An Owner s Guide to The Chicago Housing Choice Voucher by guy21

VIEWS: 473 PAGES: 14

									   An Owner’s Guide to
   The Chicago Housing Choice Voucher Program

  An Award-Winning Initiative that Creates Affordable
 Housing for Chicago’s Families and Provides Financial
           Benefits to Property Owners and Managers

CHAC is an affiliate of Quadel Consulting Corporation in a unique partnership with the
Chicago Housing Authority to administer the Chicago Housing Choice Voucher Program
1   Introduction

     A Good Choice for Property Owners
     The Housing Choice Voucher Program is a federal rental assistance
     program that helps low- and moderate-income families rent housing
     on the private market, by paying a share of the family’s rent each
     month directly to the property owner. Currently, more than 15,000
     owners have discovered the benefits of participating in Chicago’s
     voucher program. The voucher program offers property owners and

     •Steady Cash Flow
     •An Additional Pool of Applicants
     •Free Property Listings
     •Free Property Inspections
     •Grants for Accessibility Modifications
     •Workshops and Property Management Training
     •Special Events
     •Free Employment Services

     Start Reaping the Benefits
     More than 35,000 families are using vouchers in Chicago. Some have full-time jobs, some are parents
     with children, some are seniors and some are persons with disabilities. Each month, hundreds of families
                                            are added to the program and thousands more are moving.

                                            So the next time you have a house, apartment or condominium
                                            for rent, start by listing your property free of charge on CHAC’s
                                            web site at You should also advertise available
                                            properties in the way that you usually advertise them. Just like
                                            market rate tenants, voucher families will contact you directly to
                                            view the unit. If a family with a voucher passes your application
                                            and screening process, CHAC will call you to schedule an
                                            inspection. The rest of the process will take care of itself.

    A good choice: of applicants
            an additional pool
                                                                                           Introduction 2

Rights and Responsibilities
Administration. In Chicago, the Housing Choice Voucher Program is administered by CHAC, Inc.,
                                     a private company under contract with the Chicago Housing
                                     Authority (CHA). As administrator, CHAC has three broad
                                     responsibilities: (1) determine whether families are eligible for
                                     the voucher program based on income; (2) inspect units to
                                     ensure that they meet federal standards; and (3) pay the pro-
                                     gram’s portion of the rent each month. CHAC does NOT
                                     assist owners with property management decisions.

                                          Participating Property Owners. Owners who lease to tenants
                                          with vouchers have the same rights and responsibilities as they
                                          do with market rate tenants. Owners are responsible for
                                          screening all tenants, collecting a security deposit, collecting
rent, enforcing the terms of their lease and evicting tenants who violate the lease.

Participating Families. Families must meet income guidelines in order to qualify for a housing sub-
sidy under the voucher program. In addition to informing CHAC of any change in their income or
family composition, voucher program participants’ responsibili-
ties include: complying with the terms of the lease, paying the
rent on time and keeping the unit in good condition.

                                           A good housing
                         the opportunity to create affordable
3   The Leasing Process

    5   Five Steps to Steady Cash Flow

    1 Tenant Selection. A family with a voucher contacts an owner to view a unit for rent. If the family likes
        the unit and passes the owner’s screening and application process, the owner fills out a Request for
        Tenancy Approval packet or RFTA and returns the forms to CHAC.

    2 Housing Inspection. Within 3 to 5 days of receiving the RFTA, CHAC will call the owner to schedule
        an initial inspection.

        Rent Reasonableness Determination. When the unit passes inspection, CHAC will review the
        requested rent to make sure that it is reasonable for the area. CHAC considers factors such as the unit’s
        size, location, condition and amenities.

