Boston Housing Authority

For Landlords > FAQs

FAQ Landlords

About My Lease

What is the Lease?

The Lease is the agreement between the owner and the tenant.

Can I use my own Lease?

BHA’s Legal Department must review all leases before they can be used in place of a BHA lease. A copy of your lease must be submitted with the RFTA for approval.

Who prepares the Lease and Contract?

Once the unit passes inspection, the tenant will contact their Leasing Officer to make an appointment to sign the Lease and Contract. The tenant usually brings the Lease and Contract to the owner for signatures and returns them to the Leasing Officer. The owner and tenant should coordinate how the documents will get completed. 

Who determines the effective date?
The effective date of the Lease and Contract will depend on a number of factors, the inspection approval date, when the tenant is able to meet with the Leasing Officer, and if the Leasing Officer has all the necessary paperwork from the tenant and owner. The Leasing Officer will make the final determination on the effective date.
Who signs the Lease and Contract?

Both the owner and the tenant sign the Lease and Contract. The Contract will also be signed by a BHA administrator.

What other information will I need to submit with the Lease and Contract?

In addition to the Lease and Contract, the owner will need to fill out an Owner Information Form. This form provides all the information BHA will need to report subsidy payments to the IRS.  The owner will also have to provide a copy of a registered deed as proof of ownership. If the deed is over 10 years old, a copy of the most current property tax bill will be required.

How long are the Lease and Contract valid?

The Lease and Contract are valid for 12 months. Once they have expired, the tenant becomes a tenant at will. A new Lease and Contract does not have to be signed every year.

Can I collect first and last month's rent as well as a security deposit?

Upon signing the Lease, you can collect (from your tenant) the tenant's share of first month rent and a security deposit. The security deposit must be less than or equal to one month’s approved contract rent (BHA subsidy plus tenant’s share). Last month's rent cannot be collected. 

What is the Contract?

The Contract is the agreement between the owner and BHA.

Becoming a Section 8 Landlord

How do I become a Section 8 landlord?
You must rent an apartment to a tenant that has been issued a valid Housing Choice Program Voucher.
How do I advertise my apartment as being for rent?
You can advertise in the same way you would for a regular market tenant, through the newspaper, Internet, or other platforms. You may also use the BHA’s “List an Apartment for Section 8” tool when you have an apartment available for rent. Once you create an account, you can add listings for any apartment you have available for rent within the BHA’s service area. We will advertise your vacant apartment(s) on this website for up to two months.
Can I start a lease in the middle of the month?

No, all leases begin on the first of the month.

What are the BHA deadlines?

There are two important deadlines that owners should be aware of. One is the Inspection deadline and the other is the Case Submission deadline.

The Inspection Deadline is for units that are currently vacant. This deadline is the date a unit must pass inspection for a Lease and Contract to be effective the beginning of the next month. The deadline is the twentieth of the month. For any unit that passes inspection after this deadline, the Lease and Contract will be effective the beginning of the second month following the approval.

The Case Submission Deadline is also the twentieth of the month.  It is the date a Leasing Officer must have a case submitted to verification for the owner to receive a subsidy check the following month. If all paperwork is not signed and returned to the Leasing Officer by this deadline, the owner will not receive a subsidy check the following month.

What utilities can the tenant be responsible for paying?

The tenant can be responsible for paying any utilities that are metered only for the unit the tenant will occupy. Any utility costs for common areas or other units on the property must be paid by the owner.

Can the tenant pay for water and sewer?

Yes, under very specific circumstances: if low flow water fixtures are installed, there is a written rental agreement, the previous tenant was not forced out of the unit, a licensed plumber has installed a submeter for only that unit and the landlord has filed a certification form with the local board of health or inspectional service department. Download the Submetering Certification form and submit it to the BHA inspector at the time of inspection to include this utility as part of the tenant’s responsibility.

I have screened a tenant who holds a valid Section 8 voucher, what is my next step?

The next step is to complete a Request for Tenancy Approval Form (RFTA) and have the unit inspected.

If I had Voucher holders in my apartment before, am I still in the program?

The Voucher program is a tenant-based subsidy that means the subsidy moves with the tenant. Once a Voucher program tenant moves out of your apartment, your participation with the program will be terminated. To continue your participation in the Voucher program you will need to screen and rent to another tenant that has been issued a valid Voucher.

