Frequently asked questions about New Section 8 Tenant Onboarding
The Request for Tenancy Approval (commonly referred to as RFTA, RTA, or Landlord Packet) is given to a current participant who is moving or an applicant who is determined eligible for the rental assistance program. At the point the client is issued a Housing Choice Voucher they also receive the RTA so they may search for housing. Once the Voucher holder has selected a unit, the prospective landlord along with the client completes the RFTA. Upon Belmont’s receipt of the completed RFTA, we will determine if the asking rent is affordable for the prospective tenant and reasonable for the market, and if so, an inspection of the property will be set up.
No. Unfortunately, Belmont does not have the funds to provide security deposits. It is the client’s responsibility to pay their security deposit to the landlord. The security deposit is between the landlord and the tenant to reach a mutual agreement. For example, this may mean paying the full security up front or entering into a payment agreement for monthly payments to the landlord until the security deposit amount is paid, or going through the Department of Social Services or another 3rd party source who provides security payments (calling 2-1-1 may assist the client in identifying what organizations, if any, have funds for security deposits).
For Landlord Questions & Answers for the Erie County Department of Social Services, please visit: erie.gov/socialservices
Quoted from The Erie County Department of Social Services Website: It is a written agreement between the Department of Social Services and the landlord which provides security against non-payment of rent or for client-caused damages. A Security Agreement can only be provided if the A/R meets certain criteria regarding the reason(s) for moving and is unable to obtain suitable permanent housing without it. Examples of the criterion include [but are not limited to]: moving to less expensive property; moving because of a disaster and/or a vacate order placed on the premises by a health agency or the landlord; having to move because of a serious medical or physical handicap, or the current living situation is harmful to the health, safety and wellbeing of the A/R or their family. Issuance of this agreement requires a pre-inspection of the apartment to be signed off by both the landlord and the tenant, before the tenant moves in.
Quoted from The Erie County Department of Social Services Website: The tenant [A/R] must apply for a Security Agreement, prior to moving, through the DSS Housing Unit located on the first floor at 478 Main Street, Buffalo. The A/R must meet certain criteria regarding the reason(s) for moving, in order to be eligible [see examples in Q6]. If approved, the landlord must sign and will receive a copy of the Security Agreement Document [B-1133a] before the tenant moves in.
Quoted from The Erie County Department of Social Services Website: A written claim listing the damages or an itemized statement of the rent owed must be sent to the:
ECDSS Emergency Assistance Unit
478 Main St., first floor, Buffalo, NY 14202
Quoted from The Erie County Department of Social Services Website: As of January 2010, DSS no longer provides cash security deposits. All eligible applicants and recipients are now assisted through the use of a Security Agreement.
Upon receipt of the RTA for a new unit, the Inspections Coordinator schedules an inspection. The actual inspection will take place anywhere from 5-10 business days. Both the Voucher holder and landlord are given written notice of the date and approximate time of the inspection. The time of the inspection depends on the Inspector’s route for that day. The notification letter will give an approximate hour range of the inspector’s anticipated arrival time. Keep in mind, an inspection can only be scheduled if the unit is vacant or if the Voucher holder that submitted the RFTA is already living in the unit.
The Housing Assistance Payments (HAP) Contract is the binding agreement between Belmont Housing Resources for WNY and the owner of a unit occupied by a Housing Choice Voucher holder. Under the HAP contract, Belmont agrees to make housing assistance payments to the owner on behalf of a specific family leasing a specific unit. The HAP Contract will be generated, and will begin, after the unit has passed the Housing Quality Standards Inspection. At no time will assistance payments be made retroactively (before the unit passes inspection). The tenant is responsible for the full rent prior to the effective date of the HAP Contract.
There must be a lease between the Voucher holder (tenant) and the landlord. The lease needs to contain certain program required items such as: unit address, the utility structure, monthly rent, who owns the stove and refrigerator, and the lease term dates which must match the term of the Housing Assistance Payments Contract. Even if a voucher holder was residing in the unit prior to receiving rental assistance and there is a lease in effect, a new lease containing the above factors needs to be implemented.