    4 Execution of Leasing Documents. If the owner accepts the rent amount, the family
        and the owner will sign a lease; and the owner and
        CHAC will sign a Housing Assistance Payment or
        HAP contract. The HAP contract spells out the              Leasing Docu                           required to
                                                                                    documents are
                                                                   The following                            program.
        rights and responsibilities of CHAC and the owner                               r the voucher
                                                                   lease a unit unde
        under the voucher program.
                                                                                        Tenancy App
                                                                     • Request for                          ation
                                                                                       uests basic inform
                                                                      or RFTA. Req                                    e,
                                                                                                 ing its location, siz
      Payments to Owner Begin. Once leased, families                  regarding the unit, includ
                                                                                           the rent.
    5 pay 30 to 40 percent of their monthly income toward             and the amount of
      rent and utilities; CHAC pays the rest, called a                                                        rposes.
                                                                                          for income tax pu
      Housing Assistance Payment or HAP, directly to the               •W-9. Required
      owner. Approximately 10 business days after the leas-                                                   one-page
                                                                                           Ownership. A
      ing documents have been signed, voucher program                   •Affidavit of                                at the
                                                                                                  rship to ensure th
      payments will begin. Thereafter, HAP will be mailed               form  that verifies owne                 t is sent
                                                                                             of the rent paymen
      directly to the owner on the first of every month. Rent            program’s portion
      from the tenant is due in accordance with the terms of             to the rightful ow
      the lease.                                                                             g Disclosure
                                                                         •Lead Warnin                            this form
                                                                                             deral law requires
                                                                         Statement. Fe                                built
                                                                                                   ases in properties
                                                                          in all new residential le

     A good choice:
Minimal paperwork
                                                                           before 1978.
                                                                           The Leasing Process 4

The Initial Inspection
Units subsidized under the Housing Choice Voucher Program
must meet a minimum standard of health and safety rules called
Housing Quality Standards or HQS. To ensure compliance, all
units must be inspected initially before the tenant moves in and at
least once a year thereafter.

The inspection process is based on the premise that federal funds
should not be used to subsidize substandard units and that all fami-
lies regardless of their income have a basic right to live in housing
that is safe, decent and sanitary. The inspection also helps CHAC and other administrators of
voucher programs determine whether the rent requested by the owner for the unit is reasonable,
                                           based on its location, condition and amenities.

                                          Timing. The initial inspection takes place 7 to 10 days
                                          after CHAC receives the RFTA. Inspections are sched-
                                          uled for the morning or afternoon. Owners must be pre-
                                          pared to remain at the unit during the entire appoint-
                                          ment window to provide the inspector access to the
                                          building’s heating and other major operating systems. If
                                          the owner leaves and the inspector cannot gain access,
                                          the inspection will have to be scheduled all over again,
                                          delaying the lease up process.

The actual inspection takes approximately 20 to 45 minutes, depending upon the building type
and condition. If the unit passes the initial inspection, the process moves to the rent determina-
tion phase. If the unit fails the inspection, the owner has 10 days to make the required repairs and
to call CHAC to schedule a reinspection. If the owner fails to complete the repairs and to call
CHAC for a reinspection within 10 days, then CHAC will direct the tenant to look for another
5                                              Preparing for Inspections

                                                 General Guidelines
                                                 Housing Quality Standards are basic—making sure that every family has hot and cold running water,
                                                 utilities and appliances that work, proper locks, and
                                                 handrails on flights of 4 or more stairs, for example. Here
                                                 are some general guidelines when preparing units for an
                                                 initial inspection.

                                                 Two Basic Rules. When preparing a unit for inspection,
                                                 make sure that: (1) everything in the unit works the way
                                                 it’s designed to work and (2) nothing poses a health or
                                                 safety hazard to the tenants. Meeting these two standards
                                                 throughout the unit will increase the chances of the unit
                                                 passing the inspection 95 percent. This means that windows, for example, should be intact—not broken
                                                 or cracked and should open and close properly and shut securely to keep out the elements.

                                                 If It’s Broken, Fix It. This is really the best strategy. If it’s broken—whatever it is, a window pane, a miss-
                                                 ing door knob, a light fixture, a leaky pipe—fix it and make sure it works properly.

                                                                                                                                          Developed in
                                                                                                                                                   with the
                                                                                                                                                              Make Sure the Unit is Vacant. On the day of the initial inspection, the
                                                                                                                                   Owner Resource

                                                                  Questions                                        N
                                                                                                                          Yes or
                                                                                                                                       Repairs Needed
                                                                                                                                                              unit must be vacant and all utilities must be on. This allows the inspec-
           Major Areas                                             to Ask
             of Unit
                                                                                                                                                              tor to verify that major appliances are working. It’s also a good idea to
    Mechanical Items

                                                                                                                                                              bring tools and batteries so that you can make any minor repairs and
                                                   7. Is toilet securel

                                                   8. Sink - Is there
                                                                        y fastened with
                                                       Does it flush proper
                                                                                         no leaks or gaps?