What will the inspection process be like?
For all questions about the inspection process, please see Inspection FAQs for Landlords.

Collecting Rent

How do I request a rent increase?

The owner must give the tenant a written 60-day notice of the intent to raise the rent. A copy of this notice must be forwarded to the tenant’s Leasing Officer. The Leasing Officer will forward the request for a rent increase to the Market and Financial Specialist for review.

When can I expect the subsidy check each month?

The BHA portion of the rent, called the “subsidy,” is mailed once a month at the beginning of the month.

How do I receive my subsidy check?

The BHA portion of the rent or the subsidy is mailed to the address indicated on the Owner Information Form that is part of the Lease and Contract package.

Can I have my subsidy check direct deposited?

Yes. The Owner Information Form allows the owner to provide bank account information for direct deposit.

How is the Leasing Officer notified of the rent approved for the apartment?

The Market and Financial Specialist completes the Rent Approval Form and emails the form to the Leasing Officer. The Leasing Officer usually receives the Rent Approval Form within two days after the initial inspection.

When do I get notified of the rent approved for the apartment?

The Leasing Officer completes an Agency Determination Form or calls the owner with the rent once they have received the Rent Approval Form.

How is the rent determined?

The Market and Financial Specialist calculates the rent based on the condition of the unit, any market rental in the property and market survey information.

What are Fair Market Rents?

Fair Market Rents (FMR) are calculated and published annually by HUD. Each housing authority has the discretion of using a percentage of the FMRs between 70% but not to exceed 110% of the Fair Market Rents. FMRs are used to establish the Payment Standards for that housing authority’s voucher program. The percentage used is based on current rental conditions of private market units within a housing authority’s jurisdiction. FMRs are not an indication or guarantee of the rent that will be approved for a unit.

What are the Payment Standards?

Payment Standards are used to determine the subsidy amount (paid by BHA) and the tenant’s portion of the monthly contract rent. Payment Standards are not an indication or guarantee of the rent that will be approved for a unit.

Can I dispute the rent amount approved?

The Market and Financial Specialist should be contacted regarding the rent determination. If there is room for negotiation in the rent, a second opinion inspection can be conducted on the unit. All second opinion inspections are performed by an Inspection Department supervisor. A second opinion may increase or decrease the rent based on the second evaluation. If the second evaluation decreases the rent offered, the initial offer becomes void.

I’m not happy with the rent and want a second opinion; can I still sign a Lease and Contract?

The rent negotiation must be completed before a Lease and Contract can be signed. Once a Lease and Contract are signed, it is effective for 12 months. No changes can be made within those first 12 months. The Inspection Approval and Case Submission Deadlines are important factors to keep in mind regarding the negotiation of rent and the signing of the Lease and Contract.

Why is the rental amount the Market and Financial Specialist told me different from the rent amount the Leasing Officer told me?

The Market and Financial Specialist calculates the rent based on the condition of the unit, any market rental in the property and market survey information. The tenant’s participation in the program does not allow the tenant to pay more than 40% of their adjusted gross income toward rent and utilities. If the rent approved by the Market and Financial specialist exceeds the tenant’s 40%, the leasing officer must reduce the rent to meet the tenant’s maximum 40% contribution.

What if I want to change who is responsible for paying utilities and/or change the rent requested?

Any changes to the information from the original information on the RFTA must be requested in writing. If the change is from the owner paying all utilities to the tenant paying utilities, another inspection of the unit might be needed to verify individual meters on the utilities. All utilities must be individually metered for the tenant to be responsible for paying that utility.

Can the tenant pay the difference between what the Market and Financial Specialist approved and the rent I requested?

The tenant’s participation in the program does not allow the tenant to pay more than 40% of their adjusted gross income toward rent and utilities. The owner must accept the rent approved as the full rent for one month. The rent approved includes the tenant share of the rent and subsidy. It is a violation of the program for the tenant to pay more than their share indicated by their Leasing Officer.

Will I be able to raise the initial rent amount?

No changes can be made in the Lease and Contract within the first 12 months. After 12 months, the owner may request a rent increase.

