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Housing Vouchers FAQ’s

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Below are FAQ’s provided to us by the Home Forward Program of Portland as of 10/21/2014

Can a landlord raise the rent during a Section 8 voucher tenancy?

Yes, but only with PHA approval. In order to increase the rent above the amount set in the HAP Contract, the landlord must submit a request for a rent increase to the PHA at least 60 days before the effective date of the increase. If the PHA determines that the increase is reasonable, the PHA will notify the tenant of the approved rent increase and of the new amount of the tenant’s rent portion at least 30 days before the effective date.

Can a landlord require a Section 8 voucher applicant to obtain renter’s insurance?

Yes. See ORS 90.222 generally and (9) (b) in particular.

Click Here to view the PHAs by county.

Can a landlord require a tenant to pay additional rent, or accept additional rent from the tenant, beyond the amount set out in the HAP Contract?

No. Extra rent payments, or side payments, above the amount in the HAP Contract are not allowed. The landlord will have to refund the money to the tenant, and risks being charged with a federal crime.

How does the Section 8 voucher program work?

The primary purpose of the program is to help low-income people find decent, safe, and affordable housing, by relying on their own initiative to find the best housing for their own living situation. Another purpose is to avoid concentrations of poverty sometimes associated with larger housing projects. And finally the program supports existing housing mostly owned by private landlords.

Low-income Oregonians apply to their local public housing authority or agency (PHA) for a Section 8 voucher. Demand for vouchers is much greater than the supply, so there is usually a long waiting list, and in some communities the wait is so long that the PHA doesn’t keep the list open all the time. PHAs screen applicants for past criminal conduct; only people who pass that screening test will qualify for a voucher. Eligibility is limited to very low-income individuals or families; most must have incomes below 30 percent of the area median income; almost 80 percent of voucher holders in Oregon make less than $15,500/year for a family of four. Voucher holders may be families with children, seniors (18 percent), individuals with disabilities (44 percent), or veterans. There are about 33,600 households with vouchers in Oregon, housed by 12,800 Oregon landlords.

When an individual gets a Section 8 voucher, he or she must attend an orientation by the PHA about how to use it. The individual then has a specific amount of time – usually 60 days, with a possible extension to a total of 120 days under some circumstances – to find a rental unit that meets certain requirements of the program. These requirements include that the unit rents for an amount within the allowed level (the PHA Payment Standard), that passes a PHA inspection and meets the HUD Housing Quality Standards, and that the landlord is willing to rent to the individual. The landlord and tenant enter a written rental agreement, and the landlord enters a contract with the PHA. The tenant pays approximately 30 percent (with some exceptions) of his/her income toward rent and utilities; the PHA pays the landlord the balance. The PHA gets the rent assistance subsidy from the federal Housing and Urban Development Department (HUD), which is funded by Congress. Some Section 8 voucher program rules are in statutes adopted by Congress; some are in administrative rules adopted by HUD.

Unless noted otherwise, normal Oregon residential landlord/tenant law applies.

What are the landlord’s remedies if the tenant doesn't pay his/her share of the rent?

As with any tenant, Oregon residential landlord/tenant law allows a landlord to evict a Section 8 voucher tenant who does not pay his/her portion of the rent.

What does this mean for landlords and tenants?

Landlords cannot refuse to rent to an applicant, or treat an applicant or tenant differently, because the applicant is using a Section 8 voucher or other local, state, or federal rental housing assistance. Nor can landlords advertise “no Section 8.” Landlords can still screen and reject any applicant, including those with a Section 8 voucher, for past conduct and ability to pay rent.

What happens first?

When an applicant with a Section 8 voucher contacts a landlord about a unit for rent, the applicant will have already been determined by the PHA to be eligible to use the voucher, and will have been given information about allowable rent amounts. As with any rental application, the landlord should give the applicant an application and describe the screening criteria. The landlord should screen the tenant as with any other applicant. The applicant gives the landlord the forms required by the PHA for the Section 8 voucher program. If the applicant meets the landlord’s criteria, the landlord signs the forms and returns them to the PHA, either electronically, by FAX, or via the tenant/applicant. The PHA will contact the landlord to schedule an inspection. Once the papers are signed and the unit passes inspection (see below), the tenancy begins and both the tenant and the PHA pay the landlord.

What is JMRE’s income criteria for voucher holders?

Monthly gross income of at least 3 times the portion of rent that the tenant is responsible for paying, per their voucher. The income must be from a verifiable legal source.

Please review our Application Process and Criteria page for further information.

What is the new Oregon law regarding Section 8 vouchers and source of income protection?

Oregon law has long prohibited discrimination in rental or for-sale housing (including advertising the sale or rental of housing) on the basis of protected class status, including race, religion, national origin, sex, marital or familial status, and source of income. Prior to passage of House Bill 2639 in 2013, the “source of income” category explicitly excluded federal rent assistance, which primarily refers to the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program; this exclusion meant that Oregon landlords could refuse to rent to applicants, or even to consider them, just because they had a Section 8 voucher. HB 2639, passed under the leadership of House of Representatives Speaker Tina Kotek, removes that exception and explicitly states that Section 8 or any other local, state, or federal housing assistance is included in the source of income protection. Oregon Revised Statute 659A.421 (1) (d).

The new law also creates the Housing Choice Landlord Guarantee Program, to compensate landlords for damages incurred as a result of tenancies by Section 8 voucher holders. Click here to see the bill.

Jim McNeeley Real Estate and Property Management, Inc.

1519 SW Marlow Avenue
Portland, OR 97225

Ph: (503) 292-8125
Fax: (503) 292-4597

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