                                                                        hot and cold runnin
                                                                                             g water, proper
                                                                                                             drainage                                          prevent smoke and carbon monoxide detectors from failing due to
                                                             no leaks?                                    g water,
                                                        and                               and cold runnin

                                                                                                                                                               dead batteries.
                                                                        er - Is there hot
                                                    9. Bathtub/show
                                                                         e and no leaks?                        or
                                                         proper drainag                       exterior window
                                                                       vented  with either an

                                                    10. Is bathroom
                                                         exhaust fan?                                          drainage
                                                                                               g water, proper
                                                                          hot and cold runnin
                                                     11. Sink - Is there
                                       Kitchen          and no leaks?
                                                                         tank work?
                                                    12. Does hot water                      ion pipe?
                                         Other                           tank have an extens
                                                    13. Does hot water              no leaks?
                                                                   rs function with                     e problem?
                                                    14. Do radiato                      odor or drainag
                                                                      free of any sewer
                                                     15. Is bathroom

                                                                                                                                                                Use All Available Resources. Don’t wait for the inspector to point
                                                                                                                                                                out what’s wrong. CHAC’s web site has a comprehensive section on
                                                                                                                                                                inspections that covers the types of inspections, timetables, and spe-
                            Interior of Unit

                                                                                                                                                                 cific HQS standards, including what to look for in each room.
                                                                                                                                                                 CHAC also has a handy self-inspection checklist. A copy is in the
                                                                                                                                                                  back of this brochure, and it is also available on our web site
                                                                                                                                                                  ( and from CHAC’s Resource Center.

    A good choice:city’s housing stock
        helping to maintain our
                                                                         Preparing for Inspections 6

Common Reasons Units Fail an Inspection
Be Aware of Bedroom Sizes. To qualify as a bed-             Outlets. Every elec-
room under the voucher program, a room must meet            trical outlet must have
minimum size requirements. This is important                a cover plate that is
because families are issued vouchers for units with         intact—not broken or
the appropriate number of bedrooms for their house-         cracked.
hold size. If a room designated as a bedroom does
not meet the following space requirements, the unit         Deadbolt Locks.
may not be approved for that particular family.             Entrance doors to the unit are required to have sin-
                                                            gle-cylinder deadbolt locks. Single-cylinder locks are
A bedroom occupied by one person must have a                opened by a key from the outside and by a turn
minimum of 70 square feet of useable floor space. If        piece, knob or handle, which does not require a key
a bedroom will be occupied by more than one per-            or special knowledge to operate, on the inside.
son, there must be a minimum of 50 square feet of           Double-cylinder locks are prohibited.
floor space per person. (For example, a bedroom
occupied by 2 persons must have a minimum of 100            Hot Water Heaters. Hot water heaters must have an
square feet of floor space.)                                extension pipe leading from the pressure relief valve
                                                            to at least 6 inches above the floor.
At least 75 percent of the room must have a ceiling-
to-floor height of at least 7 feet. If some portions of a   Deteriorated Paint. If the building was built before
bedroom have a ceiling height of less than 5 feet,          1978, cracking, peeling, flaking or chalking paint
those areas will not be considered when calculating         must be repaired.
the total floor area.

Smoke Detectors. HQS guidelines require at least
one smoke detector to be located within 15 feet of
sleeping rooms and one on every living level.
Detectors mounted on the wall should be 4 to 12
inches from the ceiling; detectors mounted on the
ceiling should be at least 4 inches from the wall.

Carbon Monoxide Detectors. There must be at
least one battery-operated CO detector present and
functioning within 15 feet of every room used for
sleeping and every source of carbon monoxide,
including furnaces and boilers.
7     Owner Resources