Once the HAP Contract has been signed and returned along with the coinciding lease, and Belmont’s representative signs it making it fully executed, the Housing Assistance Payment will be direct deposited into the landlord’s specified bank account. In a majority of instances, the first housing assistance payment will be late due to the paperwork. However, once the first payment is made, regular monthly payments will be transferred from the PHA account into the landlord’s account on or about the first business day of each month. In many cases, the Voucher holder will also have a portion of rent. It is the voucher holder’s responsibility to pay this portion to the landlord directly. The amount of the tenant rent may be determined by subtracting the HAP (rental subsidy paid by Belmont) listed on the HAP Contract from the total monthly rent. This is the maximum that may be charged for the unit. The voucher holder is instructed not to pay above their tenant rent.
Frequently asked questions about Rents & Fees
Currently HUD sets the Fair Market Rents (FMRs) for Erie & Niagara Counties at the 40th percentile of area median rents. For detailed documentation regarding the development of the FMRs, visit: huduser.gov. The Payment Standards are set by Belmont and can range between 90% and 110% of the established Section 8 Fair Market Rents. Belmont currently uses two (2) sets of payment standards. The first set of payment standards are the regular payment standards and are used the most often. The second set is called the exception payment standards. The exception payment standard will be used when a voucher holder rents a unit located in a census tract that has been identified as having higher market rents. Belmont offers the exception payment standards in an effort to provide program participants the opportunity to use the rental assistance in areas of lower poverty and greater opportunities.
Several factors are taken into consideration when determining if the proposed rent is reasonable. This includes, but is not limited to: the size and number of bedrooms, the building type (single family, high rise, row house, etc.), the age of the building, rents of other comparable units in the area, the location, amenities. Unfortunately, even if a unit itself is remarkable but the area does not warrant the amount of rent being requested, the owner may be asked to lower the monthly rent.
An additional factor to consider is the rent limitation set by the federal government (40% Rule—to be discussed later). There are times when the rent for the unit is determined reasonable. However, due to the client’s rental limits, Belmont may ask that the landlord lower the rent for the first year to accommodate the family’s established limit in order to rent the unit using the Section 8 Rental Assistance.
It is important to understand while the general rules regarding rent calculations are the same for all program participants, there are many variables that need to be considered when determining an individual household rental calculation. The first step is to determine the household’s annual gross income. Then determine if the household is eligible for any allowable deductions such as: dependent allowance(s), elderly/disabled allowance, medical deductions (if applicable), child care allowances (if applicable). If eligible, subtract allowable deductions from the household’s gross annual income to arrive at the family’s annual adjusted income. The adjusted income is then divided by 12 for the family’s monthly adjusted income. This monthly adjusted income is compared to the following to arrive at the family’s Total Tenant Payment (TTP), which is what the family is required to contribute toward their monthly housing costs (rent plus utilities). The TTP will be the highest of:
- 30% of their monthly adjusted income
- 10% of their monthly gross annual income
- Welfare Rent (standard amounts dependent upon how many family members are on the Public Assistance grant)
- $50 minimum rent
The maximum subsidy is calculated by subtracting the TTP from the applicable Payment Standard for the family. The Payment Standard is determined by the family composition as listed on the Housing Choice Voucher or by the actual unit bedroom size; whichever is lower.
Families are prohibited by government regulations to contribute more than 40% of their monthly adjusted income toward their housing costs during the first year of a lease term. The maximum subsidy (housing assistance payment) added to the maximum family contribution (40%) determines the rental limits for the household.
Yes, Belmont thoroughly explains the 40% Rule with all clients when they attend a program orientation when first coming onto the Section 8 Programs. Additionally, when the client makes subsequent moves, the family has regular conversations with their Belmont Housing Specialist who explains the 40% limit. During all moves the family receives information outlining their household’s specific 40% limit, which is added to the rental subsidy, so they are aware of how much they are able to afford when searching for a unit.
It is important to keep in mind the 40% Rule is very confusing. Even when explained in great detail, many families still struggle with full comprehension of the rule and what their rental limits are.
