The information provided in this document is not to be interpreted as providing legal advice, but is intended to provide guidance for frequently asked questions. The landlord is strongly encouraged to seek advice from an attorney who is experienced in landlord/tenant matters.
- 1. What is the Housing Choice Voucher Program?
The Housing Choice Voucher Program (HCVP) is a federally funded, locally administered rental assistance program that helps low-income families, the elderly and the disabled afford decent, safe housing in the private market. The participant is free to choose any housing type that meets the requirements of the program. The Housing Authority of Baltimore City (HABC) receives funds from the Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to administer the (HCVP) in Baltimore City. We disperse over 18,000 housing choice vouchers throughout the City, surrounding counties, and nation.
- 2. As a landlord, how will I benefit from renting to a family with a Housing Choice Voucher?
- You will provide affordable housing to families residing in the City of Baltimore;
- You will receive regular on-time rental payments through direct deposit - Housing Assistance Payments (HAP) are paid on the 1st of each month;
- You will be afforded an opportunity to list your property using the free online listing service affordablehousing.com, which is administered by an independent company not affiliated with HABC.
- Pre-screened tenants - all families are subject to a criminal background check. However, landlords are strongly encouraged to screen tenants as they would an unassisted tenant.
- You are protected from financial loss if your tenant suffers unexpected financial hardship. Once the participant reports a change in income along with all supporting documentation, HCVP will conduct a reexamination of the household’s income. Once verified, the subsidy payment is increased to compensate for the tenant’s decrease in income.
- 3. Who can get a Housing Choice Voucher?
The program assists mostly very low-income families in the City of Baltimore. The program takes families from its waiting list, determines the amount of assistance they will receive, and issues them a Voucher to locate housing. The voucher term is for 90 days with additional time available when requested as a reasonable accommodation for a person with a disability or any other mitigating circumstances.
- 4. How does the HCVP work for a family?
Once the family is deemed eligible for assistance, the family is issued a Voucher and a Request for Tenancy Approval (RFTA). The family then searches for a unit that suits their needs and where the owner agrees to rent under the program. HCVP and the landlord will negotiate the monthly rent for the housing unit within HABC’s rent reasonableness guidelines. HCVP/HABC then pays a Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) directly to the landlord on behalf of the participating family. If applicable, the family is responsible for paying the difference between the rent charged by the landlord and the amount subsidized by the HCVP.
- 5. How do I find a family with a Housing Choice Voucher?
The Housing Authority of Baltimore City has partnered with AffordableHousing.com to provide free listing options for owners and landlords. For more information on how to list your property, please visit www.affordablehousing.com.
- 6. How is the unit size determined?
The unit size is determined by age, gender and the number of family members in the household. Landlords should verify that the unit size listed on the voucher matches the bedroom size of their unit before accepting the family. All units are subjected to HABC approval.
- 7. I have selected a tenant, what is the next step?
It is strongly recommended that the landlord screen participating families as they would any unassisted tenant. If, after screening the family, the landlord is interested in renting to the HCVP family, the owner and the tenant will complete and sign the RFTA form indicating the rent desired and responsibility for the utilities. Landlords should not use the HCVP inspection process as a punch list of items that need repair. It is expected that the unit will be ready for occupancy at the time of the HCVP inspection. HABC has provided an HQS Guidebook for your preparation and convenience which can be found on HABC’s website.
- 8. How much can I charge for rent?
Landlords determine the asking rental price for a unit; however, the rent must be reasonable compared to other units of similar size, location, quality, and type. HCVP will make a determination as to the reasonableness of the proposed rent in relation to comparable units available for lease in the private unassisted market. If the rent is not affordable because the family share would be more than 40% of the family’s monthly adjusted income, HCVP will negotiate with the owner to reduce the rent for the family so it is in compliance with HUD guidelines.
- 9. If HCVP cannot approve the rent amount requested, can the tenant pay the difference?
The requested contract rent must be approved by the HABC. Families may not pay a rent share greater that the amount determined by the HABC. Side deals between the landlord and family are illegal and could result in the family being terminated and the landlord disbarred, suspended or subject to a limited denial of participation.
- 10. Does HCVP pay security deposits?
Effective August 7, 2023, HABC began offering security deposit assistance to eligible HCV families that lease within Baltimore City’s jurisdiction. The Security Deposit Assistance Program is a one-time only benefit for eligible households. Payment is provided from HABC directly to the landlord within approximately 60 days after the lease up. Security Deposits must be returned to the family within 45 days after moving out.
- 11. How much rent does the tenant pay?
The amount of rent paid by HCVP families is determined by a number of factors. Typically, tenants pay 30% of their adjusted income towards the rent. The Adjusted Income is the household’s gross income minus all HUD approved deductions.
- 12. Am I required to register my rental property with Baltimore City?
All non-owner-occupied properties in Baltimore City, including one and two-family dwellings, multi-family dwellings (3 or more units), vacant buildings, and vacant lots are required to be registered each year with Baltimore City. HABC will confirm the property is registered at the time of move in. The registration period is January through December and property registration fees must be paid every year for the property to be considered registered.
