Skip to Content
Accessibility Assistance
County of Sonoma Seal
County of Sonoma Community Development Commission
Sonoma County Home County of Sonoma Site Map Contact CDC Search
 
     

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT SECTION 8 HOUSING

I. General Information about the Section 8 Program

What is Section 8?
How to Apply
What does the Section 8 Program do?
Who does the Section 8 Program assist?
How does the Section 8 Program work?
What is the step-by-step procedure for the Section 8 Program?
How much does the tenant pay, and how much does the Housing Authority pay?

II. General Questions about Housing Quality Standards

What are Housing Quality Standards?
Are housing inspections required?
How often are housing inspections conducted?

III. Information for Section 8 Participants Regarding Eligibility:

INCOME AND RENT:
How is income verified?
How much will I pay?
When are changes reported?
What deductions are allowed?
Where are Vouchers accepted?

ANNUAL REEXAMINATION:
Why are annual reexaminations necessary?
How can I prepare for the reexamination?
What happens during this review?
What are my obligations?

TERMINATION OF ASSISTANCE:
Can I lose my rental assistance?
What is considered drug-related or violent criminal activity?
When can I move?

IV. Questions for Participants Regarding Housing Quality Standards

When, how and to whom should maintenance problems be reported?
As a tenant, what are my responsibilities to the unit?

V. Questions for Participants Regarding Moving and Renting a Unit

What do I do if I want to move and use my rental assistance in another unit?
Can I have more than one copy of the Request for Assisted Tenancy (RFAT) form?
Does the Housing Authority assist with Security Deposit funds?

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

I. General Information about the Section 8 Program

What is Section 8?
Section 8 is the name for many of HUD’s Rental Assistance programs. The term “Section 8” is used because the federal law, which created the program, is Section 8 of the Housing and Community Development Act of 1974.

Return to top of page

How to Apply
There is currently a waiting list for rental assistance. To apply for the Sonoma County Housing Authority’s Housing Choice Voucher (Section 8) Waiting List click here: Application
Applicants will be required to enter all information requested in regard to their living situation, household composition, income, and any preferences for which they qualify.

Return to top of page

What does the Section 8 Program do?
The Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program assists low-income individuals and families with their rental payments. Under the Section 8 Program, property owners retain the same rights and responsibilities that they have under California State law. They use their own rental agreement or lease and decide what the term of tenancy will be. The tenant has the same obligations as any tenant under State law. SCHA’s subsidy does not change the normal relationship of property owners or managers to tenants. The main difference is that each month the property owner will receive two payments for the tenant’s rent – one from the tenant, which is about 30% of his or her income, and the balance from the SCHA.

Return to top of page

Who does the Section 8 program assist?
Participant families include seniors, persons with disabilities, families with young children, and working families who do not earn enough to keep pace with rising rental housing costs.

Return to top of page

How does the Section 8 Program work?
In the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program, participants have a limited time to find suitable housing offered by a private owner using a Voucher issued by the Housing Authority (HA). Any housing selected must meet local codes and federal standards called Housing Quality Standards (HQS).
Housing Choice Vouchers give a family flexibility to pay more than 30 percent of their income for rent and utilities if they desire. However, families who are new admissions or move to a new unit cannot pay more than 40 percent of their income when they move in.
The subsidy is calculated by using the lower of the Voucher Payment Standard or the gross rent minus the total tenant payment.
All Voucher units must meet a rent reasonableness test, i.e., the rents cannot be higher than similar units in the area. This test is performed on each unit leased and when an owner requests a rent increase.
In the Section 8 Program, families pay their share of the rent directly to the property owner or manager.

Return to top of page

What is the step-by-step procedure for the Section 8 Program?