Utility allowances are set amounts based the building structure, the unit bedroom size or family voucher size (lower of the two), and the utilities not included in the rent that are to be paid directly by the tenant. The utility allowance does not represent a family’s specific monthly utility cost to be paid to the utility providers. Instead the allowances are based on information from local utility companies and represent an average monthly cost of utilities; the allowances are reviewed and, if needed, updated annually. In Buffalo, heating costs will be higher in the winter months versus the summer months; therefore, the utility allowance in the Section 8 Program may be a bit lower than actual costs in the winter with the opposite in the summer. This is why an average utility allowance is determined.
Written notice must be given to the tenant, with a copy to the Housing Specialist (Belmont), at least 60 days in advance of the effective date of the increase. If the request is less than 60 days, you will be notified and given the soonest time the increase may take effect. Additionally, all rent increases are subject to rent reasonableness tests. If the requested rent is not reasonable, you will be notified in writing and given an acceptable amount the rent may be increased to.
By visiting www.hapcheck.com. Your login information will be: User Name—the Social Security Number or EIN associated with the assistance payments through Belmont. Password—has been given to all participating landlords. For new landlords, this will be given at the point of a Section 8 client leasing up. At the point of log in, the system allows you to change your password. Keep in mind, the original password (a unique number assigned to your record within Belmont) can be used anytime in lieu of the changed password should you forget it. Additionally, Belmont accounting staff may help you obtain the password after passing some security questions or, if requesting in person, providing picture ID.
We recommend your practices follow local and federal Fair Housing Law. However, we do ask that you keep in mind the families Belmont serves are low-income and eligible for a federally assisted rental program. Many families may experience a hardship paying excessive fees and could deter them from being able to rent one of your units.
Please notify the Housing Specialist prior to the closing date so future Housing Assistance Payments are placed on hold. We will also need the new owner’s contact information, so we are able to send them an Amendment to the Housing Assistance Payments Contract to be signed, W-9 tax form, and direct deposit authorization, along with copies of the original Housing Assistance Payments Contract and subsequent Amendments. Once we receive the signed Amendment, along with proof of ownership, W-9 tax form, and direct deposit authorization, Housing Assistance Payments will be changed to the new owner and deposited into the new owner’s bank account.
Please let the Housing Specialist know in writing (preferably with an executed Property Management Agreement) of any change where payments or correspondence should be directed and/or any change in who is authorized to sign contracts and leases on the owner’s behalf.
Inspections & Repairs
Typically, inspection results are processed the next business day after an inspection takes place. However, there are instances when it may take up two (2) business days to process. The results are sent by mail or e-mail (if the LL has indicated e-mail is their notification preference and has provided us with the e-mail address).
Belmont sends both the landlord and tenant a letter as notification of the inspection results. This means even if the unit meets the Housing Quality Standards (HQS) inspection (passes), both parties will receive a letter. If the unit does not meet the HQS inspection (fails), Belmont will send the landlord and tenant a letter along with a list of the required items that need to be repaired in order for the unit to pass inspection.
There have been incidents where inspectors have been able to accommodate a Landlord request for “instant results” by e-mailing the inspection results on the spot. However, this is not our normal practice and due to software issues does not always provide a complete description of the fail items.
The inspectors can and do take pictures of some failed items but not ALL failed items. Additionally, the pictures are not forwarded in the inspection result notifications. The landlord may call the inspector and asks specifics about a repair item location or inquire as to why the item failed to meet HQS. However, please understand our inspectors should and do not provide instructions on how to fix fail items. The inspector’s job is to inspect the unit and point out deficiencies, they are not licensed contractors and cannot not give repair advice for a number of reasons.
From the date of the first inspection of the unit when a fail item(s) has been cited, in MOST cases, the landlord has 30 days total to make repairs and have a reinspection performed on the unit. The exception to the 30 days is when there are fail items deemed as EMERGENCY LIFE THREATENING. In those instances, the repairs must be made within 24 hours. Belmont will schedule a time for one of our inspectors to come to confirm the emergency repair has been rectified. If repair(s) aren’t made and inspection performed by the repair deadline (30 days for regular items or 24-hour emergency items), the next month’s assistance payment will go into abatement. This means the rental assistance will be held. Additionally, payments will not resume until the unit passes the HQS inspection and the payment will be calculated for the month using the date unit passed. Please note: federal regulations do not allow for retroactive payments which will not be paid during the time the unit was in an abatement status. Read more about abatements in the question pertaining to abatements.
