FAQ for Section 8/Leased Housing

About My Lease

Can I lose my Section 8/Leased Housing voucher because of drug-related or violent criminal activity by a family member or guest? Is there any limitation on where this takes place?

Yes. Section 8 participants can be terminated for drug-related or violent criminal activity by a household member that takes place anywhere - it doesn’t have to occur in the apartment. The participant can also be charged with a serious lease violation for drug-related or violent criminal activity on or near the premises by a guest, or other criminal activity by a household member or guest on or near the premises that has an adverse impact on the health, safety, or quiet enjoyment of other residents or neighbors in the immediate vicinity.

What’s in my lease with my landlord?

There are a number of rights and obligations for the landlord and the tenant. The lease states the rent amount, security deposit amount and who is responsible for which utilities cost. The terms of the lease do not normally allow you to break the lease in the first 12 months without the landlord’s consent. Cases of domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, stalking, or if an owner does not remedy code violations are exceptions to breaking the lease without the owner’s permission.

The landlord cannot collect more rent than is permitted by the lease. During the first year of the lease, the landlord can only evict you for serious or repeated lease violations, and cannot increase your rent. At the end of the first year, or any time after, the owner may evict you for “other good cause” reasons which are not your fault (such as a business, economic or personal reason). At the end of the first year you can also terminate the lease without stating a reason. If certain things are allowed or prohibited (for example, the tenant can or cannot have pets, or a washing machine), normally these will be included in the lease. The landlord must keep the apartment in good repair.

Are there things I should watch out for?

Yes. Don’t pay rent in cash unless you get a receipt.  Don’t pay more than your share of the rent (the amount is determined by BHA). If the landlord tries to change responsibilities for utilities, or to switch you to a different apartment, don’t agree to this unless BHA approves it first. If the landlord is trying to get you to pay for extra things (like parking), check with BHA about this. 

How long do voucher holders have to find housing?

Voucher holders have 120 days to find housing after first receiving their voucher. The voucher holder may apply for an extension under certain circumstances. See Rental Assistance Voucher Extensions for more information.

What are the requirements for eligible housing?

Tenants are encouraged to consider several housing choices to find the best housing for their family’s needs. Voucher holders are advised of the unit size for which they are eligible based on family size and composition.

The housing unit selected by the family must meet an acceptable level of health and safety before BHA can approve the unit and you can move in. This is conducted through an inspection after the tenant and landlord reach a lease agreement. 


Can I transfer from Section 8 to Public Housing?

Generally, no. The only BHA Section 8 participants who are eligible to apply for a transfer to the BHA public housing program and only under certain circumstances are the Lower Mills and Heritage Project-Based participants who resided there when these sites were converted from public housing to Section 8 funded properties.

How often is my income reviewed?

Every household that receives housing assistance must undergo an annual recertification. Approximately 60-90 days prior to your anniversary date, we will schedule and conduct a recertification of your income and family composition. We will also send you forms to complete and return in order to verify your income and eligibility for the program. When you receive this request for information, you must respond by the due dates stated in the letter. Failure to do so may lead to termination of your rental assistance.

How long can I remain in the rental assistance (Section 8) program?

Current program rules allow you to continue to receive housing assistance as long as you are income-eligible and as long as you fulfill your tenant obligations established by Housing and Urban Development for the program. You will lose your assistance when your income rises to the point that your portion of the rent matches or exceeds the full amount of the rent, or if you are terminated from the program for violating the rules.

Can I move and continue to receive Housing Choice voucher assistance?

Moves are permissible as long as the family notifies BHA ahead of time, terminates its existing lease within the lease provisions, and finds acceptable alternate housing. Under the voucher program, new voucher holders may choose a unit anywhere in the United States. A family that wishes to move to another housing authority’s jurisdiction must consult with BHA to verify the procedures for moving.

Before you can move to another unit and continue to receive your housing assistance, you must complete your tenant obligations under your current lease. This includes giving your landlord a proper 30-day notice to vacate sending a copy of the notice to the Leased Housing Department.


Can I lose my Section 8/Leased Housing voucher because of drug-related or violent criminal activity by a family member or guest? Is there any limitation on where this takes place?

Yes. Section 8 participants can be terminated for drug-related or violent criminal activity by a household member that takes place anywhere - it doesn’t have to occur in the apartment. The participant can also be charged with a serious lease violation for drug-related or violent criminal activity on or near the premises by a guest, or other criminal activity by a household member or guest on or near the premises that has an adverse impact on the health, safety, or quiet enjoyment of other residents or neighbors in the immediate vicinity.

Check Your Status and Report Changes

How do I report any changes to my income, family, or number of bedrooms as an applicant?

Report any changes to income or family composition immediately to your Leasing Officer. 

Grievances and Appeals

Who should I contact if I have questions about the appeal process or hearing?

