News about the SHA Housing Choice Voucher program · Published quarterly for landlords & service providers
Please use our landlord survey
units with us, some neighborhoods are underrepre-
to tell us what you think
sented in the for-rent lists we publish and in housing
the mission of Seattle Housing Authority is voucher-holders. We want to learn whether percep-
“To enhance the Seattle community by creating and tions of the Housing Choice Voucher program and its
sustaining decent, safe and affordable living environ- participating tenants may play a role in a landlord’s
ments that foster stability and self-sufficiency for people decision whether or not to advertise with us. With
with low incomes.” that in mind, we’ve created an online survey, and we
We need and depend upon private landlords to invite you to respond to it.
provide such housing for participants in our Housing The survey is posted online and will remain there
Choice Voucher program. for several months. Please take a few minutes to
Studies have shown that the most stable com- complete it.
munities, the most stable neighborhoods, are those Do you have colleagues who own rental properties
that are most diverse. In particular, this means that but who are not presently renting to voucher-holders?
low-income families are not concentrated in any If so, please encourage them to take the survey, too.
given neighborhood. A stable and healthy neighbor- We’d like to hear their impressions of the program,
hood will have a mix of income levels and of hous- and to learn why they may not be participating.
ing—privately-owned homes as well as market-rate The survey can be found at
and affordable rental housing. This is the model www.surveymonkey.com/s/HCVLandlordSurvey
Seattle Housing Authority has followed and created in You can also link to the survey from our website,
redeveloping the NewHolly, Rainier Vista, and High www.seattlehousing.org.
Point communities, and which we’re following now We will look to the completed surveys to help
in developing Lake City Village and in our plans to shape policy and procedures changes, and to improve
redevelop Yesler Terrace. our delivery of services to landlords and tenants alike.
Our Housing Choice Voucher program gives every We will summarize and write up your responses in
family that receives a voucher the ability to rent a the next issue of The Bulletin.
privately-owned market-rate home in whichever Seat- If you have questions about the survey, please con-
tle neighborhood they choose. Despite this flexibility, tact Mike Jung, owner liaison, at (206) 239-1672 or via
many of our participating families remain in higher e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
poverty areas even after they receive a voucher. * * *
Although we encourage landlords who own rental i will be reading with keen interest your
properties in all neighborhoods to list their vacant responses to the survey. I always like hearing from
landlords, and I’m especially appreciative of sugges-
tions for how we might improve our administration
In this issue of the voucher program. If I may answer any ques-
We’ve devised a survey of our landlords, and would tions, please don’t hesitate to be in touch.
appreciate your taking a few minutes to fill it out 1
Landlord workshops resume Feb. 15; update on direct
deposit of Housing Assistance Payments 2
Fair Housing: Steer clear of holiday troubles 3
Inspectors’ Corner: Documenting your lease enforcement director of housing advocacy
actions helps us help you 4 & rental assistance programs
Next Landlord Workshop coming February 15;
response to direct deposit of HAP checks entirely positive
Landlord Workshops expand topics, will
be conducted in new venues citywide
We’re always looking for new landlords to expand
Seattle Housing has been offering free Housing Choice the range of housing available to voucher-assisted fami-
Voucher workshops for landlords for many years now. lies. If you know of colleagues who don’t currently rent
These workshops are held the third Tuesday of most to voucher-assisted tenants, please suggest that they
months from 5:30 to 7:00 pm. Our next workshop take a few hours to attend one of our workshops to find
will be Tuesday evening, February 15 at a location to out more about how partnering with Seattle Housing
be announced—possibly at the Beacon Hill branch can reduce vacancy loss and provide stable cash flow to
of the Seattle Public Library. (We’ll confirm this in an their business.
enclosure with the February HAP checks or payment If you would like to receive e-mail updates about
advices.) upcoming workshop topics and locations, please e-mail
Over 100 people attended these workshops during email@example.com.
2010, and we are looking forward to reaching even
more landlords in 2011.
Direct deposit of HAP checks
We’ve covered many topics over years, including
overviews of the Housing Choice Voucher program, Last spring Seattle Housing began the process of con-
exploration of the Housing Quality Standards inspec- verting our handling of monthly HousingAssistance
tions, how to work with Seattle Housing to resolve Payment checks to you, our landlords. While we pride
conflicts with tenants, and ways to find tenants in a ourselves on mailing these out like clockwork, we’re
tough rental market. excited about this new initiative, which allows us to
We’ve invited investigators for the City of Seattle deposit payments directly into your bank account.