In an effort to provide proper notification to the landlord and tenant regarding an upcoming inspection, we prepare our inspection schedules approximately two (2) weeks in advance. There are occasions when we have cancelations and may be able to get inspections in a bit sooner.
Belmont does not recommend or endorse any specific contractors. Our inspectors should not make recommendations of any type concerning contractors. Please note the Rehabilitation Department at Belmont who runs The Buffalo Rehab program does make recommendations. The difference is they are approved to do so by HUD for rehab programs. However, the Buffalo Rehab program is a separate entity from the Section 8 Program where referrals and/or recommendations are not permitted.
Since we live in an area with extreme winter weather, there are certain fail items which may be denoted as weather deferred especially with regard to exterior fail items. Normally, the deferments will depend on the winter being experienced at the time of the inspection. Furthermore, the deferments are normally stopped sometime around April when the weather begins to clear up. However, it’s important to understand not ALL exterior fail items will automatically be identified as weather deferred. This designation is at the discretion of the inspector and inspections supervisor to determine whether to defer fail items. All weather deferred items are required to be repaired and reinspected by May 31 to avoid the unit going into abatement (as discussed under the question pertaining to abatements).
Abatement is the stoppage of rental assistance payments to the landlord. A unit goes into abatement status when repair(s) aren’t made and an inspection performed by the repair deadline (30 days’ regular items or 24-hour emergency items). The payments for the upcoming first-of-the month will be held. For example, the unit was first inspected on 3/15/2017. The repair items were regular items; therefore, the owner has 30 days, until April 14, 2017, to complete the repairs and have an inspection conducted. If this does not happen, beginning May 1, 2017, the unit will go into abatement and the assistance payment will be held.
If a unit is in abatement for 30 days, we are required to give a 30-day notice that the Housing Assistance Payments (HAP) contract will be terminated. At this point, the tenant will be issued a Housing Choice Voucher so they may move from the unit. From the example above: If the unit is still in an abatement status on May 31, 2017, a notice of termination will be sent with an effective date of June 30, 2017.
Please note if the unit passes the HQS inspection during the abatement process, payments will be resumed. However, it is important to be aware the resumed payment will be calculated based on the date the unit passes inspection for the abated month. Federal regulations do not allow for retroactive payments to be paid during the time the unit was in an abatement status. Therefore, Belmont will pay the remaining number of days in the month from when the unit passed inspection. Example: The unit went into abatement May 1, 2017. The unit passes inspection on May 17, 2017. Therefore, the daily assistance will be calculated and assistance will be paid on 14 days out of that month. In compliance with the Housing Assistance Payments Contract the owner signs, the days the unit was in abatement is lost rent. The tenant is NEVER responsible to pay the rental assistance portion for payments lost for abatement.
Finally, if a HAP contract cancelled letter is mailed but the unit subsequently passes HQS inspection and both parties are willing to continue the lease, Belmont is glad to reinstate the contract and resume payments in accordance with the HAP Contract. However, the unit needs to pass within the 60-day abatement period to consider reinstatement of the contract.
Most importantly, to prevent a unit from going into an abatement status, make repairs in a timely manner, call for a re-inspection, and assure the unit passes the re-inspection.
There are a couple resources available to landlords:
The HUD publication, “A Good Place to Live”
- Belmont Housing Resources for WNY – have a supply on-hand in the office;
- HUD’s website at hud.gov
The Belmont document, Get it Right the First Time:
- Belmont Housing Resources for WNY – have a supply on-hand in the office;
- Belmont Housing Resources for WNY website has a link to this document under the Landlord section
Below is a guide for the HQS checklist, which is provided in Belmont’s Landlord Handbook:
- The unit and all common areas are free from any electrical hazards such as: non-insulated or frayed wiring; improper types of wiring, connections or insulation; wires located in unsafe locations; missing cover plates or exposed wires or connections; overloaded circuits; improperly grounded outlets or insufficient outlets or fixtures.