  • The applicant applies for Section 8 when the waiting list is open.
  • The applicant’s name comes to the top of the waiting list.
  • The Housing Authority (HA) determines if the applicant is eligible for the program.
  • The applicant is issued a Voucher and a Request For Tenancy Approval (RTA) form.
  • The voucher holder has 90 days to locate suitable housing within the area.
  • The voucher holder finds a unit on the private market to rent.
  • The property owner/manager of the unit screens the applicant for suitability as tenant (The HA does not screen for tenant suitability.)
  • The property owner/manager and the voucher holder complete the RTA form and return it to the HA.
  • The HA inspects the unit according to Housing Quality Standards.
  • The HA passes and approves the unit or notes needed repair items.
  • The HA negotiates rent based on Rent Reasonableness.
  • The HA enters into a contract with the property owner/manager of the unit.
  • The owner and tenant sign the property owner/manager’s Rental Agreement or Lease.
  • The HA receives a copy of rental agreement between the tenant and property owner/manager.
  • The HA inspects the unit annually.
  • The HA reviews tenant eligibility annually.

Return to top of page

How much does the tenant pay, and how much does the Housing Authority pay?
The tenant pays an amount that is between 30% and 40% of their monthly income as their portion of the rent. The Housing Authority pays the balance to the property owner in the form of a Housing Assistance Payment (HAP). In some cases, the tenant may pay more than 30% of their income.

Return to top of page

II. General Questions about Housing Quality Standards

What are Housing Quality Standards?
Housing Quality Standards (HQS) are the HUD minimum quality standards for housing assisted under the Section 8 Rental Assistance program. HQS have been developed for program use nationwide and help to insure that your home will be safe, healthy and comfortable. For specifics about HQS, please go to: A Good Place to Live.

Return to top of page

Are housing inspections required?
Yes. Inspections will be completed before a unit can begin on the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program and annually. For the annual inspection, the tenant will receive advanced notification of their scheduled inspection.

Return to top of page

How often are housing inspections conducted?
Before any family can be assisted by the Sonoma County Housing Authority, the proposed unit must pass an inspection to assure that Housing Quality Standards are met. After the initial inspection, the Housing Authority must inspect the unit at least annually.

Return to top of page

III. Information for Section 8 Participants Regarding Eligibility:

INCOME AND RENT:

How is income verified?
All income must be verified with documentation. The HA periodically reviews employment records with EDD and HUD's Enterprise Income Verification System. If unreported income is found, this can result in termination of assistance.

Return to top of page

How much will I pay?
Rent is calculated according to federal regulations. It must be recalculated any time income or family size changes. The HA uses a formula to calculate the family’s portion of the rent. The tenant’s portion will be 30% of the monthly adjusted income. This amount is then subtracted from the lower of the payment standard or the gross rent to determine the subsidy amount paid by the HA to the owner.
The “payment standard” is a HUD approved amount by bedroom size, based on the Fair Market Rents for the area. The bedroom size for the family, based on the HA’s “subsidy standard” is two persons per bedroom, except that the head of household will not be forced to share a bedroom with a minor child, or when there is medical justification.
Even if the family selects a larger unit, the Housing Authority will still base the subsidy in accordance with the “subsidy standard,” and the family will be required to pay the difference.
“Tenant Rent” is the difference between the contract rent (rent to owner) and the subsidy.

Return to top of page

When are changes reported?
Any change in income or family composition must be reported to the HA within 14 days. Income change forms are available at the Housing Authority's reception desk at 1440 Guerneville Road, Santa Rosa.

Return to top of page

What deductions are allowed?

  • $480 for each member of the family residing in the household (other than the head of the household or spouse) who is under 18 years of age or is disabled or a full-time student any age.
  • $400 for any elderly family (over 62 or disabled).
  • Medical expenses in excess of three percent of annual family income of any elderly or disabled family.
  • Reasonable child care expenses necessary to enable another family member to be employed or to further his or her education.

Return to top of page

Where are Vouchers accepted?
You may use your Housing Choice Voucher anywhere in the USA where there is a HA to administer the Section 8 program. Ask your caseworker for information.
Wherever you choose to live, the housing must pass a Housing Quality Standards (HQS) inspection. It must also pass a rent reasonableness test to assure that the rent charged is fair.
If a property owner or manager has housing which qualifies and he or she is willing to rent it under the Section 8 Program, a rental agreement or lease and Housing Assistance Payment contract must be signed.
The HA maintains a list of units whose owners will accept a Section 8 Voucher.

Return to top of page

ANNUAL REEXAMINATION:

Why are annual reexaminations necessary?
The HA is required by federal regulations to review each Voucher participant’s income and family size at least once a year. This is done to assure that (1) the right amount of rent is being paid based on actual income and (2) the home is the right size for the family.

