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Frequently Asked Questions About Section 8 Housing Vouchers

Authored By: Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia - NW Office
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FAQ

How do I get a Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher?

You can apply for a voucher at the D.C. Housing Authority (DCHA), 1133 North Capitol St. NE. To apply, you can make an appointment with the Client Placement Division by calling (202) 435-3245. You may also apply by mail. You cannot apply in person unless you have an appointment.

The waiting list for vouchers is very long. As of 2010, there were more than 30,000 families on the waiting list. Families who are homeless receive a preference on the waitlist. With the preference, homeless families may wait two or three years. Families who are not homeless can wait eight to ten years or more.

For more information about applying for a voucher or to print out an application form, you can visit the DCHA website at www.dchousing.org (choose "Applying for Housing").

How much rent do I pay with a voucher?

You pay rent according to your income. Your rent will be set at about 30 percent of your income. You may pay less than 30 percent for rent if you also pay for your own utilities (electricity, gas, and/or water).

Is there a maximum rent the landlord can charge?

Yes. DCHA sets a ceiling rent (called the "payment standard") for each bedroom size. This amount is the maximum your voucher is "worth." DCHA usually will not approve a unit with rent that is more than the payment standard.

DCHA revises the payment standards every year. For 2010, the payment standards are:

Efficiency: $1272

1BR: $1450

2BR: $1643

3BR: $2120

4BR: $2774

5BR: $3189

6BR: $3606

What if I have a voucher and my landlord won't make repairs that I need?

In Section 8 housing, just like other housing, the landlord is responsible for keeping your home up to the housing code. If you have a voucher and the landlord is not making repairs, you can report the problem to DCHA. DCHA will send an inspector out to your home.

If the DCHA inspector finds problems, he or she will write up a report for the landlord. The landlord will then have some time (usually 30 days) to fix the problems. If the problems are not fixed when the inspector returns, DCHA can stop paying rent to the landlord.

If the landlord still does not make the repairs, DCHA will cancel its contract with the landlord. This means you cannot live there anymore with your voucher. DCHA will give you a new voucher so you can move.

What are my rights if DCHA does not pay my landlord?

The tenant is not responsible for DCHA's portion of the rent. The landlord is not allowed to sue the tenant when DCHA stops payment. The landlord must fight with DCHA about getting paid.

This can be a complicated issue in court. If you think you are being sued for DCHA's part of the rent, call a lawyer right away. Click on the "Find a Lawyer" tab at the top of this page to see a list of organizations that may be able to give you free legal help.

 How long can I stay in the voucher program?

Once you have a voucher, you generally have the right to keep it forever, unless you violate the rules of the program OR the housing authority runs out of money for the voucher program.

What happens if DCHA tries to terminate me from the voucher program?

There are only certain reasons DCHA can terminate you from the voucher program. Usually, this happens because DCHA thinks you have violated one of the rules of the program.

You are entitled to a hearing before DCHA takes away your voucher. If you receive a termination notice, you should ask for a hearing right away. You have the right to challenge DCHA's claim that you did something wrong. You also have the right to bring a lawyer to your hearing. Click on the "Find a Lawyer" tab at the top of this page to see a list of organizations that may be able to give you free legal help.

If I get sued in landlord-tenant court, what happens to my voucher?

Being sued in landlord-tenant court is not a reason for DCHA to take away your voucher. Even being evicted is not a legal reason to terminate your voucher.

DCHA can terminate you for some of the same reasons that you might find yourself in landlord-tenant court. For example, DCHA can terminate your voucher if you are not paying your rent, or if there is crime going on in your house.

But no matter what happens in court, you still have the right to a hearing at DCHA before DCHA can take your voucher away. Even if you lose in court, you still might win at DCHA and get to keep your voucher.

What are my responsibilities in the voucher program?

Everyone in the voucher program has to do certain things every year. These are called "program responsibilities." Some of these responsibilities are:

  • Recertification. Every year, DCHA will ask you to turn in information about your income and family situation. This is called "annual recertification." You must recertify when DCHA asks you to, even if nothing has changed in the past year. DCHA uses this information to calculate your rent and make sure their records are up-to-date.
  • Report changes in your income and family situation. If anything changes in your income or your family status in between recertifications, you must report those changes to DCHA. For example, if you lose your job, you should tell DCHA right away so they can reduce your rent. Or, if you have a new baby, you must tell DCHA that your family size has changed.
  • Inspections. Every year, DCHA will inspect your home to make sure you and the landlord are taking care of the place. You must make sure to be home for the inspection appointment. Also, if DCHA reports problems that it says are your responsibility, you must make sure to correct those problems before reinspection.

If you do not comply with your program responsibilities, DCHA may try to terminate you from the voucher program. Remember, you have the right to a hearing before this happens.

When can I move with my voucher?

In general, you must stay in a place for one year before moving. There are some exceptions to this rule (for example, where the landlord refuses to make repairs in the first year).

After the first year, you can usually move at any time. DCHA will give you a transfer voucher to look for another place.

Where can I move with my voucher?

The voucher program is nationwide. You can use your voucher in Washington, D.C., or to live in another city. If you want to move out of D.C., you must get permission from DCHA so they can do the paperwork to transfer you someplace else.

Last Review and Update: Feb 14, 2011