- Three prong outlets installed post-construction are often not grounded. These must be replaced with either 2-pronged outlets or GFCI outlets.
- If an existing outlet is within 4 feet of a water source. Replace existing outlet with a properly installed GFCI outlet.
- All windows and doors that are accessible from the outside have a properly working lock.
- Windows designed to open are capable of opening easily and remain open unassisted.
- Windows and doors are weather tight.
- The living room and all bedrooms have at least one window.
- All windows are free of signs of severe deterioration and there is no missing or broken (cracked) panes.
- The walls are sound and free from hazardous defects such as severe buckling, bulging or leaning; damaged or loose structural members; large holes; or air infiltration.
- The floors are sound and free from hazardous defects such as severe buckling; major movement under walking stress; or damaged or missing parts.
- All ceilings are sound and free from hazardous defects such as severe bulging or buckling; large holes; missing parts; or loose surface materials that are falling or in danger of falling.
- The unit has both an oven and a stove with a full set of working burners and knobs. (A microwave may be substituted for a tenant-supplied oven and stove.) Note: if a stove is present even if using a microwave, the stove must be in working condition.
- The unit contains a refrigerator that works and maintains a temperature low enough so that food does not spoil over a reasonable amount of time.
- The kitchen contains space to store, prepare and serve food; and a permanently attached working sink with both hot and cold running water and a properly connected working drain with a gas trap.
- The unit contains a toilet in proper working condition available for the exclusive use of the unit’s occupants.
- There is a permanently installed working bathroom sink with both hot and cold running water and a properly connected working drain with a gas trap.
- The unit has either a working bathtub or shower with both hot and cold running water and a properly connected working drain with a gas trap.
- The bathroom has at least one openable window or a working vent system.
- Each level of the unit, including the basement and finished attics, is equipped with a working smoke detector.
- The heating system is capable of providing enough heat to insure a healthy environment.
- The unit is free from all types of unsafe heating conditions, such as unvented fuel-burning space heaters; improper connection of flues; damaged or open flue pipes or chimneys; absence of safety devices; or potential for fire.
- Water heaters are located, equipped and installed in a safe manner including the presence of a pressure relief valve and discharge line.
- The plumbing is free from major leaks or corrosion and is connected to an acceptable public or private disposal system and is free from sewer back-up.
- All exterior surfaces, including the foundation and roof are free from hazards such as serious buckling or sagging; large holes or other defects that would result in significant infiltration or structural collapse.
- All stairs, rails and porches are sound and free from hazards such as severe structural defects; or broken, missing or rotting steps; inadequate lighting; or blocked access.
- All stairways with four or more consecutive steps have a handrail; all porches or balconies thirty inches or more above the ground have a secure rail.
- The unit is free from heavy accumulations of garbage or other clutter inside and outside and has adequate covered facilities for the temporary storage and disposal of food waste. Additionally, the unit is free from severe infestation by rodent, insects or other vermin.
- In units built prior to 1978, if a child younger than six lives there or is expected to live there, all surfaces in the unit and in common areas are free from damaged or deteriorated paint.
Belmont has been experiencing new fail items on units that have had inspections conducted by Belmont in previous years. This leaves the landlord wondering why the items had not failed during past inspections. We apologize for the inconvenience and understand the frustration this has caused our participating owners. However, there are certain standards we are required to follow. The fact that the items may not have been noted in previous years does not allow our current inspectors to turn-their-heads to the needed repairs. The inspectors are simply doing what they’ve been asked to do and abiding by the training they’ve received, which is to provide a thorough and honest inspection. With that being said, we anticipate once we’ve gone through a full year of inspections most of the items that were not noted previously should be noted and corrected by the owner. Therefore, this should not be a continuing situation year-after-year. We appreciate your patience and cooperation with making sure the units meet the specified HQS standards.