When is a rent determined for my unit?
The rent for a unit is determined after the initial inspection of the unit, whether the inspection passes or fails.
When do I get notified of the rent approved for the apartment?

The Leasing Officer completes an Agency Determination Form or calls the owner with the rent once they have received the Rent Approval Form.

What happens if the tenant is still living in the apartment after the Contract has been terminated?

If the tenant is still living in the unit after the Contract has been terminated, the tenant is responsible for paying the owner the full rent amount. 

Current Section 8 Landlords

What if I move?

Please notify BHA as soon as possible so that all records are updated. The subsidy checks will not be forwarded by the Post Office.

What if I sell my property?

The new owner should be made aware that the tenants are Voucher holders.  All information regarding any pending inspections, the name of the Leasing Officer, Lead Paint Compliance information, copies of the lease and contract should be given to the new owner.

Do I need to sign a lease and contract every year?

The lease and contract are effective for 12 months. Once they have expired, the tenant becomes a tenant at will. A new lease and contract do not have to be signed every year.

Will the tenant’s share of rent and subsidy change after the lease and contract have expired?

The total contract rent for the unit will not change after the first year, unless the owner requests a rent increase. The program guidelines require that the Leasing Officer recertify the tenant every year. This annual recertification requires that the tenant provide documentation regarding income. After recertification, the Leasing Officer will notify the tenant and the owner of any changes in the tenant share and/or subsidy. Even if the tenant share or subsidy portion changes, the total contract rent will remain the same.

I have been paying all/some of the utilities and I would now like the tenant to pay all/some of the utilities.

After the initial 12 months have expired, the owner must notify the tenant in writing with a copy to the tenant’s Leasing Officer of the change in utility responsibility. An inspection of the unit might need to be conducted to determine that the utilities are individually metered. Individually metered means that only the tenant’s unit is connected to the specific utility. The tenant cannot pay a utility shared by another unit or common area. If the utilities are not individually metered, the owner must remain responsible for payment of those utilities.

There are people living in the unit who are not on the lease.

The Leasing Officer should be notified in writing of any person(s) using the unit as a primary residence that are not listed on the lease.

I have been notified by the police of criminal activity in the unit.

The Leasing Officer should be notified in writing and sent copies of any police reports regarding any criminal activity in the unit.

How do I terminate my participation in the program?
No longer renting the unit to a Section 8 voucher holder will terminate your participation in the program.
I have a question about inspections.
For all questions about the inspection process, please refer to the Inspections FAQs for Landlords.
How do I terminate my participation in the program?

No longer renting the unit to a Voucher holder will terminate your participation in the program.

Grievances and Appeals

When will a decision be made and who makes the decision?

After the hearing and the conclusion of any extension period, the Hearing Officer will review all documents submitted, the testimony of any witnesses, and all statements made by you and the Leased Housing representative during the hearing. The Hearing Officer will also review all applicable BHA policies and HUD regulations to determine whether to uphold or reverse the Leased Housing Division’s decision to terminate your Section 8 assistance. A written decision is typically mailed within 12 weeks of the hearing date. During the wait time, you are still considered a Section 8 participant and the BHA will continue to pay your subsidy (unless you have moved out of or been evicted from your apartment and the BHA has not approved a new lease.)  However, you will not be able to relocate.  If the hearing decision is in your favor, you will continue as a Section 8 participant in good standing. If the hearing decision is not in your favor, you will receive a separate letter notifying you of the date the subsidy will actually end. This would be the date that you would become responsible for the full rent of your apartment.  After a decision is made, do not attempt to contact the Hearing Officer—you will not be permitted to speak with him/her.  Any inquiries should be directed to your Leasing Officer or to the Department of Grievances and Appeals front desk at 617-988-4579.  The hearing decision is final and you will not be able to appeal the hearing decision with the BHA. You may be able to appeal to a court of law, but the Department of Grievances and Appeals will not be able to refer you to legal services or advise you on how to appeal.

Inspections

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.
 

What is a RFTA form?

The Request for Tenancy Approval Form or RFTA is a multipaged document that must be completed by the owner / agent / management company. The RFTA initiates an inspection of the unit. The tenant can pick up an RFTA form from their Leasing Officer or from the reception area at the Leased Housing Department. The completed form is returned to the tenant’s Leasing Officer, who reviews it for completion and sends the forms to be entered into the computer. The Inspection Department must be able to retrieve RFTA information from the computer to schedule an inspection.
 