In addition to the registration requirement, all non-owner-occupied properties in Baltimore City that are rental properties must be licensed to operate as a rental. The landlord must meet certain requirements, outside of HABC, to obtain a license. For more information, please visit Baltimore City’s Department of Housing & Community Development at https://dhcd.baltimorecity.gov
- 13. When will I get paid?
After the unit has been inspected and approved and the rent agreed upon, a HAP Contract will be signed. This contract, which is executed between HABC and the landlord, explains the responsibilities of each party under the program rules. The contract will also indicate how much rent the participant is responsible for paying and how much rent will be paid by the HABC.
Once the HAP contract is executed, HABC begins processing payments to the landlord.
Payments are disbursed monthly, with the primary check run for the 1st of the month distribution. Landlords participating in the program are required to receive rental payments by direct deposit.
- 14. What if my tenant does not pay their portion of the rent?
If a tenant does not pay their portion of the rent, it is the landlord’s obligation to dispute the issue in District Court by filing a failure to pay rent complaint. If the landlord receives a judgment, it should be forwarded to HCVP where it will be verified for accuracy. Once a judgment is verified and the tenant has not satisfied the judgment, HABC may start the process of terminating the participant from the HCVP. If the participant requests an informal hearing to dispute their termination from the HCVP, HCVP will notify both parties of the day, date and time of the informal hearing.
- 15. When can I request an increase in the contract rent?
Landlords can only request one rent increase in a 12-month period.
Landlords are required to notify the HABC and make the request within at least 60 days before any change in HAP is scheduled to go into effect. Any requested change in rent is subject to rent reasonableness requirements. HABC has to approve all rent increases before it goes into effect. Any approved increase will become effective no sooner than 60 days after the owner’s request is received.
Units that are abated at the time of the request due to failed Housing Quality Standards (HQS) are not eligible for a rent increase until the unit passes inspection. All requests for an increase in the contract rent must be made by submitting the Rent Increase Request Form electronically from our website.
- 16. How do I change my address and/or telephone number?
Landlords can change their address and/or telephone number by completing the Change of Address Form and submitting it to the Program Integrity Unit at firstname.lastname@example.org
- 17. What if the tenant damages my unit?
Damages to the unit are between the tenant and landlord. However, as a part of HABC Landlord Incentive Program, landlord may be able to recoup funds from HABC (less the security deposit) for damages caused by the tenant. HABC anticipates this initiative will be available in January 2024. The landlord should conduct periodic inspections of the unit to ensure the family is maintaining the unit.
- 18. Can I evict a HCVP participant?
Yes, Landlords must perform evictions in accordance with state and local laws.
- 19. What should I do if my tenant vacates the unit and leaves their belongings in my property?
The landlord should seek legal advice on how to proceed and notify HABC. If the tenant has moved from the unit and left behind their belongings, you must pursue legal action to have the items removed. HABC is prohibited from issuing a HAP if the participant vacates the unit without notice or HABC authorization. The landlord should conduct periodic inspections of the unit to ensure the family continues to reside in the unit.
- 20. What should I do if my tenant moves out of the unit without notice?
The landlord should seek legal advice on how to proceed and notify HABC. If the tenant fails to return the keys to the unit, you must pursue legal action to regain possession. HABC is prohibited from issuing a HAP if the participant vacates the unit without notice or HABC authorization. The landlord should conduct periodic inspections of the unit to ensure the family continues to reside in the unit.
- 21. What are the Inspectors looking for when conducting HQS inspections?
When an inspection is scheduled, the unit is assumed to be ready for occupancy. The HCVP Inspector is required to verify that the unit meets HQS. HABC has provided an HQS Guidebook for your preparation and convenience which can be found on HABC’s website.
- 22. What should I do if my tenant does not allow me access into the unit to repair HQS deficiencies?
The landlord should notify HABC, review and enforce the lease and/or seek legal advice on how to proceed. The tenant’s failure to allow the landlord access to the assisted unit to make HQS repairs is a violation of family obligations and may result in the participant being referred for termination in the HCV Program. Additionally, the landlord should treat a HCVP tenant just like he would an unassisted tenant.
- 23. How often are units inspected?
HCVP will inspect all units under contract in accordance with housing quality standards on a 2-year cycle. HABC reserves the right to set and modify the inspection schedule for each unit. Special inspections may be scheduled at any time at the request of the tenant, landlord or at HABC’s discretion.
- 24. What is a Payment Abatement?
When it has been determined that a unit on the program fails to meet housing quality standards, the owner will be responsible for completing the necessary repair(s) in the time period specified by HABC. If the repairs are not completed within the time period specified, the assistance payment to the owner will be abated (Housing Assistance Payments suspended) and recover overpayments for the time the unit did not comply with HQS. The owner must notify HABC when violations have been corrected to schedule a new inspection date. Upon passing, the HAP will be reinstated from the date the unit passes inspection. HABC will not issue retroactive payments during the time the unit did not comply with HQS.
- 25. I recently purchased or sold a property that has an active HCVP HAP contract. What should I do?
If you have purchased or sold a property where a HCVP participant is residing, you should contact the HCVP Program Integrity Unit. HCVP’s page on www.habc.org lists the documents required to begin the change of ownership process. Housing assistance payments will stop temporarily until the transfer has been completed.