All inquiries should be directed to the front desk at the Department of Grievances and Appeals on the 9th floor at 617-988-4579.  Do not attempt to contact the Hearing Officer.

What if I need to reschedule the hearing?

The DGA grants rescheduling requests only for “good cause” (public housing applicant, public housing, and leased housing termination appeals) or “compelling circumstances” (Section 8 applicant appeals)  Some examples are circumstances related to a disability, medical emergencies, medical treatments or important appointments that cannot be rescheduled such as court appearances. Transportation issues or other mere inconveniences will not be considered good cause to reschedule.  You must submit a written request to reschedule as soon as possible but no later than 24 hours prior to your scheduled hearing time. Your must specify the reason(s) that you need to reschedule and submit third-party documentation to verify the need to reschedule. For example, if you cannot attend the hearing because your place of employment will not excuse your absence, you must submit documentation from your employer to verify this.

NOTE: If your request to reschedule an informal applicant hearing is received less than twelve days prior to the hearing date and is approved for rescheduling, your hearing will go to the back of the scheduling queue.

What if I arrive late or miss the hearing?

Tardiness or failure to appear may result in a Default being issued, which would result in the decision of the Occupancy Department/Leased Housing Division being upheld. The hearing will be rescheduled if “good cause” or “compelling circumstances” prevented you from attending on time. This must be verified in writing by a third party. For example, if you miss the hearing due to a medical emergency, you must submit documentation from the medical provider to verify the date and time that you experienced the emergency and received treatment.  Transportation or parking delays/problems will not be considered a compelling circumstance—you should plan your travel time with the expectation that you will be delayed due to traffic congestion, public transportation delays, or inability to quickly find a parking spot. 

If you are late or miss your public housing grievance panel hearing, the Grievance Panel will review your request to reschedule and make a decision as soon as possible.

What if I need an interpreter for the hearing?

You should request an interpreter by filling out the enclosed Interpreter Request Form and returning it to the Department of Grievances and Appeals prior to your hearing date. The BHA will provide an interpreter at no cost to you.  Your family member, friend, or advocate will not be permitted to interpret for you.

What if my disability would prevent me from coming to the hearing or fully participating in the hearing?

If your disability would prevent or impede your ability to physically attend the hearing, or if your disability would prevent or impede your participation in the hearing, you have the right to request a Reasonable Accommodation. You must request a Reasonable Accommodation in writing, specifying the reason(s) you need an accommodation and what accommodation you are seeking. You may deliver this request to the Department of Grievances and Appeals at any time prior to your hearing. The BHA may contact you to request additional information.

What should I bring with me to the Termination of Benefits hearing?

You should bring any documents that relate to the alleged violation(s) of program rules listed in the “Proposed Termination of Section 8 Rental Assistance” letter you received from your Leasing Officer. You may also bring any other supporting documentation, such as letters of recommendation or documentation relating to your disability, and witnesses who are able to provide relevant information regarding the alleged violation(s) of program rules.

What will the Termination of Benefits hearing be like?

The hearing will take place in an office or conference room. In addition to you and your witnesses or representatives, one or more representatives of the BHA’s Leased Housing Division will be present. The hearing will be presided over by a Hearing Officer.  During the hearing, the Leased Housing representative(s) will present the BHA’s case. Specifically, the representative(s) will state the reasons for the proposed termination of assistance and present all supporting documents and witnesses. You will then have a full opportunity to respond to the allegations and present your own documents and witnesses. The Leased Housing representative(s) and the Hearing Officer will likely ask you questions and you may also ask any questions that you have. Although you will be granted a full opportunity to present your case, be aware that disruptive or disorderly behavior will not be permitted and may result in the termination of the hearing, which could then result in the termination of your Section 8 assistance.  If there are any documents or witnesses that were not available for the hearing, the Hearing Officer may grant an extension for submission of additional documents or decide to continue the hearing on a future date. If this occurs, you will be given detailed information during the hearing about how you should proceed.

What if my disability relates to the reason(s) the BHA is seeking to terminate my voucher?

If you have a disability that relates to the alleged violations of program rules, you have the right to request a Reasonable Accommodation. You must request a Reasonable Accommodation in writing, specifying the reason(s) you need an accommodation and what accommodation you are seeking. You may deliver this request to the Department of Grievances and Appeals at any time prior to your hearing. The BHA may contact you to request additional information.

Housing Options & Eligibility

What is the Section 8 program?

Section 8, also known as the Housing Choice Voucher Program, provides rent subsidies to assist eligible low-income families obtain decent, safe, and affordable housing. Families can select housing within a neighborhood of their choice in privately owned housing and receive rental assistance. Rent subsidies, called vouchers, allow families to pay a reasonable share of their income toward rent while the program. BHA pays the other portion. The term “Section 8” is used because the federal law which created the program is Section 8 of the Housing and Community Development Act of 1974. This is one of the many BHA housing programs.

Can it say Section 8 instead of leased housing?