Office of Civil Rights to discuss Fair Housing issues and Over the past several months, we invited each of you
how to manage your business in a way that minimizes to sign up for direct deposit.
allegations of discrimination. So far, more than 550 landlords, or more than one-
Representatives from Solid Ground, a local non- quarter of all currently participating landlords, have
profit that provides assistance to low-income renters completed the paperwork, and their HAP payments
and homeowners who are struggling in this economy, are now deposited directly. They’re mailed a remittance
discussed ways to deal with tenants struggling to stay advice about every HAP payment.
current on their rent and utility bills. Extensive feedback from participating landlords
For the past three years we have also partnered with has confirmed that the vast majority of landlords are
the Seattle Neighborhood Group to offer a full-day receiving their HAPs by the second of the month, or
training for landlords who work with (or are interested possibly a day or two later if the second falls on a week-
in working with) voucher-assisted tenants. end or holiday. We believe this corresponds very well to
We’ve also been holding workshops in new locations when landlords would have access to their money after
across the city. We have a suitable facility at our Porch- cashing our check—without the hassle of having to go
light Building, in Ballard, but it’s not convenient for to the bank and the risk of having checks lost or stolen.
all landlords. We recently held workshops at the New Our plan is to go paperless, eventually, with all
Holly branch of the Seattle Public Library and at Seattle landlords receiving HAPs by direct deposit and with
Housing’s maintenance facility on MLK Jr. Blvd. We’ll payment advices (and The Bulletin) sent electronically.
be holding workshops in additional locations around This move to direct deposit is fueled by our desire to
the city in 2011. provide better and faster service to you and to reduce
Those of you who take our landlord survey [see p. 1] our costs.
will be able to provide feedback on our workshops. We If you have questions about this opportunity, or if
want your suggestions regarding more convenient times you’d like to receive an invitation, please contact Mike
and places for workshops, and we’d like to learn what Jung, owner liaison, at (206) 239-1672 or via e-mail to
additional topics you’d like us to cover. firstname.lastname@example.org.
Chistmas and other holiday decorations and celebrations
are fine; just stay away from overtly religious symbols.
Keeping clear of Fair Housing laws
Q :: During the holiday time, we like to put up Christ- parties
mas decorations. Some of the residents have com- Holiday parties are a common occurrence in the
plained, saying this violates their religious rights. Is it workplace. Similarly, a housing provider may host a
okay for us to put up our tree or display? holiday party for the residents. And Santa Claus can pay
Yes. At the holiday time of year, many housing a visit.
providers put up displays in
use of common rooms
common areas. For public Many apartment buildings
housing funded by HUD, have a common room that
the Department’s policy is can be reserved by residents
not to discriminate against for such private activities as
people of faith by barring parties or book discussions. 3
the use of religious symbols In such a case, residents seek-
to celebrate faith-based
ing to hold a Bible study or
events. HUD also notes that other private religious activ-
religious displays as well as ity may not be discriminated
non-religious symbols are against.
permissible in common
areas of public housing sites,
In considering issues
and the same opportunity
around holidays and religion,
must be made available to
housing providers must avoid
people of all religious faiths.
expressing religious prefer-
Thus, during the Christ-
ences or imposing religious
mas and Hanukkah seasons,
requirements. For example, it
housing providers may display a Christmas tree (or
would violate the Fair Housing Act to require tenants
trees) and a Hanukkah Menorah, along with other
to decorate their homes for Christmas.
nonreligious seasonal decorations. Similarly, for ex-
ample, during Easter, it is perfectly fine to display Eas- advertising
ter bunnies, baskets and colored eggs. However, such Advertisements containing such descriptions of
overtly religious symbols as nativity scenes should not properties as “rental community with chapel” or “ko-
be displayed. sher meals available” or that mention, say, “services on
premises,” do not on their face state a preference for
applicants, and are not violations of fair housing laws.
HUD guidance states that “The use of secularized
Advertisements that use the legal name of an entity
terms or symbols relating to religious holidays, such
that contains a religious reference (for example,
as Santa Claus, Easter Bunny or St. Valentine’s Day
Roselawn Catholic Home), or those that contain a
images, or phrases such as ‘Merry Christmas,’ ‘Happy
religious symbol such as the Star of David, may imply
Easter,’ or the like, does not constitute a violation of
that management has a preference for residents of a
the [federal Fair Housing] Act.”
particular religion – which isn’t allowed under Fair
what about private decorations on Housing laws. However, if such an advertisement
includes a disclaimer, it will not violate the laws.
