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Inspectors corner - Seattle Housing Authority

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					                       News about the SHA Housing Choice Voucher program · Published quarterly for landlords & service providers
                                                                                                   www.seattlehousing.org


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




                                                                                                                              The Bulletin
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
                                                                                                                                 1
Choice Voucher program.                                       for several months. Please take a few minutes to
   Studies have shown that the most stable com-               complete it.




                                                                                                                              December 2010
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 mjung@seattlehousing.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
                                                                               Regards
  Landlord workshops resume Feb. 15; update on direct
  deposit of Housing Assistance Payments 2
  Fair Housing: Steer clear of holiday troubles 3
                                                                               Lisa Wolters
  Inspectors’ Corner: Documenting your lease enforcement                       director of housing advocacy
  actions helps us help you 4                                                  & rental assistance programs
                                                                               (206) 239-1523
                                                                             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
The Bulletin




                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           mjung@seattlehousing.org.
  2
                2010, and we are looking forward to reaching even
                more landlords in 2011.
                                                                             Direct deposit of HAP checks
December 2010




                   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.                    mjung@seattlehousing.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




                                                                                                                         The Bulletin
                                                                                       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




                                                                                                                         December 2010
                                                                                       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
                                                                                       no preferences
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
holiday references
                                                              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
hallway doors?
                                                              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
                                                                                               HOUSING
                                                                                               AUTHORITY        Voucher Program
                Inspectors’ corner
                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
                                                                                                   E-mail porchlight.info@seattlehousing.org
                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
The Bulletin




                out? No. But if the carpet is only one year old and has
                                                                                                 geNerAL queSTIoNS
                been damaged beyond cleaning, the tenant may well
                                                                                                   To speak with a customer service agent about any
                be responsible.
                                                                                                   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
                                                                                                   www.seattlehousing.org
December 2010




                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

				
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