The housing program is called Section 8. Leased Housing is the department at the BHA that oversees the program.

What size unit is appropriate for my household?

Rental assistance recipients are required to follow certain occupancy standards that guide how many bedrooms are appropriate for the household. The following is a basic guide:

Family size/ eligible bedroom size:

  • 1 person/ 0-1 BR
  • 2 people/ 1-2 BR
  • 3 people/ 2-3 BR
  • 4 people/ 2-4 BR
  • 5 people/ 3-5 BR
  • 6 people/ 3-6 BR
  • 7-8 people/ 4-6 BR
  • 9-12 people/ 5-6 BR

A living room will not be counted as a bedroom, except in studio apartments. The head of household and spouse or partner shall be entitled to one bedroom. Household members who are of the same gender shall share a bedroom. Household members of different genders are not required to share bedrooms.


Can Project-Based Voucher users apply for Tenant-Based Voucher programs?

PBV participants who have been a participant in the program for at least 12 months and are in good standing may request to be placed on the Tenant-Based Voucher waiting list. A Tenant-Based Voucher will be issued when they become available and the participant may rent a house or apartment anywhere within the United States and its properties.


What happens if my apartment does not pass inspection?

BHA will notify the owner of the violations cited by the inspector and arrange a date for re-inspection.

The apartment that I would like to move in to has failed inspection several times, should I look for another apartment?

At times, violations cited by the inspector may take several days or weeks to fully rectify because of the nature and complexity of the violation. Before deciding to start your apartment search again you should contact the owner and try to determine when they anticipate completion of the work. Keep your Leasing Officer updated as they can best advise and assist you in your decision.

What is tolling?

When a client receives a voucher they have a certain amount of time (usually 120 days) to find a suitable apartment. Once they find an apartment they would like to rent, the owner and the client will complete a Request for Tenancy Approval (RFTA) and submit it to their Leasing Officer. Upon receipt of the RFTA the “tolling” begins. “Tolling” means the “clock stops ticking” and the amount of time the Request for that particular unit is in process will be added to the voucher expiration date.
For example:

  • Your voucher expires on June 1.
  • You submit a RFTA on May 1.
  • The BHA inspects the unit, makes a rent offer and the owner rejects the rent. This process takes 10 days.
  • The new expiration date of your voucher is June 11 ( June 1 + 10 days to process RFTA = June 11).

Why is there a time range as to when the inspector could arrive?

Dispatchers schedule their inspectors with morning inspections, between 9:00am & 12:00pm, and afternoon inspections, between 12:00pm to 4:00pm. A typical day for an Inspector would consist of 12 inspections and sometimes more. There are currently 16 inspectors to cover inspections throughout all of Eastern Massachusetts. Inspectors are subject to slow downs because of inclement weather and traffic. Also, the inspector could be delayed because he or she has encountered serious conditions on a previous inspection which resulted in the inspector being delayed in the completion of that inspection.

How long is an inspection?

The length of time an inspector remains on site varies greatly. For instance, a small three room apartment in a recently constructed apartment building could be inspected relatively quickly. Conversely, a nine room single family house built at the turn of the century and has not seen much renovation or updating, could take considerably longer to inspect.

During an inspection, what will the inspector look at?

The inspector will need to inspect every room and space in the apartment. The inspector will also inspect the common area stairwells, hallways, entry & exit ways, and any other accessible common area. Additionally, an important part of the inspection is the basement of the dwelling. The grounds are also inspected.

Do tenants get a copy of the inspection report when it’s completed?

Yes, the inspector will ask for a signature and leave the tenant a copy of the report. The tenant can also request a copy be mailed to their residence by contacting the Inspection Department.

Does the BHA Inspector test for lead paint?

No, BHA Inspectors do not test surfaces for lead paint. In pre 1978 dwellings where a child under the age of six years old resides or is expected to reside, the BHA Inspector will ask the owner for documentation that confirms that the dwelling and dwelling unit is in compliance with applicable lead paint regulations. The inspector will also do a visual check of painted surfaces in and around the apartment and dwelling.

I have a 5-year-old child. I see paint peeling around the building. Is this a violation?

Yes, if the dwelling was constructed prior to 1978. The BHA Inspector will cite any surface where the paint has separated from the substrate and is flaking, peeling, chipped, scaling, loose or in any way defective. Those areas will need to be scraped of the loose, offending paint and that surface must be resealed to prevent further paint separation and deterioration. The inspector will cite defective painted surfaces on both the interior and exterior portions of the dwelling, regardless of height or location. The surfaces must be addressed utilizing lead safe work practices and be in accordance to current Repair, Renovating or Painting (RRP) regulations.

I own a building that was constructed before 1978. What are my responsibilities as it relates to the Lead Paint Laws?

You must have your dwelling inspected by a Massachusetts Licensed Lead Paint Inspector. The lead inspector will instruct you on the steps you need to take to bring your building into compliance with Massachusetts lead laws.

