How do I find a rental property with a Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher?

Finding a rental property with a voucher can be a challenge. Here is our guide to help you find and lease a new place.

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:

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:

  1. The rental property passes PHA’s housing quality inspection.
  2. PHA agrees to the rent amount the landlord is advertising.
  3. The rental property is not public housing or project-based housing.

Here’s where you can look:

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:

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:

  1. 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.
  1. If your landlord is new the program, encourage them to complete PHA’s owner certification requirements in a timely manner.
  1. 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.
  1. 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).

  1. 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.
  2. Seek legal representation for your complaint through the Public Interest Law Center by emailing Madison Gray

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 cannot 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.


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