How do I find a rental property with a Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher?Leave a Comment
How do I get a voucher to move?
If you are in the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program and want to move to a new rental property, you must first ask PHA to send you a printed voucher and Request for Tenancy Approval (RFTA) form.
Timing matters. Here’s when you can ask for a voucher to move:
- At Recertification/End of Lease. Near the end of any 2-year lease term, you may request a voucher to move during your regular recertification. Submit your request online or send a Transfer Request at Recertification to your service representative. You should get the voucher once your recertification is complete.
- Outside Recertification/During Lease. To get a voucher during your lease, you need a reason. Submit your request online or send a Transfer Request Outside Recertification to your service representative along with documentation of your reason. Here are valid reasons for getting a voucher during the lease:
- Lease Termination. If a landlord sent you a lease termination or eviction notice, you may request a voucher to move based on the lease termination.
- Agreement to Terminate Lease. If you and your landlord agreed to end the lease, you may request a voucher to move using a signed and notarized Mutual Dissolution of Lease.
- Reasonable Accommodation for Disability. If you need to move for reasons related to a disability, you may request a voucher using a doctor’s note or PHA reasonable accommodation request form.
- Domestic Violence. If you need to move for reasons related to violence in the home from an intimate partner or family member, you may request a voucher using a Protection from Abuse (PFA) petition/order or a Self-Certification of Domestic Violence.
- 60 Days After Failed Inspections. If your unit fails two PHA inspections, then PHA will stop subsidy payments to your landlord. If your unit still hasn’t passed inspection 60 days after payments stopped, then PHA is required send you a voucher.
I have the voucher. Now where do I look for a rental property?
You can use your voucher to rent any rental property in Philadelphia as long as:
- The rental property passes PHA’s housing quality inspection.
- PHA agrees to the rent amount the landlord is advertising.
- The rental property is not public housing or project-based housing.
Here’s where you can look:
- Try Zillow, Craigslist, or Apartments.com.
- On AffordableHousing.com, you can use the filter “Owner has Experience with the Section 8 / HCV program” to find listings by landlords who are more likely to be familiar with voucher requirements.
- On PAHousingSearch.com, consider any Philadelphia property that says “Median Income Based Rent.” These LIHTC developments are required to accept vouchers, but they may have a waitlist.
- Word of mouth: Ask for ideas from friends and family or, if you have a good relationship with your landlord, ask about recommendations or other properties they have.
- On foot: Walk around your desired neighborhoods and look for “For Rent” signs.
For additional guidance, see our article on the Private Rental Search Process.
I found a rental property. How do I know if PHA will agree to the rent being advertised?
PHA will only let you lease a rental property if the contract rent (total rent) is reasonable. Here are the factors they consider:
- Zip code. For example, PHA may agree to a higher contract rent for a property in 19102 than a property in 19139 because rents are higher in some zip codes compared to others.
- Voucher size. For example, PHA may agree to a higher contract rent for a 4-bedroom voucher than a 2-bedroom voucher because rents tend to be higher in larger properties.
- Utilities. For example, PHA may agree to a higher contract rent for a property where all utilities are included than a property where the tenant must pay for gas, electric and water.
- Tenant income. For example, PHA may agree to a higher contract rent for a tenant with higher income because a higher income tenant is allowed to pay more out-of-pocket for rent and utilities–up to 40% of their monthly income.
The PHA Payment Standard tells you the maximum amount PHA will agree to for rent and utilities, broken down by voucher size and zip code. For a rough estimate of the contract rent PHA will agree to for a specific voucher size in a specific zip code, subtract around $150 from the payment standard.
I found a rental property. What is the leasing process?
Here are the steps to leasing a rental property with your voucher:
- Provide the Voucher and Request for Tenancy Approval (RFTA) to the landlord. Fill out the RFTA together and ask the landlord to upload it to the PHA landlord portal to start the leasing process.
- The 2021 Housing Search and Move-In Guide has guidance for tenants on completing the RFTA.
- The 2018 RFTA Instruction Guide has guidance for landlords on completing the RFTA.
- If your landlord is new the program, encourage them to complete PHA’s owner certification requirements in a timely manner.
- Wait for PHA to inspect the property and approve the rent amount. This usually takes around 4-6 weeks depending on whether the property passes inspection the first time.
- Sign the Lease and Housing Assistance Payment Contract with your landlord.
What do I do if a landlord refuses to accept my voucher?
Landlords in Philadelphia may not deny an applicant housing solely because they have a Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher. Refusal to rent to someone with a Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher may be discrimination based on Source of Income. Source of Income discrimination is prohibited by the Fair Practices Ordinance in the City of Philadelphia.
If anyone refuses to rent to you solely because your rent is subsidized by a housing voucher, you can file a discrimination complaint with the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations (PCHR).
- File a complaint. Fill out a Housing and Property Discrimination Complaint form and submit it to the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations, 601 Walnut St., Suite 300 South, Philadelphia, PA 19106.
- Seek legal representation for your complaint through the Public Interest Law Center by calling Leanne Almeida at 267-546-1317 or email email@example.com.
If PCHR determines that your prospective landlord has engaged in source of income discrimination, the landlord may be ordered to rent to you, to pay you compensatory damages, or to pay you up to $2,000 in punitive damages.
My voucher is expiring, and I’m struggling to find a place. Can I get an extension?
PHA generally issues vouchers that are valid for 90-120 days. If you need more time to find a rental property, you can ask for an additional 30 days due to extenuating circumstances or reasons related to a disability. There is no definite limit to the number of extensions you can request, particularly if your delay in finding a rental property is related to a disability.
Near your voucher expiration date but before your voucher expires, submit an extension request through the PHA HCV Tenant Portal or email your service representative a signed Request for Voucher Extension.