When doing any Repair, Renovating or Painting (RRP) in the building, all work must be done in such a way that Lead Safe Work Practices are being followed and all Federal RRP Regulations are being observed. You must maintain all interior and exterior surfaces intact and free of defective paint. Any surface that may be flaking, peeling, chalking, scaling or in any way separated from the substrate would need to be addressed, regardless of height or location.

Under the Lead Disclosure Rule, you must inform all occupants of your building of any lead issues that you have or may have had and, together with the Lead Disclosure form, provide the occupants with copies of any lead documents related to the dwelling. The Lead Disclosure form and other lead related documents will also be kept on file with BHA. You must provide the tenant with a copy of the EPA’s handbook “Protect Your Family from Lead in Your Home.”

To receive printed information or for questions on lead-based paint and lead-based paint regulations, contact the National Lead Information Clearinghouse at 1 (800)424-LEAD.


How often does the BHA inspect a unit?

We are required to inspect our subsidized units once a year. This inspection would be within 12 months of the last inspection. We could inspect more frequently. Other reasons we would inspect a unit would be due to a complaint by the tenant or a complaint by the owner, a quality control inspection, or verifying a change in utilities, to name a few.

Is the inspector responsible for moving furniture?

No, the inspector will not move furniture. However, if there is an issue you would like the inspector to see, please arrange to have the furniture moved prior to the inspector’s arrival. We will also not dismantle an item to view inside, for instance, removing a breaker panel cover. The inspection is non invasive.

How can I be proactive during the inspection?

It may be helpful if you have written down any concerns you may have prior to the inspector’s arrival. Point out your concerns to the inspector as he/she goes into each room and space. If the item is a code violation the inspector will cite it.

My inspector is late or did not arrive. What do I do next?

Inspectors cover a wide area and are subject to traffic and weather conditions. These are the biggest factors in late arrivals or inspectors not arriving. Please call the inspection dispatcher for your area. The dispatcher can contact the inspector and get an update as to his/her expected time of arrival. It is recommended that you contact this department at 9:00 the morning of your scheduled inspection to confirm that you are on the schedule. We do not have your phone numbers in our system and unfortunately cannot call you in the event an inspection is postponed.

Can the inspector call me when he/she is on the way to my home?

Yes, inspectors can and do call ahead when they are approximately 20 to 30 minutes away. However, you must communicate with the inspector prior to the appointment with your request for this call. Remember, we do not have your telephone number.

How do I contact the BHA Dispatcher for my inspection?

Click here to use a search tool to identify the BHA Dispatcher for your zip code.

I have a complaint related to my inspection. Who do I call?

Please see the list of Leased Housing Inspections contact numbers. If you have a problem, start by calling the dispatcher for your area. Many times issue can be resolved quickly. You can also call the supervisory staff.


What is an enhanced voucher?

HUD has provided special Section 8 Enhanced Vouchers to protect residents of rent-regulated apartments with federal assistance, when owners pre-pay federal loans to opt out of such programs, or when refinancing a mortgage with a federal 236 subsidy contract, or opt not to renew project based Section 8 contracts.

Enhanced Vouchers differ from standard vouchers in several ways, including:

  • Special allocation: The vouchers are designated specifically for the residents of the affected units
  • Higher income limits
  • Higher payment standards: The rents for Enhanced Vouchers are not limited to the Payment Standard, but can be up to reasonable, market rents for the units affected
  • Different minimum tenant shares: Enhanced Vouchers are designed to protect residents, not confer a benefit, so the minimum rent that an Enhanced Voucher participant pays is no less than the tenant's payment prior to conversion.

These differences for Enhanced Vouchers apply only while the participant household resides in the housing development that converted. If the household moves outside the affected development, the Enhanced Voucher reverts to a standard Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher.

Mod Rehab & Project-Based Voucher (PVB) programs

Visit the Department of Housing and Urban Development website for FAQs about the Mod Rehab program and Project-Based Voucher program.

If I want my apartments to go smoke free, what resources are there available?

Many resources are available at Boston Public Health Commission and Massachusetts Department of Public Health to help landlord transit the apartments to smoke free. Click here for more information.

Paying Rent

How is rent set for voucher programs?

Your rent and utilities will depend on the unit you choose. If the apartment rents for more than the payment standard, your family will pay more than 30% of its monthly adjusted income, but not more than 40% of its adjusted income. If the unit rents for less than the payment standard, the family will still pay 30% of its monthly adjusted income.

Read more about rent policies for voucher programs.

Does BHA pay my rental assistance to me or my landlord?

BHA pays your rental assistance directly to the landlord on the first of each month. You must also pay your share of the rent on time each month. Failure to do so can lead to termination of your rental assistance.

Reasonable Accommodation

Who Qualifies for a Reasonable Accommodation?