    CHAC’s Web site:                                 CHAC’s Resource Center:
    CHAC’s web site is the most comprehensive and accurate       60 East Van Buren, open Monday through Friday from
    source of information on the Chicago Housing Choice          8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. No appointment is necessary.
    Voucher Program. Visit the site to:                          In addition to posting property listings, the Resource
                                                                 Center has more than 3,000 pieces of information on
    •Learn more about how the program works                      every topic imaginable to assist owners not only in proper-
    •List properties for rent                                    ty management, but also in reaching their financial, per-
    •Register for workshops and seminars                         sonal and professional goals.
    •Download program materials and CHAC forms and
     applications                                                Property Tax Savings for Owners who Qualify:
    •Learn inspection guidelines and timetables        
    •Access a staff directory                                    The Illinois legislature enacted the Housing Choice
                                                                 Voucher Tax Savings Program in 2003 to increase housing
    Workshops and Special Events:                                choice for low-income families, by providing an additional or Owner Information Line, ext. 3602             incentive to owners of properties in low-poverty commu-
    CHAC sponsors free workshops to assist owners in being       nities to rent to families.
    successful in the voucher program and in business. Topics
    include:                                                     To qualify for the program in Chicago, a property must
                                                                 meet the following guidelines:
    •Monthly program orientation for new property owners         • The property must be located in a census tract with a
    •Annual financial services fair                                poverty rate below 10 percent
    •Passing the HQS inspection                                  • At least one unit must be leased to a family participating
    •Tenant screening and evictions                                in the Chicago Housing Choice Voucher Program as of
    •Marketing strategies for rental properties                    January 1 of the year for which the owner is applying for
    •Certification in safe work practices for lead-based paint     the tax savings
    •Internet training for novices                               • The eligible unit(s) must be in compliance with federal
                                                                   housing quality inspection standards as of January 1 of
                                                                   the year for which the owner is applying
                                                                 •The building must be in substantial compliance with
                                                                   local building codes

                                                                 Actual savings will vary depending on the size of the prop-
                                                                 erty and the number of qualified units. Landlords receive
                                                                 up to a 19% reduction in the Equalized Assessed Valuation
                                                                 (EAV) of the property depending on the number of quali-
                                                                 fied units.

      A good choice:strategic partner
            gaining CHAC as a
                                                                                    Owner Resources 8

                            Employment Services:
                            Employment Specialist, ext. 3186 or ext. 3193
                            CHAC’s Special Programs Department partners with Chicago area busi-
                            nesses to help voucher program participants find good jobs and employers
                            find good employees. The department offers companies free services such
                            as job listings, qualified candidate referrals and job recruitment sessions for
                            companies that have several positions available.

Property Modification Grants: Access Living at 312.640.2100
Fair housing law requires owners to allow tenants with disabilities to make reasonable physical modifi-
cations at their own cost. A reasonable modification is a physical change in the dwelling unit or building
that is feasible and necessary for the tenant to use and enjoy the dwelling unit and its facilities.

Some examples of reasonable modifications include:
•Flashing door bells and/or fire alarms for a person with a hearing disability
•Bathroom and kitchen modifications
•Exterior and interior motorized lifts for a person who is mobility impaired
•Protective wall plastic to prevent wheelchair damage

Through a partnership with the CHA and Access Living, CHAC offers participants with disabilities
funding to underwrite the cost of modifications to make their unit more accessible. All of the work is
performed by licensed, bonded contractors, and there is
no cost to the owner. Grants of up to $5,000 are available.
Requests for funding must be submitted by the voucher
program participant directly to Access Living, the admin-
istrator of the fund.

The Modification Fund is a wonderful benefit to partici-
pating owners who lease to voucher holders with disabili-
ties. Accessibility modifications enhance both the value
and the marketability of the property. In addition, tenants
with disabilities tend to move less frequently, creating a
stable tenancy for owners.
9       Fair Housing

