FAQ

Housing Choice Voucher Program

Does HMHA have emergency housing assistance?

No, unfortunately HMHA does not have any emergency or temporary housing assistance.

What are Housing Choice Vouchers?

HCVs increase affordable housing choices for very low-income families. Families with a Housing Choice Vouchers choose and lease safe, decent, and affordable privately-owned rental housing.

How do I apply for the Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) Program?

When the HCV waiting list opens, public notice of the opening will be made in the local newspaper, and on our website.

Does HMHA pay the security deposit?

No. The security deposit is paid by the tenant.

Who pays the utilities?

The owner and the tenant must decide who will be responsible for the payment of specific utilities. These responsibilities are outlined in the lease and contract.

How does a family obtain an apartment/house once they have a voucher?

It is the responsibility of a family to find a unit that meets their needs. If the family finds a unit that meets the housing quality standards, the rent is reasonable, and the unit meets other program requirements, HMHA executes a HAP contract with the property owner. This contract authorizes HMHA to make subsidy payments on behalf of the family. If the family moves out of the unit, the contract with the owner ends and the family can move with continued assistance to another unit.

How much rent does a voucher cover?

HMHA pays the owner the difference between 30 percent of adjusted family income and an HMHA determined payment standard or the gross rent for the unit, whichever is lower. Rent plus utilities may not exceed 40% of the family’s income when initially occupying a unit.

Why do I have to pay a portion of my rent?

The HCV program is a rental assistance program, not a free rent program. The amount of assistance you receive is based on family income, family size, income deductions and the contract rent for the unit.

When can I move in?

You can move into a unit after it has passed the HQS inspection and a move-in date is established with the owner.

Do families have to lease a unit in the jurisdiction where the PHA issued the voucher?

If the family initially resides within the jurisdiction of the PHA, the family may choose a unit in another area where the family is income eligible. However, if the family initially applies to the PHA waiting list as a non-resident, the family must use the voucher within the PHA’s jurisdiction for the first year of assistance.

Can I use my voucher in your area if it was issued somewhere else?

Yes. You can use (port) your voucher to the HMHA coverage area. HMHA is currently absorbing. If interested, notify your current PHA of your plans to port.

What are the roles for the Tenant, the Landlord, HMHA and HUD?

Once HMHA approves an eligible family’s housing unit, the family and the landlord sign a lease and the landlord and HMHA sign a housing assistance payments contract that runs for the same term as the lease. The tenant, landlord and HMHA have obligations and responsibilities under the voucher program.

Tenant’s Obligations

When a family selects a housing unit and the unit passes the HMHA inspection and HMHA approves the lease, the family signs a lease with the landlord for at least one year. The tenant may be required to pay a security deposit to the landlord. After the first year the landlord may initiate a new lease or allow the family to remain in the unit on a month-to-month lease.

The family is expected to comply with the lease and the program requirements, pay its share of rent on time, maintain the unit in good condition and notify HMHA of any changes in income or family composition in writing.

Landlord’s Obligations

The role of the landlord in the voucher program is to provide decent, safe, and sanitary housing to a tenant at a reasonable rent. The dwelling unit must pass the program’s housing quality standards and be maintained up to those standards for as long as the owner receives housing assistance payments. In addition, the landlord is expected to provide the services agreed to as part of the lease signed with the tenant and the contract signed with HMHA.

Housing Authority’s Obligations

HMHA administers the voucher program locally. HMHA provides a family with the housing assistance that enables the family to seek out suitable housing and HMHA enters into a contract with the landlord to provide housing assistance payments on behalf of the family. If the landlord fails to meet the owner’s obligations under the lease, HMHA has the right to terminate assistance payments. HMHA must reexamine the family’s income and composition at least annually and must inspect each unit at least annually to ensure that it meets minimum housing quality standards.

HUD’s Role

To cover the cost of the program, HUD provides funds to HMHA to make housing assistance payments on behalf of the families. HUD also pays HMHA a fee for the costs of administering the program. HUD monitors HMHA administration of the program to ensure program rules are properly followed.

Program Participants

I am a current participant on the HCV Program. What is my caseworker’s name?

Your caseworker is assigned to you based upon the first letter of your last name or special program you participate in. Our receptionist can answer many of your questions and put you in contact with your assigned caseworker.