In order to qualify for a reasonable accommodation, a Client must be an “otherwise qualified individual with a disability.” 

What is considered to be a disability?

Under state and federal law, a disability is a mental or physical impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.

What are some examples of mental or physical impairments?

Examples of mental or physical impairments include, but are not limited to,  diseases and conditions including: orthopedic, visual, speech and hearing impairments, cerebral palsy, autism, epilepsy, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, cancer, heart disease, diabetes, Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) infection, mental retardation, emotional illness, drug addiction (other than addiction caused by current, illegal use of a controlled substance) and alcoholism. 

What are “major life activities”?

Examples of major life activities include, but are not limited to, the ability to walk, see, hear, breathe, think, read, or care for oneself.

What does “otherwise qualified” mean?

An “otherwise qualified” individual with a disability is a person with a disability who is able to meet essential BHA program eligibility and requirements with or without a reasonable accommodation.
For example, if a Client is having difficulty complying with his or her program obligations, and it’s due to a disability, the Client may request that the BHA take the disability into consideration and work with the Client to find an arrangement that allows him or her to comply. 

Does the requested accommodation need to be related to the disability?

Yes.  There is a requirement that the requested accommodation may be necessary to provide you with an equal opportunity to use and enjoy the BHA’s housing and programs. This relationship between the disability and accommodation is referred to as a “nexus.”

Does BHA always have the right to ask for verification of my disability and needs?

Not always, but the BHA does have the right to request information if it:

  • Is necessary to verify that the Client meets the definition of a person with a disability;
  • Describes the needed accommodation; and
  • Shows the relationship between the person’s disability and the need for the requested accommodation. 

Can the forms still help me even if my disability and needs are apparent?

Yes. The forms, particularly the Certification of Need, provide questions that may remind you or your medical professional or qualified service provider of additional needs that the BHA might be able to address. 

Where can I get the forms other than on this website?

You may pick up the forms at:

  • The John F. Murphy Housing Service Center at 56 Chauncy Street, Boston, MA 02111
  • The Public Housing developments’ management offices.
  • The Occupancy Department at 52 Chauncy Street, Floor 3, Boston, MA 02111
  • The Leased Housing Department at 52 Chauncy Streets, Floor 4 or 5, Boston, MA 02111
  • The BHA Office of Civil Rights at 52 Chauncy Street, Floor 9, Boston, MA 02111

To request a form by mail, call the Office of Civil Rights’ Reasonable Accommodation Coordinator at 617-988-4377 (TDD: 800-545-1833 x420).

If you need assistance or an accommodation (for example, a screen reader or sign language interpreter) to complete the forms, contact the Office of Civil Rights’ Reasonable Accommodation Coordinator at 617-988-4377 (TDD: 800-545-1833 x420).

When are Requests for Reasonable Accommodations Granted?

In general, BHA must grant an accommodation unless the Client requesting it is not an otherwise-qualified individual with a disability, there is no nexus, or the request is not reasonable.

When is a request not reasonable?

A request is not reasonable if it would result in an undue financial or administrative burden for the BHA or it would create a fundamental alteration in a BHA program. 

Examples of reasonable requests:

In the Public Housing program, it might be reasonable to lower the cabinets for someone in a wheelchair, put grab bars in the bathroom for someone with a mobility impairment, or put in a flashing fire alarm for someone who has a hearing impairment.  It might also be reasonable to allow a person with a mental disability to have rent payments made by a third party.
In a Leased Housing program, it might be reasonable to increase a participant’s voucher amount so that he or she might find a home that meets his or her needs.  It also might be reasonable to increase a voucher’s bedroom size to allow a live-in personal care assistant to live with the participant.
Examples of unreasonable requests:

It would not be reasonable for the BHA to prevent children from using a development playground because the noise bothers a person with a disability or to have the BHA pay for a Client’s personal care attendant or personal medical devices.

How does the BHA address Reasonable Accommodation Requests?

Under disability law, the BHA must engage in an interactive process with you while reviewing your request.  This means that the BHA will work with you in a cooperative way to try to find a resolution to your needs.
Once enough information is available, the appropriate BHA staff person for your program will review and decide upon your request.  If additional information is needed to make a decision, you will receive a written request.  You should be careful to follow any deadlines in the letter.

You may request a meeting to discuss your request.

As part of the interactive process, either you or BHA staff may request a meeting to discuss the requested accommodation. Any meeting will be held at a location that is accessible to you. You may have a friend or advocate with you at the meeting. You may also request an accommodation for the meeting. 

When will I receive a decision on my Reasonable Accommodation request?

The BHA will issue a written decision thirty (30) days from either the date of the request, or the date all the necessary information is received. Whether your request is approved or denied, you will be notified in writing.

How is my Reasonable Accommodation request reviewed in the context of other requests?

