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HCV Initial Lease-Up Steps

Families have a limited amount of time to find and lease a unit after receiving a voucher. Families who do not lease-up within the allotted time risk losing their housing assistance. Therefore, it is critical for the lease-up steps to be followed.

Step 1 - Listing the Property

Step 2 - Screening Prospective Tenants

  • It is the sole responsibility of the landlord to conduct a background, criminal, and/or credit check on any prospective tenant. DHA does not screen participants for suitability and the Housing Authority is not liable for damages caused by any HCV program family.

Step 3 - Completing the RFTA

  • The Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program family attends a tenant briefing and is issued a voucher, Tenant Rent Estimator and Request for Tenancy Approval (RFTA) form.

  • When the family finds a unit they wish to rent and the owner is willing to rent to the family, the owner is given the RFTA to complete. The RFTA must be completed correctly and in its entirety. It must be signed and dated by the prospective landlord and tenant.

  • The completed RFTA must be submitted to Decatur Housing Authority (DHA) immediately.

  • If the owner is not registered with DHA at the time the RFTA is submitted, the completed RFTA will not be processed. DHA will contact the owner and request a new owner packet. Once the owner completes the new owner packet and is registered, the RFTA will be processed. 

Step 4 - Rent Reasonableness

  • Before the RFTA is sent to the inspector, DHA must determine if the requested rent is reasonable in comparison to similar properties in the area, usually a five-mile radius of the subject property.

  • For the rent to be reasonable, the rent may not be more than rent charged for comparable units in the private unassisted market.

  • In addition, the rent may not be more than rent charged by the owner for comparable unassisted units on the premises.

  • HUD requires housing authorities to take into consideration location, size, type of unit, quality of unit, age of unit, amenities offered, housing services provided, maintenance provided, and utilities supplied by the owner, to determine if the requested rent is reasonable.

  • DHA cannot approve a lease until it has determined that the initial rent to owner is a reasonable rent.

  • DHA uses the website www.socialserve.com to obtain comparables. Owners are encouraged to list their properties on www.socialserve.com.    

Step 5 - Initial Inspection

  • Owners must be registered with DHA before the RFTA will be accepted, processed, and sent to the inspection department. New owners must complete the New Owner Packet and submit the required documents in order to become an approved landlord.

  • Once the RFTA has been submitted to DHA, it will be reviewed within 5 business days to determine if the family is income eligible for the unit. 
    • If the family is income eligible for the unit, the RFTA will be forwarded to the inspection department.

    • If the family is not income eligible, the original form will be returned to the family to negotiate the rent with the landlord or bring the RFTA back to the office to receive a new RFTA form to find another unit.

    • If the family needs assistance with negotiating the rent, DHA will contact the owner on the family's behalf and explain the amount of rent the family is eligible for.

    • A new RFTA will be given to the family if the owner is unwilling to accept the amount of rent the family can afford. The family will have to begin their housing search again.

  • The landlord will be contacted within 7-10 business days by the inspector to schedule the initial inspection. All inspections are processed in the order in which they are received regardless of circumstances.

  • Utilities must be on in the owner's name at the time of the initial inspection. Also, the unit must be vacant and free of the owner's and any previous tenant's belongings. The landlord will have 15 days to complete repairs and notify the inspector that the unit is ready for follow-up inspection.

Step 6 - Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) Contract Preparations

  • The landlord will receive a Notice of Passed HQS Inspection form when the unit has passed the HQS inspection. Please pay attention to the Earliest HAP Contract Effective Date noted at the top of the Notice of Passed Inspection. The effective date of the HAP contract will not be earlier than this date. If the family moves in prior to the effective date of the contract, the family is responsible for the full payment of rent.

  • The Notice of Passed Inspection provides an estimate of the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) and tenant's portion of rent. Owners should make the family aware of their estimated rental portion. The family should pay the estimated rent until DHA completes the final rent calculation and HAP contract. A letter will be sent to the landlord and tenant notifying them of the final HAP and tenant rent amounts.

  • Once the unit passes the initial inspection, the owner must complete and submit to DHA the executed lease signed by the owner and tenant within 24 hours of the family moving into the unit. The HAP contract will be prepared upon receipt of the executed lease. The owner will be notified when the contract is ready to be signed. Note that the tenant's portion of rent appearing on the Notice of Passed Inspection form is an estimate.

  • The effective date of the HAP contract cannot be earlier than the day after the family's move-out date indicated on the Notice to Vacate or move-out extension from their previous unit. This date will appear at the top of the Notice of Passed Inspection. If the prospective tenant requires additional time due to any delay, this date is subject to change.

  • DHA is not responsible for any payments on a unit until the following has been completed/submitted:
    • Unit passed HQS inspection.
    • DHA has determined that the requested rent is reasonable.
    • The landlord and tenant have executed a lease and the landlord has signed the HAP contract with DHA.

Step 7 - Housing Assistance Payments

  • Housing assistance payments are deposited directly into the designated account during the first week of each month. The family pays their portion of the rent to the owner.

Move-Out Extensions and Effective Date of Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) Contracts

This notice serves to clarify the way landlords are paid during the month a family moves from one unit into a new unit, the move-out extension process and the effective dates of Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) contracts.

Although it is easier for processing payments to make the move-out date the last day of the month, the move-out date on the notice to vacate can be any day of the month as long as the move-out date is at least thirty days from the date of the written move-out notice.  However, please note. DHA needs at least sixty days to process families who are moving to new units.

All extension requests must be in writing, signed by the landlord and head of household. Extensions approved by DHA will be given in increments of fourteen days unless fewer days are needed. If an additional extension is required, the family must submit a written request signed by the landlord and head of household to the applicable Housing Specialist. 

Extensions are generally the result of:

  • The family has problems finding a unit
  • The new unit is not ready for inspection or the new unit failed inspection
  • The new owner does not submit the Request for Tenancy Approval (RFTA) to DHA promptly
  • The new owner does not promptly register with DHA to be an approved landlord

We hope that the number of extensions required can be minimized because units are not ready for initial inspection or due to failed initial inspections. We encourage owners to review the HQS Inspection Checklist, to improve the likelihood that your unit will pass inspection the first time. Remember, utilities must be on at the time of the initial inspection.

Please note that families have a limited number of days to find a unit and lease-up before their voucher expires. Therefore, it is imperative that owners screen and select a tenant quickly so as not to jeopardize the family's housing assistance.

THE EFFECTIVE DATE OF THE NEW HAP CONTRACT CANNOT BE EARLIER THAN THE DAY AFTER THE MOVE-OUT DATE ON THE NOTICE TO VACATE OR MOVE-OUT EXTENSION DATE.