Return to top of page

How can I prepare for the reexamination?
For your reexamination and annual inspection:

  • Be on time for your appointment.
  • Be sure you have all the information requested in your reexamination letter.

Return to top of page

What happens during this review?
The HA will notify each family of their reexamination one to two months before the anniversary of their initial move-in date. HA staff members will schedule a time to conduct the interview. At the interview, the HA caseworker will check to see that all information provided about income and family size is correct.
Sometime during the year the HA will also schedule an inspection of each home to be sure that it still meets basic Housing Quality Standards. The inspection is a good time for you to inform the HA of any concerns you may have about the condition of your home or any maintenance problems you are having.

Return to top of page

What are my obligations?
All participants are responsible for meeting their family obligations, which include:

  • Reporting all money coming into the household, changes in family members and related information as required.
  • Permitting inspection of the housing unit by the HA after reasonable notice.
  • Giving the HA and the owner at least 30 days written notice if you intend to move.
  • Not subletting or leasing any part of the unit.
  • Not using illegal or controlled substances.
  • Not being involved in drug-related or violent criminal activities.
  • Not allowing anyone who is not a member of your household to use your address to receive mail, register vehicles, etc.
  • Not violating the terms of your lease

Return to top of page

TERMINATION OF ASSISTANCE:

Can I lose my rental assistance?
There are a number of ways families can lose their rental assistance. Here is a partial list of typical reasons that are usually sufficient to cause the HA to stop rental assistance to a family:

  • Vacating the housing unit without proper notice.
  • Allowing unauthorized persons to live in the housing unit or use it as a mailing address.
  • Not complying with the terms of the Section 8 Voucher Program family responsibilities.
  • Failing to report all changes in income or provide information required by the HA for reexamination of the family’s continued eligibility for rental assistance.
  • Owing money to any Public or Indian Housing Authority.
  • Involvement in drug-related or violent criminal activities.
  • Serious or repeated lease violations.
  • Causing significant damage to the unit.

Return to top of page

What is considered drug-related or violent criminal activity?
Drug-related crime and violent crime are problems everywhere across the country. Be sure that you and members of your family are not involved. Federal regulations provide for termination of assistance to those who participate in these activities. The regulations also state that a person does not have to have been arrested or convicted in order for their assistance to be terminated.

Return to top of page

When can I move?
There are some specific rules about moving out of housing. Here are some general guidelines for moving out the proper way. (Remember that the property owner or manager may have other requirements):

  • Give at least 30 days written notice.
  • Give our HA HQS-Inspector a copy of the notice to your property owner or manager. (If you receive a 30 day notice to move from your property owner or manager, your file will be referred to the Occupancy Specialist Supervisor for review.)
  • Contact your Occupancy Specialist to determine if your income and family composition will need to be updated.
  • Meet with your Occupancy Specialist to obtain a Voucher and a Request for Tenancy Approval form for the new owner.
  • Make sure all rent due has been paid.
  • Clean the unit thoroughly before moving, including major appliances and carpet.

Return to top of page

IV. Questions for Participants Regarding Housing Quality Standards

When, how and to whom should maintenance problems be reported?
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 the Housing Authority in writing for possible action.

Return to top of page

As a tenant, what are my responsibilities to the unit?
Practice good housekeeping habits in your home. Keep the home in a clean, safe and orderly condition. Let the property manager or owner know as soon as possible when maintenance or repair work is needed.

Return to top of page

V. Questions for Participants Regarding Moving and Renting a Unit

What do I do if I want to move and use my rental assistance in another unit?
The Housing Authority must receive a copy of the notice you have given your property owner/manager stating your intention to vacate the unit. You will be required to schedule an appointment with the eligibility staff. After that appointment, you will attend a briefing and receive your “Mover” Voucher, Briefing Packet and Request for Tenancy Approval (RTA) form.

Return to top of page

Can I have more than one copy of the Request for Tenancy Approval (RTA) form?
No. Only one form is allowed per family at one time.

Return to top of page

Does the Housing Authority assist with Security Deposit funds?
No. The tenant is responsible for securing all of the security deposit.

Return to top of page