Yes you can. If you have a housing voucher, and you can find an apartment within the right rent range, you can just rent it, no matter how many extra bedrooms it has. If you have a two bedroom voucher, you can comfortably rent a three bedroom apartment as long as it fits within the right price. However, this plan may come with a few pitfalls.
Although it might seem like a good idea, but sometimes it does not work out perfectly. Eventually the landlord may realize they could get a tenant with a larger voucher and get more money. After you have been there for a year, the landlord still reserves the right to raise the rent.
Note that if this happens, the Housing Authority will offer you the option to either pay the additional yourself, or move to a less expensive place. Voucher amounts are very confusing and easy to misunderstand. Before anything, ensure you double check how much rent your voucher will actually pay.
Also if utilities are not included in your rent, make sure to deduct the cost of utilities before figuring out how much your voucher is worth. Housing Authorities do not always explain this to people and many people end up wasting time and money looking in the wrong price range.
Additionally, if your Housing Authority allows you the extra bedrooms, there’s a chance your landlord will not allow it. If you are applying to a low income or “income restricted” property, they may have their own policies on bedrooms. Take your time to ask the property manager, or if you’d like to see it in writing, request a copy of their “bedroom policy” or “occupancy policy.”
The Section 8 program is financed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to provide rent subsidies in the form of housing assistance payments (HAP) to private Landlords on behalf of extremely low, very low – income individuals/ families, senior citizens, and persons with disabilities.
Regardless of the location and number of rooms, the rent for the unit can never be higher than the comparable rent determined by the HACLA/third party vendor and your accredited voucher regardless of the VPS.
4 Basic Requirements to Receive a Section 8 Voucher
To even be considered to receive a voucher, the individual must meet four basic criteria which include their family status, income level, and citizenship and eviction history.
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1. Family Status Requirement
Note that to be eligible to receive Section 8; you are expected to first meet HUD’s definition of family. HUD has set general guidelines as to what defines a family, but has given each Public Housing Authority – PHA – some flexibility in their exact definition of a family. Contact your local PHA to determine their exact family status qualifications. Generally, familial status means an individual or a group of people who meet any or all of the following conditions:
- With or without children.
- Where at least one individual is over the age of 62.
- Where one or more individuals in the household have a disability.
- Has been displaced from their home. This displacement could have happened due to a government action or due to damage or complete destruction caused by a natural disaster or other federally recognized disaster.
- A tenant who remains in a unit after all other members of his or her family have left the unit. The family was already receiving Section 8.
- A single person who does not meet any of the above criteria.
2. Income Level Requirement
The next Section 8 eligibility requirement is income level. Have it in mind that Section 8 is designed to help lower – income individuals afford housing. Therefore, to qualify for a housing choice voucher, a family’s yearly income must be below a certain amount.
Every year, HUD sets income limits which are broken down into three categories, extremely low income, very low income and low income. The actual income levels differ based on the area, because they are calculated as a percentage of the area’s median income level.
Also note that the income limits will also differ based on the number of people in the family. Income limits are created for families containing anywhere from one individual to eight individuals. Extremely low income for a family of one may be $15,000 a year, but for a family of eight, $30,000 a year may be an extremely low income level.
HUD also gives priority for Section 8 vouchers to those who would be classified as extremely low – income levels and then to those with very low – income. Low – income status are typically last in line, but could be granted a Section 8 voucher if they were classified as “continuously assisted” by public housing programs or those who are in HUD – assisted home ownership programs.
3. Citizenship Status Requirement
Section 8 vouchers are only granted to American citizens or to those who have eligible immigrant status. To determine if you have eligible immigrant status, please consult Exhibit 5 – 1 in HUD’s Housing Choice Voucher Guidebook for American citizens, the Public Housing Authority will:
- Make you sign a declaration stating that you and all members of your “family” are American citizens.
- Certain PHA’s will also verify each individual’s citizen status by requesting a U.S. passport, social security card or other documentation.
While for those with eligible immigrant status, the Public Housing Authority will:
- Make you sign a declaration stating that you have eligible immigration status.
- Provide INS Documents which prove your immigration status.
- Verify your information with the INS.
- Have you sign a form consenting to their use of the information obtained.
4. Eviction History Requirement
Section 8 vouchers will not be granted to anyone who:
- Has been evicted from a property within the last three years for drug – related criminal activity.
- Has been convicted of producing methamphetamine in an assisted housing project.
Reports have been gotten from some people that the Housing Authority do not allow them to rent a place with extra bedrooms, even if it falls within payment standard. Although this is not a common policy, it may exist in some areas.
Take your time to ask your housing program for a written copy of their bedroom policies or check their administrative plan to see if your housing program has created a policy like this. If you or someone in your household is disabled, and this policy is keeping you from being able to rent the place that best suit your disability needs, you can also request an accommodation for an exception to this policy.