Your last name begins with:

A-B-C-D-E-F, or K-L-M-N-O, or Z
Vickie, ext. 178
vdavenport@hancockmetro.com

G-H-I-J
Abby, ext. 174
amercer@hancockmetro.com

P-Q-R-S-T-U-V-W-X-Y
Kim, ext. 173
khildebrand@hancockmetro.com

How do I report changes in my household? (ex: income increase or decrease)

All changes must be reporting in writing by completing a Household Information Change Form.

Download Household Change Form >

When do I report these changes?

All changes must be reported within 10 business days (or 14 calendar days) of the change.

Am I allowed to have guests?

Yes, but they cannot stay more than 14 days in a row and no more than 90 days in a calendar year. Keep in mind that you are also required to stay in compliance with your lease.

How do I qualify for a utility check?

Whether or not a family receives a utility allowance reimbursement check is determined by family income and the utilities for which the family is responsible. The tenant’s total payment (approximately 30% – 40% of their monthly adjusted income) includes the rent portion and utilities. If the tenant’s rent amount is less than the utility allowance for the unit, the family will receive the difference in a utility check.

The utility allowance is based on the typical cost of utilities and services paid by households that occupy housing of similar size and type in the same locality. Allowances are not based on an individual family’s actual energy consumption.

What date will my unit be inspected, and when will the inspector arrive?

For annual inspections, appointment letters will be mailed out well in advance. Inspectors will arrive within the time frame specified in your appointment letter. If you need to reschedule your inspection, please call 419-424-7848 and ask for the Inspector.

Must I be present when the inspection occurs?

No. However, there must be a responsible adult present, age 18 or over, to let the inspector in. That person must be able to show their Driver’s License/Photo ID to the Inspector to proof that they are over the age of 18.

I was not at home for my inspection. What do I have to do?

If the first inspection is missed, the inspector conducts an exterior inspection. It is the responsibility of the tenant to call HMHA to reschedule the inspection. The deadline for a passed inspection will remain in place for the unit; therefore, it is important that the inspection be rescheduled as soon as possible. If a tenant misses two inspections, HMHA will issue a termination of assistance.

Prospective & Participating Landlords

What are the benefits of the program?

The Hancock Metropolitan Housing Authority guarantees owners a portion of the rent through the participant’s rental assistance. The intent of the program is to lessen the burden on the family’s budget for housing costs, helping them afford their rental payment. This results in more consistent, timely and full payments to owners. Additionally, periodic inspections of the unit help to alert owners of required and/or recommended repairs.

How do I list my property with your program?

To list your property with the Hancock Metropolitan Housing Authority (HMHA), contact our Executive Director, Casey Ricker.

Who is the housing specialist/caseworker assigned to my tenant?

You may determine who the Housing Specialist/Caseworker is by going to www.hancockmetro.com to find the listing of all HMHA staff.

How does the Housing Choice Voucher Program work?

The Housing Choice Voucher program (HCV) is a federally funded program designed to help eligible low-income persons, the elderly, and persons with disabilities to reside in safe, decent, and affordable housing.

In the program, there are three bi-party contracts. The first contract agreement is between the voucher holder and the Housing Authority. This contract is issued to the voucher holder once they are determined eligible to participate in the HCV Program. This contract agreement is called the Housing Choice Voucher.

The second agreement is the Lease Agreement between the voucher holder and the owner. The voucher holder will be required to sign the landlord’s lease agreement before they can move into your rental unit.

The third agreement is between the Housing Authority and the owner. This agreement is called the Housing Assistance Payments (HAP) Contract. The voucher holder seeks housing of their choice and requests the landlord to accept them as a tenant.

If the owner agrees to accept the voucher holder, the owner then completes the Request for Tenancy Approval, Housing Survey and provides a copy of their Residential Lease Agreement (not signed). Then submit all the completed forms to the Housing Authority.

The Housing Authority will review the Request for Tenancy Approval and arrange with the owner to inspect the dwelling unit to determine if it meets program standards and to determine if the rent is reasonable.

Following Housing Authority approval of the dwelling unit, the landlord and the tenant will sign the owner’s lease. The owner and the Housing Authority sign a Housing Assistance Payments (HAP) Contract. This contract identifies the amount of total rent, the amount of tenant rent and the amount of rent to be paid by the Housing Authority. After the final contract is signed, the Housing Authority authorizes the voucher holder to move into the dwelling unit.

The tenant is required to pay the authorized amount of tenant rent to the owner monthly and the Housing Authority makes its monthly rental assistance payments directly to the owner.