The BHA considers each request for reasonable accommodation as a separate request. Just because one person had a change approved or denied in the past does not mean that all requests for that type of change will be approved or denied. The decision will be made on a case-by-case basis with the understanding that each person’s needs and circumstances are unique.

Does the BHA have to grant me the specific Reasonable Accommodation I have requested?

No. If your request is not reasonable, the BHA will propose an accommodation that tries to meet your needs as effectively as possible.
Also, if your request is reasonable, but there is a less burdensome but equally effective accommodation available, the BHA may offer you that accommodation instead.

What If I Disagree with the BHA's Reasonable Accommodation Decision?

Appeal rights

If the BHA denies your request or approves it, but you disagree with the way in which it was approved, you may submit a written request for an appeal with the Department of Grievances and Appeals within twenty (20) days of the date of denial.

Remedies available besides appealing a decision

If at any time you think your request is not being processed appropriately, you have the right to file a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights or call the 24-Hour Civil Rights Hotline at 617-695-3531.
In addition, you have a right to seek assistance from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination and the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development.  View their contact information

Rent Increase

Can my landlord ask for an increase in my rent? How often? Is it automatic?

Yes.  The landlord can request an increase in the contract rent which would be effective 12 months or more after your lease started or, if the contract rent was increased in the past, 12 months or more from the last increase.  It is NOT automatic.  The landlord must get both BHA’s approval and your approval before the contract rent can change.

Shouldn’t this be done at my annual recertification? Does this mean my rent could increase twice in a year?

BHA doesn’t require owners to only submit rent increases at your annual recertification—it can happen anytime in the year, as long as the increase wouldn’t be effective sooner than 12 months from the last change.  Yes, it is possible you might get more than one rent change—but the recertification rent change (and any interim changes due to reported changes in your income) are based on the normal rules about reporting your income.  A landlord request for a rent increase, on the other hand, has nothing to do with your income, and there can only be one of those within 12 months.

What kind of notice am I supposed to get from the landlord of a proposed rent increase?

The landlord must give you and BHA at least 60 days advance written notice--for example, for an increase in rent as of July 1, the notice would be received by May 1.

What does BHA do after it gets the request from the landlord?

The BHA asks for  information about the other rents charged in the property or, if the landlord doesn’t have other similar units for rent, showing that the rent being sought is comparable to that for a unit of similar size and quality in that area.  BHA then decides whether the rent is “reasonable” based on that information.  BHA may approve the rent, not allow it, or may tell the landlord that it would only approve a lower rent.

Can the landlord charge a rent which exceeds the subsidy that BHA can pay for a unit of a particular size?

Yes.  Whether the rent is “reasonable” in comparison to the market is a completely different question than what BHA will pay as a subsidy for the apartment.

Who ends up paying the difference if the rent approved for the landlord is greater than what BHA can pay on subsidy?

You, the tenant, would if you agree to the rent increase.  This is why it’s very important for tenants to think carefully about whether to agree to a rent increase, since it may be that the new tenant share may not be affordable.

Is that true for all rent increases?

No.  Sometimes a rent increase remains within the subsidy that BHA can pay, and the tenant wouldn’t then end up having to pay the difference.  

I thought Section 8 tenants were only supposed to pay 30% of income. I also heard they couldn’t approve me paying more than 40% of my income as rent.

It’s true that all Section 8 tenants must pay 30% of adjusted income for rent (and any tenant-paid utility costs, using BHA utility allowances).  But this is just the minimum.  If the “gross rent” (contract rent and tenant-paid utilities) exceeds the “payment standard” (the subsidy BHA can pay for you), the tenant pays the difference.  While there is a 40% of income cap on the tenant rent and utilities when you lease up, that cap does NOT apply for rent increases that happen later.

Let’s say that BHA approved a rent increase. What happens then?

Your leasing officer will send a letter and will be available to discuss and explain the proposed increase and what you would end up paying if you agree to an increase.  You are free to accept or reject the increase.  If you accept the increase, then you and your landlord sign a lease amendment which shows what the new contract rent will be, and that new rent cannot be changed for at least 12 months.

Let’s say I don’t think I can afford the rent increase, but I could pay a lower increase.

BHA can help you negotiate a different amount with the landlord.  If the landlord agrees to drop the amount, then the revised amount would be used.  However, BHA cannot force the landlord to accept a lower amount—just like BHA cannot force you to accept a higher amount.

What if the landlord asks me to sign something other than the BHA lease amendment with the BHA approved rent?

Side agreements with the landlord are prohibited by the Section 8 program.  If the landlord proposes a side agreement you should let BHA know immediately.  

I’m over-housed—I’m in a 3-bedroom apartment, but I only get a 2-bedroom voucher because one of my adult children moved out. Does this affect me?

Tenants who are over-housed usually are already rent-burdened because they have to make up the difference in subsidy—so any landlord rent increase is only going to make things worse.  Often it’s wise to ask BHA for a voucher to relocate and to not agree to an increase which will make the situation even worse.