    Tenant Screening
    CHAC does NOT screen families for their suitability        Whatever you decide to do, you must treat all appli-
    as tenants—that is the owner’s responsibility. As a        cants and tenants the same. For example, if you con-
    property owner or manager, you                                               duct home visits as part of your
    are responsible for establishing a                                           screening process, then you must
    written rental policy, educating all                                         conduct home visits for every appli-
    tenants about your property and                                              cant.
    your policy and carefully screening
    all tenants. A rental policy is simply                                         Protected Classes. If a prospective
    the decisions you have made prior                                              tenant meets your criteria, you
    to looking for tenants that relate to                                          should accept him or her—
    the quality of tenant you desire, the                                          whether or not he or she has a
    type of rental arrangements you                                                voucher. Use your criteria as a guide
    want to make and how you will                                                  and do not accept anyone who
    find tenants.                                                                  does not meet your criteria. After
                                                                                   all, the best way to avoid problem
    Screening means that you evaluate each applicant           tenants is not to lease to them in the first place.
    based on your particular set of criteria. Screening is
    designed for two purposes: to ensure that the tenant       At the same time, you must adhere to the law. For
    can and will pay the rent on time and to prevent rent-     example, you cannot deny housing to a family who
    ing to a tenant who may vandalize or destroy property.     otherwise meets your criteria because they have chil-
                                                               dren or to a person with disabilities because you
    Screening techniques vary from landlord to landlord.       believe that it would be “better” for them to live in
    Some just look people in the eye, talk to them and         another unit or building. Fair housing laws give every-
    make their decision. But it’s best for you, both legally   one the legal right to choose where he or she wants to
    and financially, to develop a formal screening policy.     live—regardless of his or her race, religion, national
    Formal screening can include: informing all prospec-       origin, ancestry, color, family status, sex or disability. In
    tive tenants about your property and policies, check-      addition, in Chicago it is illegal to deny housing to a
    ing credit history and references, conducting criminal     family solely because they participate in the voucher
    background checks, reviewing previous rental history       program. Owners of property located in Chicago
    and using a thorough application form.                     must consider all legal sources of income when deter-
                                                               mining an individual’s suitability as a tenant.
                                                                                                Fair Housing 10
Reasonable Accommodations and Modifications. Fair housing laws also give people with disabilities the right
to request reasonable accommodations and/or reasonable modifications at any stage of the housing rental
process—when the person is applying for rental housing, during their tenancy or if threatened with eviction.

For the purpose of fair housing, a person with a disability is defined as an individual who has a physical, mental
or developmental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, has a record of, or is
regarded as having such an impairment.

A reasonable accommodation is a change in the owner’s rules, policies or
practices or a change in the way the owner provides services that allows a dis-
abled person to have the opportunity to live and enjoy his or her unit and the
building’s common areas such as community rooms and laundry facilities.

Some examples of reasonable accommodations include:
• Giving an applicant additional time to submit his or her application and
  any required documentation
• Allowing a person to pay the rent by mail if his or her disability makes it difficult to pay the rent in person
• Waiving a “no-pets” policy so that a person with a sight impairment can have a service animal
• Permitting a single tenant who can afford the rent to move from a one- to a two-bedroom apartment to have
  adequate space for a live-in caregiver

Property owners do not have to approve a request for an accommodation or modification that would: impose
undue financial burden; fundamentally alter the owner’s basic operation or the nature of housing services provid-
ed by the owner; or violate the terms of the lease agreement. Owners also have the right to ask an applicant or
tenant for documentation of his or her disability. If a tenant or applicant provides documentation from a physi-
                                                 cian or health care provider, an owner must consider the request
                                                 for an accommodation or modification even if the tenant or
                                                 applicant doesn’t “look” disabled.

                                              Finally, if an applicant or tenant submits a request for a reason-
                                              able accommodation or modification, take action on it. Ignoring
                                              a request from an applicant or tenant for a reasonable accommo-
                                              dation can result in housing discrimination charges. Consider the
                                              options and work with the tenant to find a mutually beneficial
                                              solution. Often owners find that the accommodation or modifi-
                                              cation may be easily adopted or implemented. For more informa-
tion on reasonable accommodations, contact CHAC’s Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Coordinator at
ext. 3259. For more information on reasonable modifications, contact Access Living at 312.640.2100.

                A good choice:for people with disabilities
                   increasing housing options
P. O. Box 1406
Chicago, Illinois 60690-1406
Housing Quality Standards Self-Inspection Checklist
This handy checklist will assist you in preparing units to pass inspection. Feel free to make copies and distribute to your
maintenance staff. Additional copies are available on CHAC's web site at

       Major Areas of Unit                                          Questions to Ask                                        Yes or No
                    Electricity          1. Do all fixtures and outlets work (at least 2 outlets per /room or one outlet
 Mechanical Items

                                            and one light fixture per room)?
                                         2. Is there lighting in the common hallways and porches?
                                         3. Are all outlets, light switches and fuse boxes properly covered with no
                                             cracks or breaks in the cover plates/doors?
                                         4. Are light/electrical fixtures securely fastened without any hanging or
                                             exposed wires (anywhere the tenant has access)?
                    HVAC                 5. Have you arranged for all utilities to be on the day of the inspection?
                                         6. Is there adequate heat in all living spaces?
                    Bathroom             7. Is toilet securely fastened with no leaks or gaps? Does it flush properly?
                                         8. Sink - Is there hot and cold running water, proper drainage and no leaks?
                                         9. Bathtub/shower - Is there hot and cold running water, proper drainage and
                                             no leaks?