Many times the inspector will perform a courtesy inspection when an inspection is scheduled and the utility service is not on in the unit. Unfortunately, the inspector will not be able to complete a ‘real’ inspection since so many items that require inspection need active utility services to properly inspect. Therefore, we strongly encourage the utilities be on at the time of the scheduled inspection. This allows the inspector full access to the required items to be inspected. Additionally, once the utilities are turned on, there is no way of knowing additional items that may fail inspection since at the courtesy inspection they are unable to identify these fail items without utility service. If the utility service is the responsibility of the tenant, we suggest leaving the utilities on for the inspection (possibly under the owner’s name), then turning them off, and have the tenant put them on in their name prior to moving into the unit. By doing so it allows a full inspection, no surprises of additional fail items, and decreases the chances that the unit won’t pass inspection by the desired lease up date.
Lease Tenants & Training
Leases & Lease Violations
Yes. However, the lease must contain the six items listed below, and it cannot contain any prohibited lease provisions. The six (6) items the lease needs to include are:
- Landlord and Tenant Name
- Address of the rental unit
- Lease dates (must match the Housing Assistance Payment Initial Lease Term dates, which are related to the date it passed inspection – we will give you these dates)
- Contract Rent (Total Monthly Rent – rental subsidy and tenant rent combined)
- Who pays what utilities (gas, electric, water, sewer, and trash); and
Who Owns the appliances (stove and refrigerator)?
Unfortunately, like in conventional renting, tenants cause damage to units on occasion. This is an issue that should be resolved between the landlord and the tenant. Our first suggestion would be to discuss the issue with the tenant directly. Then together come to an agreement on how to repair the damages. Unfortunately, Belmont does not have funds to reimburse owners for damages caused by one of their tenants. If the tenant is unwilling to take responsibility for the damages another course-of-action would be for the owner to take the tenant to court for compensation. Any and all court papers should be brought to the attention of the client’s housing specialist. Upon receipt Belmont determines if further action should be taken and will document tenant-caused damages. Receiving court-awarded damages from a client may have an effect on the client’s rental assistance.
While a security deposit may not cover all costs for tenant-caused damages, it can help. This is one reason it is important to collect a security deposit or complete a security agreement through DSS. Additionally, screening tenants prior to approving their tenancy is vital for selecting good tenants.
Finally, conducting regular inspections of the unit, possibly when collecting the monthly rent, is a good way to prevent excessive damage to your property.
A client may be at risk for losing their Section 8 rental assistance if they are taken to court for a lease violation regarding damages to their assisted unit. Possible termination may occur if the judge finds in favor of the landlord and awards an eviction, if the client is receiving rental assistance. Additionally, the same occurs if the landlord is awarded a judgment in a small claims proceeding for unpaid rent and/or damages. However, Belmont does not have access to court records. The landlord would need to provide the Housing Specialist with any court documents, including the 3-day notice, court petition, outcome and Marshall’s notice.
Please understand, this does not automatically result in the termination of rental assistance for a client. Belmont is required to offer the family an opportunity for an informal hearing to state their case. There are many factors that are taken into account during the hearing and the hearing officer’s final decision, which means not all situations will end up in termination of rental assistance.
Note: Anytime a court awarded eviction for a lease violation or small claims award (unpaid rent / damages) is granted against a client and Belmont receives court documents, we look into the situation further to determine if further action is required.
Provide the tenant with notice of the lease violation with a date to remedy the situation. If they continue to violate their lease and you would like them to vacate the unit, please follow the laws of New York State to ensure a proper eviction / termination of the lease.
Some options may be:
- Give the tenant proper written notice to move (search the web for NYS laws for requirements of notice or consult an attorney). Provide a copy to Belmont;
- If the lease is in the first term (normally the first year) enter into a mutual termination. A mutual termination is an agreement between the landlord and tenant to end the lease early. This must be done in writing, signed by both parties (landlord and tenant), and provide a copy to Belmont.
- If the tenant does not vacate with written notice, take them to court and provide Belmont with any court documents. (consult legal counsel to ensure proper steps are taken)
If you are seeking termination of a lease for lease violations, an owner’s best option is to consult with legal counsel. Neither Belmont nor its staff are attorneys; therefore, we cannot provide legal advice on terminations or evictions.