How does the landlord find a Housing Choice Voucher tenant?

Tenants usually find you. A rental unit placed in the local newspaper for rent or ask Casey to put your vacancies on HMHA’s vacancy list.

The Request for Tenancy Approval (RTA) form must be completed between the landlord and the tenant. The tenant will furnish the completed RTA to their assigned Housing Specialist to determine their eligibility for the unit found.

How much rent can an owner charge for his/her unit?

With the Housing Choice Voucher Program, a unit’s contract must be within the bounds of being both reasonable and affordable. Rent Reasonableness is based on HUD guidelines and is documented by comparable rents for units of same size, type, and location.

When can my new tenant move in?

The move in should not take place prior to the unit passing a Housing Choice Voucher inspection. There may be issues that arise, negating the proposed leasing of the rental unit. All units entering the Housing Choice Voucher Program must pass all Housing Quality Standards before allowing a tenant to take occupancy. You will usually be contacted by phone or e-mail to confirm the approved move-in date.

Who pays the security deposit?

A full security deposit should be collected from the tenant when the tenant takes occupancy of the unit. The family should not use the security deposit during the occupancy period to pay for rent or utilities.

Who is responsible for the rent when the tenant fails to pay?

If the tenant fails to pay the tenant’s share of the rent, the owner will have grounds for terminating the lease agreement for “non-payment of rent”.

The owner is advised to follow State and local law regarding an eviction procedure.

How do I request a rental increase on my property?

Requests must be submitted in writing to HMHA at least 60 days prior to the effective date of the increase. HMHA will provide written notice to the owner and the family of the adjustments in the family’s and HMHA’s portion of this rent amount.

I have purchased a property with an HCVP participant already living in the unit. What do I do to start receiving the payments?

Contact HMHA with documentation to prove that you own the property. Staff will request additional information to amend the HAP Contract and to set you up as a vendor.

Can I bill my tenant for lost rent while the units is an abatement for a failed inspection?

No, the HAP Contract has terms that prohibit the charging of the rent to the tenant while the payment is in abatement.

What are examples of program abuse or fraud?

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and HMHA are concerned about program abuse. Incidences of program abuse and fraud include willful and intentional misrepresentations or intent to deceive with regard to a federal program are criminal acts that will lead to cancellation of program participation and legal actions resulting in fines and/or imprisonment. Another example of program abuse is when an owner requires a tenant to make “extra” payments not listed or approved in the contract. An example of an “Extra” payment would include requiring the tenant to pay $50 to supplement the contract amount. Additionally, a program participant cannot ask the landlord to approve the contract rent amount and then offer to pay the landlord an extra amount of rent not included in the lease and contract.

What do I do if a program participant asks me to commit fraud or program abuse?

If a program participant asks you to engage in unlawful or unethical activity, please contact HMHA.

Is an owner required to participate in the HCV program?

No. However, Federal, State, and Local Laws prohibit housing discrimination based on race, color, creed, sex, national origin, source of income, martial status, and/or disability.

What is the purpose of the inspection?

The Housing Quality Standards (HQS) were developed to ensure that housing assisted through the program is “decent, safe and sanitary”. The unit is re-inspected annually. A unit must be inspected by the HMHA to ensure the unit meets Federal HQS and document the condition of the unit at the time assistance begins.

What if the unit “fails” inspection?

Under Federal regulations, a unit either “passes” or “fails”. Any item that does not meet the standards will cause the unit to fail. The owner will be notified in writing if the unit fails, and what repairs are required in order for the unit to pass the HQS inspection the owner determines whether he/she is willing to make the repairs and informs the tenant and the HMHA of this decision.

If the owner elects not to make the repairs, the family must choose another unit to receive assistance.

If the owner elects to make repairs, HMHA must be notified of repair completions, and the unit will be re-inspected. The assistance cannot begin, nor is the contract effective until ALL the following items have been completed:

  1. The unit passes the HQS inspection.
  2. The lease and contract have been approved by the HMHA.
  3. Participant has possession of the unit.

What if I need more time to complete the repairs found during a unit inspection?

The landlord is encouraged to check the unit prior to a scheduled Housing Choice Voucher inspection. This will provide the owner the opportunity to determine what, if anything, will need to be repaired according to Housing Quality Standards. The landlord may request an extension when weather does not permit repairs to be completed in a timely fashion.