According to an example on the website of the U.S. (For example,“This facility does not discriminate on
Department of Justice,“If people are permitted to put the basis of age, marital status, race, color, religion,
decorations on their apartment doors, religious indi- national origin, sex, sexual preference, handicap or
viduals should be able to put religious items or decora- familial status.”) —c ourtesy king c ount y
tions on their doors, such as a…mezuzah or a cross.” office of civil rights
Seattle Housing Choice
AUTHORITY Voucher Program
Why make me pick up a tenant’s broken bottles? Porchlight Building
Assigning responsibility for damages to a rental unit 907 NW Ballard Way, Suite 200
can be a real headache. Washington landlord/tenant Seattle WA 98107–4637
law uses “normal wear and tear” as the threshold for
holding tenants accountable. Does your former tenant Fax 206.239.1770
need to replace a 15-year-old carpet when they move www.seattlehousing.org
out? No. But if the carpet is only one year old and has
been damaged beyond cleaning, the tenant may well
To speak with a customer service agent about any
Housing Choice Voucher program issue,
The courts have mechanisms to resolve disputes call 239.1728 and press ‘0’
between landlords and tenants about who is respon-
4 sible for what. Seattle Housing has no legal authority To L I S T AVA I L A B L e u N I T S
Call 239.1663 or go to
to make such a determination, so even though your
lease may spell out clearly that the tenant is respon- and click on ‘Rental Listings’ under the ‘Landlords’ menu
sible for maintaining the yard around your rental
o W N e r I N F o r M AT I o N
house, if the yard has broken bottles or other hazards
Note: Changes must be submitted in writing
when we conduct an annual inspection, we’re going
Fax 239.1770, attention Mike Jung
to ask you to take care of the problem. Questions? Call Mike at 239.1672
Does this mean that we require owners to assume
H o u S I N g C H o I C e V o u C H e r P r o g r A M M A N Ag e r
responsibility for tenant-caused problems? Not at all.
Barbara Strayer 239.1620
What our Administrative Plan says is,
If the owner believes the tenant is responsible for…damages to oWNer LIAISoN
the unit…beyond normal wear and tear, the owner must enforce Mike Jung 239.1672
the lease terms to hold the tenant responsible for restoring HQS,
including paying for necessary repairs. If…the owner provides o CC u PA N C y S u P e r V I S o r S
SHA with documentation of the lease violations and the owner’s ‘Aa’ through ‘Malerba’ 239.1619
own steps to enforce the lease, SHA may terminate assistance to ‘Malf’ through ‘Zz’ 239.1636
the family for failure to satisfy a family obligation under the pro- Mod Rehab & Project-based 239.1649
gram. —“Owner/Family Responsibility for HQS” [24 CFR 982.404, 982.54(d)(14)]
NeW MoVe-IN TeAM
So by copying us on lease enforcement notices, you
Status of tenancy approvals—contracts and leases
can help us hold our participating families account-
‘Aa’ through ‘ Lara’ 239.1676
able, and place the focus of attention on your tenant ‘Larb’ through ‘Zz’ 239.1635
rather than on you. New move-in team supervisor 239.1621
Some items that might fall in this category include New move-ins fax number 239.1760
putting batteries in smoke detectors, restoring the unit INSPeCTIoNS
to a sanitary state, and replacing broken windows. Annual inspections & reinspections 239.1645
New move-in inspections—
Whatever the issue, the critical piece is documen- ‘Aa’ through ‘Lara’ 239.1676
‘Larb’ through ‘Zz’ 239.1635
tation. Without documentation of your efforts to Judy Huertas, HQS supervisor 239.1621
enforce your lease, we have no choice but to hold you
responsible for making repairs—and this can lead H o u S I N g q uA L I T y S TA N D A r D S I N S P e C To r S
to abatement of the Housing Assistance Payments. Bill Francis 721.1457, ext 10
Paul Gimmi 239.1632
To pass inspection, then, you may have to correct Sue Nigg 239.1639
tenant-caused damage yourself or at your cost (and Jonathan Shibuya 239.1616
Jason Shirley 239.1646
bill the tenant for the work). Nancy Shutes 770.6880
—nancy shutes Lora Wait-Hoy 721.1457, ext 11