Yes, you may opt to have the lease automatically revert to month-to-month after the initial lease term (normally the first year), or if you have outlined in your original lease the term renews for a specific timeframe like another year, then the next lease term would be effective for another year. The option is yours. If there is not specific lease renewal listed in the lease, the lease automatically renews as month-to-month after the first year.
Please note, it is not necessary to sign a new lease year-after-year. The original lease remains in effect during the client’s tenancy. However, the landlord and the tenant will receive Amendment notices from Belmont whenever there is a change in the rental amounts, which should be attached to the lease.
Tenant Responsibilities & Supports
Housing Specialists at Belmont are able to advise tenants on many subjects. There are also a number of agencies and community groups that are available to support tenants, including:
- Housing Opportunities Made Equal
- Neighborhood Legal Services
- Volunteer Lawyers Project
- Erie County Department of Social Services
- Catholic Charities
- Salvation Army
Belmont offers a variety of services. To name a few: credit counseling, rental counseling, self-sufficiency program for Section 8 participants, homeownership counseling, and there are other Belmont departments as well – Development and Property Management. To explore Belmont’s full range of services, please visit our website at: https://www.belmonthousingwny.org
Abiding by the terms of the lease, including: paying their share of rent in full and on time each month, notifying the landlord of any needed repairs or maintenance, and any other obligations as outlined in the lease agreement (i.e. clearing snow, lawn maintenance, no pets, etc…). Keep in mind, tenants who have Section 8 Rental Assistance have the same responsibilities as tenants who do not have the assistance.
Belmont cannot stress enough how important it is for a landlord to properly screen a prospective tenant. We cannot act as a reference for a Section 8 client. Belmont’s role is to provide Section 8 Rental Assistance and is not in a position to indicate a person’s desirability as a tenant.
Credit reports can be a good way to check someone’s history of paying bills on time. Unfortunately, rent is not normally reported on credit reports. It has been our experience that people will pay their rent before paying other less important bills. Therefore, we advise using a scope of various tenant-check techniques (review their ability to pay the rent, call past landlords to get references, call personal references, use tenant-check services, etc). If you find anything noteworthy on the credit report, background check or other checks performed we recommend speaking directly with the tenant to see what information they are able to provide regarding the concerns. Keep in mind a bad background check or credit report does not necessarily mean a person will be a bad tenant or unfit to pay their rent. This is why an open discussion with the prospective tenant is important.
Of course, there must not be any discrimination during the screening or lease up processes. Therefore, it is important landlords comply with federal equal housing laws and follow New York State laws with regard to screening. There are a number of resources on the web for landlords and qualified legal counsel can assist with ensuring a landlord’s screening methods are appropriate, non-discriminatory, and legal.
As long as the prospective tenant has been on the Section 8 Program through Belmont, we are able to provide some previous landlord information. When a Request for Tenancy Approval (RTA) form is received, Belmont is required to send the prospective landlord the past two landlords’ contact information. Please understand, depending on the length of time the client has been on the program, previous landlord information may not be available. For example, when a client is initially coming onto the Section 8 Program, we will not have the previous landlord information. Additionally, if the client has only had one previous landlord while on the program, that will be the only information we will be able to provide. It is important to note; Belmont will not arbitrarily provide information without the RTA.
Disparate impact is defined by HUD as a violation of the Fair Housing Act when the landlord’s policy or practice looks non-discriminatory and has no intent to discriminate but leads eventually to a discriminatory effect. A landlord may treat all applicants exactly the same, but the application process results negatively against a protected class, race, national origin, color, religion, sex, familial status, or disability, resulting in a disparate impact.
Neither Belmont nor its staff are qualified to provide legal counsel. However, it is strongly suggested that a landlord seek legal counsel to ensure the practices you have in place are appropriate and do not result in a disparate impact on protected classes.
No, we don’t offer references. Belmont is not a landlord; our role is that of an affordable housing provider. Therefore, we are not in the position to offer any type of tenant reference for clients. However, please refer to the question, Can Belmont tell me who a prospective tenant’s prior landlords were in this FAQ to learn more about Belmont’s role in providing previous landlord information.