify HAMC in writing and follow the process for ‘portability’.

V25. Can I have a pet?

Ask the landlord. A ‘pet deposit’ may be required.

V26. What are my responsibilities when I rent a unit?

Read your Lease Agreement, and the materials provided in the briefing when you are issued a voucher. One of the items provided during the briefing is the Participant Handbook.

V27. I rented a house with my voucher. Do I have to cut the grass and take care of the lawn? Do I have to pay for the pool service?

Read your lease. You must abide by the lease agreement you signed.

V28. Can the owner enter my unit?

In general, owners may enter a tenant's unit for three reasons: 1) emergency repairs, 2) non-emergency repairs or improvements, and 3) apartment inspections. Emergency repair requires no advance notice to the tenant. Access for all other reasons requires a minimum of 48 hours advance written notice.

V29. What happens when I move but cannot find another unit? Can I lose my voucher?

When your voucher is issued it is good for 60 days. If you have not located a
new unit and the voucher expires at the end of that 60 days, your voucher is
cancelled and your housing assistance is terminated.

V30.  I am having serious issues with the landlord.  The owner is not keeping his part of the contract. What do I do?

The lease is a legal contract between you and the owner (landlord). HAMC is not a party to this contract and cannot enforce its provisions on either parties. You and the owner (landlord) are responsible for complying with the lease. Make sure the lease contains the following information: lessee (tenant), lessor (landlord / owner), unit address, rent, term of the lease (starting and ending dates, must be for at least one year), who pays what utilities, and what appliances are provided with the unit.  Be sure that the procedures for repairs and maintenance are clear.  Make sure you understand the rules and regulations posted for the property or specified in the contract. If you have doubts or questions, ask the landlord or his/her representative to provide answers in writing.

If there are disputes, tenants and the owners (landlords) should cooperate with each other and attempt to work out any differences. HAMC may be able to help, in some limited cases.  However, the Housing Authority does not have the power to force a tenant or owner to take any desired action. In some cases tenant and owner disputes must be settled through the court system.

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Sanctions and termination

V31. I have received a letter from the Housing Authority of Maricopa County saying that they have detected unreported income and I owe money? What is this?

HAMC has discovered that you have unreported or under reported income and has calculated the back payments you owe according to this information. You will be given the opportunity to appeal and /or clarify this information.

If the participant continues to not report their own income or that of family members they will be subject to legal sanctions, including the termination of their housing assistance.

Abuse of HAMC staff in the performance of their duties and/or disregard of family obligations listed in the voucher will result in the termination of housing assistance.

V.32. My son has problems with the law. He lives with me. What does this mean? How does this affect my voucher?

Per your voucher: No family member may engage in drug-related criminal activity, violent criminal activity or other criminal activity that threatens the health, safety or right to peaceful enjoyment of other residents or persons residing in the immediate vicinity of the premises.

If this should occur, and you allow your son who has problems with the law to remain in your unit, you will lose your housing assistance.

V33. I have received a letter from the Housing Authority of Maricopa County saying that my contract is being terminated because I have violated HUD rules. I disagree. What can I do?

Per your notice of termination you have the right to request an informal hearing, follow the instructions in the letter.

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General Questions

V41. What is Portability?

Families receiving voucher assistance may not move during the initial term of their lease. After 12 months, a family may move anywhere in the United States where a Section 8 voucher program is administered. This is called ‘portability’. More Portability Information...

V42. What is the ‘Housing Quality Standard’ (HQS) Inspection?

HUD requires HAMC to perform an HQS inspection of all Section 8 units before entering into a Housing Assistance Payment contract with an owner, and at least annually thereafter. The inspection confirms whether an apartment meets minimum physical standards established by HUD.

All voucher holders are required to provide access to HAMC staff to allow them to perform the inspection. A family that fails to provide access may be terminated from the program. Inspection Checklist...

V43. What is FSS?

The Family Self Sufficiency (FSS) Program is designed to help participants develop skills and experience that will enable him/her to obtain employment or better employment and to someday be free of public assistance.
For more information please see HAMC’s FFS section or go to HUD's Family Self-Sufficiency information.

V44. What is ‘Annual Re-certification’

HAMC is required to recertify the income and composition of all households at least once a year. The annual reexamination determines the continued eligibility of a Section 8 participant and establishes the Housing Assistance Payment to be made on behalf of the family. The move-in date is used to determine the time of the annual re-exam.

V45. Can I lease a mobile home (trailer)?

Yes, you can move into any type of residence that meets HQS inspection requirements (considering also jurisdiction and rent amount guidelines).

V46. My sister is coming to live with me. Is that OK? How long can she stay? Will it affect my voucher payment?

The voucher is designated specifically for the family members assigned to the voucher. Continued residence by other persons in the unit is a violation of the contract and assistance may be terminated. Read the Participant Handbook for information on how to add someone to your household, or delete someone.

A voucher holder may not sublet or loan the use of the unit to any other person.

V47. I have to go take care of my mother in New York (or Los Angeles or somewhere far away) and I will be away from my unit for a long time. What does this mean?

Check the Participant Handbook for policies on leaving the unit vacant for an extended period. In general, if you or any member of your household are going to be away from the unit for more than two weeks, you are required to notify HAMC in writing immediately.

V48. I have found out that the owner has lost the house (foreclosure). What do I do? Will I have to move? What about my payments?

Notify your HAMC case manager immediately of any notices you have received and they will proceed on a case-by-case basis. The Arizona Attorney General has very good information about foreclosure issues with much useful information: More...

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