FAQ's for Voucher Holders
Once I get a voucher, how much time do I have to find an apartment?
In the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program, participants have (60-days) to find suitable housing.
What are the requirements for a Section 8 apartment?
- The building must pass a Housing Quality Standard inspection
- The rent must be reasonable. The rent that the landlord is asking is called the contract rent; this rent must meet the “rent reasonable” test. The “rent reasonable test” is based on rents charged for similar apartments in the area.
- The rent must be affordable. A Payment Standard is set by Westbrook Housing for all unit types. If the rent is at or below the Payment Standard, the voucher holder will pay 30% of their household income. At the initial lease-up, if the rent is more than the Payment Standard, the voucher holder will be allowed to pay up to an extra 10% of their household income toward the rent. A rent higher than the Payment Standard may be too expensive for the program. Contact a Program Officer for assistance in determining affordability.
Will Section 8 help pay my security deposit?
No. You are responsible for paying the security deposit.
What is the step-by-step process for getting and using a Section 8 voucher?
- Apply to the Section 8 waiting list.
- When your name reaches the top of the list, Westbrook Housing contacts you for more information.
- You will have to provide the information and documents requested.
- Westbrook Housing must verify the information, check your police record, and verify immigration status (if applicable).
- You will be invited to a Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher group briefing meeting where you will learn about the program.
- When all of the paperwork is done, the applicant has been found to be eligible and the Briefing has been attended then a voucher will be issued for 60-days.
- The voucher holder will be given a Request for Tenancy Approval form along with other forms for the future landlord to complete.
- It is then up to the voucher holder to find a suitable rental unit.
- When you find a unit you want to rent, it will be up to the landlord to screen you for suitability.
- You and your landlord complete the Request for Tenancy Approval form and return it to Westbrook Housing.
- After the form is returned to Westbrook Housing it is reviewed to make sure that the rent is within the program guidelines and given to the Inspector.
- Westbrook Housing inspects the unit to make sure it meets Housing Quality Standards.
- If the unit does not pass inspection, a re-inspection appointment will be made.
- When the unit has passed inspection, passed “rent reasonable” testing and has been approved by the Program Officer for a particular family; a Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) contract will be sent to the landlord for signature.
- A signed lease and HAP contract are returned to Westbrook Housing for final review and signature by a Program Officer.
- Direct deposit HAP payments to the landlords are made on the first of the month.
How much do I pay and how much does Westbrook Housing pay toward rent?
The voucher holder’s portion of the rent and utilities is at least 30% of their household income and can be much more, depending on the contract rent of the unit. Westbrook Housing pays the difference to the landlord in the form of a Housing Assistance Payment (HAP).
Are there building standards the apartment must meet?
Housing Quality Standards (HQS) are the standards HUD set for Section 8 housing units. For more information, read A Good Place to Live.
How often are housing inspections required?
An inspection must be completed before you move into a unit, and then annually.
How is my income verified?
Westbrook Housing staff will ask the Head of the Household to declare all of the family income; that income will verified with your employer or the Enterprise Income Verification (EIV) system which is a database containing information shared by Department of Labor.
How is my share of rent calculated?
The income from all members of the family are added together, deductions are made for minor children and the medical expenses for senior citizens and persons with disabilities; the adjusted income is multiplied by 30%. The amount of rent and tenant paid utilities are compared to the Payment Standard; if the rent and utilities are more than the Payment Standard this is called “overage.” The voucher holder will pay 30% of their adjusted income plus the “overage”. Utility Allowance is the term given to tenant paid utilities. They are based on a conservative use of the utility, not the actual amount paid by the tenant. Utility allowance charts are updated annually for this area of the state.
When should household income or membership changes be reported?
Any change in income or family composition must be reported to Westbrook Housing in writing within 10 days. To fill out income change forms and report the changes, call your program officer at 207-854-9779.
What deductions are allowed?
- $480 is deducted from your gross monthly income for each household member who is under 18 years of age or is disabled or a full-time student.
- $400 for any elderly family (age 62 or older or disabled). Medical expenses in excess of 3 percent of annual family income are allowed for persons with disabilities and senior citizens.
- Reasonable child care expenses necessary to enable you or another household member to be employed or to advance his/her education.
Where can I use my voucher?
If you lived within the jurisdiction of Westbrook Housing when you first applied for a voucher, then you can move anywhere in the United States that is served by a Housing Authority. If you did not live within the jurisdiction at the time of your original application for a voucher, then you must find a rental unit within the jurisdiction and live here for at least a year before moving out of the jurisdiction.
What are my obligations?
- Report all household income and assets and changes in household members.
- Permit inspection of your home after reasonable notice.
- Give Westbrook Housing and the owner at least 30 days written notice, if you plan to move.
- Not sublet or lease any part of your unit.
- Not be involved in drug-related or violent criminal activities.
- Not allow anyone who is not a member of your household to use your address to receive mail, register vehicles, etc.
- Follow the terms of your lease
Can I lose my rental assistance?
Yes, below is a list of some common reasons that families lose their rental assistance:
- Allowing unauthorized people to live in the unit
- Failure to report all changes in income or to provide the information required by Westbrook Housing.
- Becoming involved in drug-related or violent criminal activities.
- Repeated violation of the terms of a lease.
- Missing the annual recertification appointment
- Missing the HQS inspection appointment
When can I move?
- After the initial term of the lease
- Call your Program Officer for more information about moving.
What do I do when something needs to be repaired?
Maintenance problems should be reported to the owner or property manager, in writing. If the problem is not corrected in a prompt or satisfactory manner, the problem should be reported to Westbrook Housing, in writing, for possible action.
As a tenant, what are my responsibilities to the unit?
Abide by the lease.