How to Make Changes to a Housing Choice Voucher Tenancy
What kind of changes to the lease can the landlord make?
The most common change is to raise the contract rent for the unit. A landlord may also wish to change the term of the lease, or change which utilities or appliances the owner or tenant are responsible for. These changes require notification to and approval by the VHA. Other minor changes to the lease can usually be made by written agreement between the landlord and tenant with a copy of the agreement provided to the Housing Authority.
When can the landlord raise the rent?
The contract rent cannot be changed during the initial term of the approved lease. The initial term of a lease is usually for one-year. The rent can be changed at the end of the initial lease term. After the first year the rent maybe changed only once in a twelve month period.
How does the landlord give notice of a rent increase?
Federal Regulations require that the landlord give at least 60-days notice of a proposed rent increase to the tenant with a copy to the Housing Authority. This amount of time allows the VHA time to approve the new amount and gives the tenant time to decide whether to give notice and move. Depending on individual circumstances, an approved rent increase could affect the tenant portion of the rent.
What is involved with the VHA approval or disapproval of the new rent amount?
The VHA is required to compare the proposed contract rent to rents charged at non-assisted rental units with similar location, amenities, size, age, services, etc. If the proposed rent appears reasonable after comparison, the new amount is approved and the VHA will issue a Rent Change Notification showing the new tenant portion, HAP amount, and contract rent.
How does the landlord change the term of the lease and/or the utility responsibility?
These actions require that the landlord offer a new lease. This process is similar to the process used when first leasing up a Voucher tenant. The landlord should notify the tenant in writing of their intent to offer a new lease. If the tenant agrees to the new lease offer, the landlord and tenant must complete, sign, and submit to the VHA the Request for Tenancy Approval form used for new lease offers. The proposed new lease must be included with the request and both must be received by the VHA at least 30-days prior to the proposed effective date.
What happens if the tenant does not accept the offer of a new lease?
The Tenancy Addendum states that the tenant’s failure to accept the offer of a new lease is good cause for termination of the current lease. In other words, the landlord can issue a notice and the tenant will be required to move. If they fail to move, they will be in violation of the lease and subject to eviction by the landlord and termination from the Voucher program by the VHA.
What is involved with the VHA approval or disapproval of a new lease offer?
The VHA will check to see that the proposed lease is to begin after the initial term of the current lease. If the proposed new lease includes an increase in the contract rent, the VHA will determine if the new rent meets rent reasonableness standards. VHA staff will check the proposed lease to see that all provisions are allowed under Federal regulation. A new inspection of the property will not usually be required unless the last annual inspection has not taken place. If everything is in order, VHA staff will calculate the new tenant portion of the rent, and prepare the tenancy addendum and HAP contract.
What happens if a landlord raises the rent or changes the lease without following these procedures?
The landlord would be considered to be in breach of the Housing Assistance Payments contract. The VHA could seek remedies provided for in the HAP contract, including termination of the contract.