                                         10. Is bathroom vented with either an exterior window or exhaust fan?
                    Kitchen              11. Sink - Is there hot and cold running water, proper drainage and no leaks?
                                         12. Stove - Is there a hand-operated gas shut-off valve?
                    Other                13. Does hot water tank work?
                                         14. Does hot water tank have an extension pipe?
                                         15. Do radiators function with no leaks?
                                         16. Is bathroom free of any sewer odor or drainage problem?
                    Wall Condition       17. Are walls free of air and moisture leaks? Large holes and cracks?
                    Ceiling Condition    18. Are ceilings free of air and moisture leaks? Large holes and cracks?
                    Floor Condition      19. Are floors free of weak spots or missing floorboards?
                                         20. Are floors free of tripping hazards from loose flooring or covering?
                    Cabinetry/Interior   21. Are cabinets securely fastened to the wall?
                    Doors                22. Is there space for food preparation and storage?
                                         23. Are all doors securely hung?
                    Security             24. Is there free and clear access to all exits?
                                         25. Are there deadbolt locks on entry doors to the unit? Do they open with a
 Interior of Unit

                                             key from the outside and a knob/latch from the inside?
                                         26. Are entrance and exit doors solid?
                                         27. Do first floor windows and those opening to a stairway, fire escape or
                                             landing have locks?
                    Health and Safety    28. Is there at least one battery-operated CO detector present and functioning
                                            within 15 feet of every room used for sleeping and every source of carbon
                                            monoxide, including furnaces and boilers?
                                         29. Is there a working smoke detector on each level of the unit?
                                         30. Are smoke detectors installed on walls at least 4" and not more than 12"
                                             from ceiling? Are smoke detectors installed on ceilings at least 4" from the
                                             wall? Are smoke detectors installed within 15 ft. of each sleeping area?
                                         31. Is unit free of any evidence of insect or rodent infestation?
                                         32. Is unit free of any evidence of mold or mildew?
Housing Quality Standards Self-Inspection Checklist
(continued from front)

        Major Areas of Unit                                              Questions to Ask                                     Yes or No
                    Appliances              32. Do all burners on the stovetop ignite, does the oven work and are all knobs
 Interior of Unit

                                            33. Does refrigerator/freezer cool properly?
                                            34. Is refrigerator/freezer large enough for the family occupying the unit?
                    Windows                 35. Is there at least one exterior window in each bedroom
                                                and in the living room?
                                            36. Do windows open, close and lock properly?
                                            37. Is unit free of any cracked, broken or leaky windows?
                    Other                   38. Is roof free of leaks?
                                            39. Are gutters firmly attached?
 Exterior of Unit

                                            40. Are exterior surfaces in a condition to prevent moisture leakage and rodent
                                            41. Is chimney secure? Is flue tightly sealed with no gaps?
                                            42. Is foundation sound?
                                            43. Are openings around doors and windows weather-tight?
                                            44. Are sidewalks free of tripping hazards?
                    Stairways:              46. Are all handrails properly secured?
  Common Areas

                    Interior and Exterior   47. Is a handrail present when there are 4 or more consecutive steps?
                                            48. Are stairs free of any loose, broken or missing steps?
                                            49. Are stairways free of any tripping hazards?
                                            50. Are there proper exit signs?
                                            51. Are there secure railings on porches, balconies and landings 30" high
                                                or higher?
                                            52. Is unit free of debris inside and outside of unit?
                                            53. INTERIOR AND EXTERIOR of units rented to families with children under

                                                the age of six: is unit free of any chipping, peeling, flaking, chalking or
                                                cracking painted surfaces, including windows, window wells, door frames,
                                                walls, ceilings, porches, garages, fences or play equipment?
                                            54. Are there covered receptacles for disposal of waste?
                                            55. Is the unit clean and ready to move in?


To top