I have a disability, and need to stay where I am because my apartment’s close to where I get my regular treatment and is set up to meet my needs. Do I have any additional rights?

Yes.  BHA can consider whether to grant a change in the maximum subsidy it can pay for you, and this may reduce the impact of a landlord rent increase.  Take a look at BHA’s Reasonable Accommodation Policy.

Am I alone in this?

There are groups that help tenants know about their rights.  Sometimes tenants in a building may group together and ask the landlord to negotiate over issues like rent changes, what’s in the lease, repairs, etc.  City Life/Vida Urbana has successfully organized to get larger owners to sign agreements to limit Section 8 rents to BHA subsidy levels.  You can contact City Life/Vida Urbana at (617) (617) 524-3541, ext. 310 (or smeacham@clvu.org) or Section 8 Tenants, Inc. at (617) 942-7568 (or info@s8ti.org)  if you want help.

What happens if the BHA refuses to agree to the rent increase that the landlord wants?

Sometimes nothing happens—the landlord leaves things alone.  Other times, the landlord may start the eviction process.  The original 60-day rent increase notice may also be a lease termination notice; other times, the owner will need to send a new notice to the tenant (with a copy to the BHA).  After the notice expires, you would get court papers.  You may have good defenses to the eviction, and even if you don’t, the court may be able to give you more time to leave.  This type of eviction should not affect your rights to continue to get Section 8 assistance.  You can contact Eastern Regional Legal Information (ERLI) at (617) 371-1234 to get information about how to best defend against eviction and referrals to legal services.

What if I don’t agree to the rent increase, and the landlord won’t agree to the lower amount I proposed?

The answer is the same as in the question above above—the landlord may do nothing, or may take you to court in an eviction.  Here again, you may have good defenses to a court eviction, and even if you don’t, the court may be able to give you more time to leave.  This type of eviction should not affect your rights to continue to get Section 8 assistance.  You can contact Eastern Regional Legal Information (ERLI) at (617) 371-1234 to get information about how to best defend against eviction and referrals to legal services.

Resident Advisory Board

What is a Resident Advisory Board (RAB)?

The Resident Advisory Board was established in response to the Quality Housing and Work Responsibility Act of 1998.  The Resident Advisory Board consists of public housing and Section 8 residents who advise the Boston Housing Authority (BHA) and make recommendations regarding development of the Agency Plan.

Who are RAB members?

The RAB is made up of public housing residents and Section 8 voucher holders.  The members are elected to serve a two year term on the Resident Advisory Board by their peers. The current term is 2012-2014.

How do RABs help or assist public housing residents and Section 8 voucher holders?

Through a series of regular meetings, the Boston Housing Authority reviews policy, practices and program goals with the Resident Advisory Board and documents members' comments and recommendations.  Comments from the RAB regarding Boston Housing Authority policy changes are made in the best interest for residents and other stakeholders.

What is the role of RAB?

The role of the RAB is to assist and make recommendations regarding the development of the Public Housing Authority (PHA) Plan and any significant amendments or modifications to it.

Who can participate on the RAB?

Under the bylaws that the BHA RAB has developed, there are RAB elections every two years to select who will serve on the RAB.  The last election was in the summer of 2012.  For public housing, ballots are cast by representatives of BHA’s recognized local tenant organizations (LTOs), and they chose 10 members from BHA elderly/disabled public housing and 10 members from BHA family public housing.  Up to 10 alternates can also be chosen from each of these groups.  Tenants don’t have to be from a development that has an LTO to be nominated or elected.  For Section 8, ballots are cast by all BHA Section 8 tenants who attend the election, and 10 members and up to 10 alternates who are in BHA’s Section 8 program are elected.  If there are vacancies in between elections, the RAB decides how the vacancies will be filled.

What can you and your Local Tenant Organization do to assist RAB?

The BHA is required to convene a public hearing to discuss their five-year and/or Annual Plan and to get comments from the public regarding their proposed activities. BHA must consider, in consultation with the RAB, all the comments received at the public hearing.  The Public Notice and Comment Period provides residents with an opportunity to voice their concerns so that their needs are addressed and they can become involved in the planning process.  The BHA also gains essential information from the residents about the improvements that need to be made at the agency’s developments. This information helps the BHA to set priorities for capital improvements and advises resident services programming. The partnership between the RAB, local tenant organizations, residents and the BHA is of benefit to ALL parties. Please join us at the public hearing and bring your comments regarding the plan that will affect you.

How do I contact RAB to find out more information about RAB?

See the attached flyer with information.

Resident Information Questions

How do I report any changes to my income or family?

For information about adding a household member, adding a Personal Care Attendant, or other changes, contact your housing manager.

What is “good standing”?

