How to keep your Housing Choice Voucher
Housing Choice Vouchers are meant to help you secure long-term affordable housing. As a tenant within the program, you have responsibilities to fulfill to keep your voucher current. But if you follow the program rules and keep your paperwork updated, you can rely on the HCV program for as long as you need. Here’s what you need to do every year to keep your voucher.
- Prepare to recertify.
Every year, Memphis Housing Authority will contact you to recertify your voucher. Usually, we’ll connect with you about 120 days before your voucher expires for the year. During the recertification process, we’ll review your income and your family makeup. It’s important to be honest about this – we use the information to determine how much money you will pay for rent and how much MHA will cover. If your income decreases, or if your household size increases, you might reduce the amount you have to pay next year. But, you could also have a small increase depending on your circumstance.
In addition to sharing this information with your case manager, you’ll also need to provide documentation to back up your claims. For example, if you had a baby, you will need to provide the child’s birth certificate and other information. You will need several of your recent pay stubs to verify your income. After you talk with your case manager about your situation, they can tell you exactly what paperwork you need.
Because you’ll need time to get your paperwork together, it’s important to begin gathering your income and family makeup information, as soon as you receive the notice about your upcoming recertification. As mentioned earlier, the notice will be sent to you about 120 days in advance, which should give you plenty of time to get the information and documents you need put together.
- Be a good tenant.
This may seem silly to say, but one of the important things to do while in the HCV program is to be a good tenant. In the HCV program, you can choose where you live, who you rent from and what type of house you like. You have the freedom to make those choices, but also the responsibility to maintain the unit while you live there. You’re expected to keep your unit clean, pay your utility bills, report any issues to your landlord as soon as you notice them and pay your rent on time. You should also follow the guidelines that are set by your landlord – like pet and smoking policies. If you do these things, you’re well on your way to keeping your voucher.
- Schedule your yearly inspection.
Every two years, MHA will send out an inspector to make sure your unit complies with the HCV standards. We have to look for things like operational smoke detectors, potential fall hazards, neglect to the property on behalf of the landlord, and other things that might make the unit uninhabitable. Anything the inspector finds in violation will be assessed. If the damages are tenant-caused, you will be required to repair them. If they are caused by landlord negligence, your landlord will be required to resolve them within 30 days. If they don’t, we’ll issue you a voucher to find a new unit.
What’s important for you to know is that the inspector is an advocate for you. Don’t be afraid to allow the inspector to check out the property thoroughly. You want to know if there are hazards in your home – and if your landlord won’t fix them, we will issue you a voucher to move. It’s also important to remember that part of being in the HCV program is doing your part to take care of the unit. If you’re regularly cleaning, following proper plumbing recommendations, removing waste and paying your utilities, you probably won’t have any repairs to make as a result of the inspection.
- Communicate if your income decreases.
We know that maintaining meaningful work can be challenging. Sometimes you lose a job and it takes a little while to find a new one. Or, you need to change jobs to accommodate other factors in your life, and that job change comes with a pay cut. If that happens, reach out to your case manager immediately. We can adjust your rent portion, if you can provide acceptable documentation of the income changes. You must keep making your rent payments or you could be evicted. Please let us know as soon as possible if you have a change in income so we can help you stay current on your payments.