“Good standing” means that you’re in compliance with your lease and any obligations you have to BHA. If BHA has proposed to terminate you from the Section 8/Leased Housing program for something you or a household member has done, or if your landlord has started an eviction process saying you are at “fault,” BHA may refuse to issue you a voucher to move because you are not considered to be in “good standing.” At “fault” could include not paying your rent, involvement in criminal activity, having unauthorized household members and others. However, you may be able to work things out with your landlord (for example, have an acceptable repayment plan, win the eviction case, or be evicted for “no fault” reasons).

I don’t think my BHA Leasing Officer has taken the right steps in my case. What should I do?

You can call and speak with your Leasing Officer or set up a meeting. You can also speak with your Leasing Officer’s supervisor to discuss your concerns and review your case file. It may be that there is a HUD regulation or BHA policy that you don’t agree with. Whatever the issue may be, BHA will do its best to get it resolved. 

What if the issue isn't getting resolved?

Section 8/Leased Housing participants have the right to an informal hearing when they think their rent/income isn’t being set properly; when they have been denied a reasonable accommodation or other relief by BHA; or when their rental assistance is being terminated. If BHA has taken adverse action against you, the notice you receive will tell you how to request an appeal and the deadline for an appeal.


Who hears the appeals?

A Hearing Officer in BHA’s Grievances and Appeals Department. Unlike Public Housing grievances, Leased Housing/Section 8 appeals are not heard by a grievance panel.

What happens after I put in an appeal?

You will be informed of the date and time a hearing has been scheduled. The hearing will be held at BHA’s main office at 52 Chauncy Street, 9th Floor, Boston, MA. You can review BHA records in advance of the hearing. You can present witnesses and documents and be accompanied by a friend, family member, advocate, or attorney. Sometimes the hearing officer may want information on things that you didn’t anticipate in advance. If so, the Hearing Officer may give you the chance to hand in additional material after the hearing by a certain date. After the hearing is closed, the Hearing Officer will issue a written decision and send it to you and the Leased Housing Department. 

What if I don’t like what the hearing officer’s decision said?

You have the right to file a court action challenging the decision, but must do so within 60 days of the hearing decision. In some cases, you may be able to convince BHA to not proceed with termination even though the Hearing Officer said it was permitted. However, if you’re talking with BHA to try to change its mind, keep the 60-day court deadline in mind, because the legal deadline doesn’t change just because you’re talking to BHA.

Can the amount of a voucher be increased?

Generally, no. The amount of subsidy BHA can pay on behalf of your family is determined by your income, your family size and the payment standard. However, as each family’s circumstances are unique, you need to discuss all of the factors with your Leasing Officer during the eligibility process.

What happens if my unit needs repairs?

You should notify your landlord immediately if your unit is in need of a repair. If violations are found at the time of an initial or annual inspection conducted by the BHA, a letter will be sent to your landlord with a copy to you. The violations must be corrected within 30 days and the BHA inspection department will conduct a re-inspection to verify that the violations have been corrected.

What if my apartment owner wants me to move?

If you are a Section 8/Leased Housing participant, your landlord may request that you move at the end of your lease term. If you receive a written notice to move, call the Leased Housing Department. It is very important for you to fulfill your lease obligations and pay your rent on time each month. If you violate any of your lease provisions, your landlord may serve a notice for lease violations. In this case you may no longer be eligible for the program. 

I have a question about inspections.

Go to the Inspection Questions and Answers to learn more about the inspection process. If you cannot find an answer there, contact your housing manager.

I was told that as a Section 8 participant, I have certain “family obligations” to the BHA, separate from my lease with my landlord. What does this involve?

There are a number of different obligations. 

  • Fully and accurately reporting on income and family composition

  • No family member may engage in drug-related or violent criminal activity

  • Allow inspection of my unit at the times BHA sets

  • Give BHA and my landlord written notice of any intent to move, and give BHA copies of any landlord eviction notices you receive

  • Not owe BHA or other housing agencies money from the Public Housing or Leased/Section 8 Program, and/or not be in compliance with any repayment agreement

  • Don’t engage in serious or repeated violations of the lease

  • Notify BHA of any prolonged absence (more than 30 days)

  • Remedy any tenant-caused violations (for example, lack of heat due to tenant nonpayment of a utility bill)


Voucher Extension Questions

Can the length of time to find an apartment be extended?

Yes. You may request additional time to find a suitable apartment under certain circumstances. An extension may be granted if the voucher holder is unable to conduct an adequate housing search in the time given. Below are some example that may warrant an extension. 

  • The voucher holder was unable to search for housing due to circumstances beyond their control. For example, a natural disaster, a death in the family that required out-of-state travel, a severe illness or hospitalization. These circumstances would need to be verified.
  • If an individual with a disability requests more time for a Reasonable Accommodation.

How do you get an extension?

You must request an extension in writing to your Leasing Officer before your voucher expires (not after). You may be asked to provide documentation to support your request.

How many extensions can a tenant have?

There is no set number of extensions that an individual may request. 

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