Who is a Leasing officer?

A Leasing Officer is the person at the BHA who has been assigned to manage a tenant’s participation in the Section 8 Program. The tenant should be able to give an owner the name and telephone number of this individual. Leasing Officers all have direct extensions and can be reached by email use the Leasing Officer’s name, upper case first letter of first and last name, a period must separate the first and last name but no spaces (ex Firstname.Lastname@bostonhousing.org).
 

Can more than one RFTA be submitted at a time?

A tenant can only submit one RFTA at a time and an owner can only submit one RFTA per address at a time. If the tenant is no longer interested in a unit they must contact the owner and their Leasing Officer.
 

How long does it take to process an RFTA?

Once a tenant has returned a completed RFTA to the Leasing Officer it will take 3 to 4 business days for the RFTA information to be processed. Incomplete information on the RFTA is the major reason for delay. Once the form is processed, the Inspection Department will contact the Landlord to schedule an inspection.

Can I change tenants after an offer is made?

If an owner decides to offer the unit to a different tenant than originally offered, the owner must first notify the original tenant of their intent. This allows the original tenant to continue their search for another unit. A RFTA Form must be completed for the new tenant. An owner can only offer the unit to another tenant before a Lease and Contract are signed.

How long is an inspection approval valid?

An inspection approval is valid for 90 days. The new Lease and Contract must be effective prior to the expiration date of the inspection approval. If the lease is effective after the inspection approval has expired the unit will need another inspection.
 

Can I transfer an inspection approval?

If the inspection approval is still valid and the owner chooses another tenant a RFTA must be completed for the new tenant. The owner should include a note to the Leasing Officer with the information of a valid inspection approval. The Leasing Officer will forward this information to the Inspection Department. The Manager of the Inspection Department will review the request for transfer. If the transfer is denied or the Lease and Contract will be effective after the expiration of the inspection approval the unit will need another inspection.
 

Who schedules the inspection of the vacant unit?

Once a tenant has returned a completed RFTA to the Leasing Officer it will take 3 to 4 business days for BHA to schedule an inspection.  If you have not heard from BHA in this timeframe, the owner/agent/management company can call the Inspection Department to schedule an appointment.  The unit is usually scheduled on the next available day unless more time is needed to complete repairs or have the unit vacant.

Do I need a Lead Paint Compliance letter?

Any unit where a child under 6 will reside must submit a Lead Paint Compliance letter or a Building Permit/proof of construction to show the property was built after 1978.
 

Does the BHA test for Lead?

The BHA does not test for lead; please check the local yellow pages for a licensed lead paint testing company in your area.
 

I just purchased the property/cannot locate a Lead Paint Compliance letter.

Any unit where a child under 6 will reside must submit either a Lead Paint Compliance letter or a Building Permit/proof of construction to show the property was built after 1978. If an owner is unable to provide the compliance letter or proof of construction after 1978, the unit will not pass inspection. To obtain a Lead Paint Compliance letter the unit must be tested by a licensed lead paint inspection company. A copy can be obtained from the previous owner/company that completed the lead testing. You can access a registry of lead letters by address.

I submitted a Lead Paint Compliance letter for a previous tenant. Do I need to submit another?

The BHA is not obligated to retain copies of Lead Paint Compliance Letters. To facilitate an inspection please keep clear copies of Lead Paint Compliance letters to submit to the Inspector. 

Does the unit have to be empty for the inspection?

An inspection can be completed if the tenant living in the unit is the one listed on the RFTA. If this is not the case then the unit must be vacant.
 

What will the inspector look for during an inspection?
The Inspector will conduct a complete inspection of the property including all common areas, basement and exterior. The Inspector will also determine if the square footage of the unit meets the needs of the tenant. The Inspector will also note the use and occupancy of the property. All inspections are based on Article 2 of the Massachusetts State Sanitary Code as well as the Housing Quality Standards published by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. All code violations need to be corrected, lead paint compliance letter and occupancy information, if applicable, submitted before the unit can pass inspection.
How will I know when the inspector will be at my apartment?

When scheduling the inspection, you can select a morning or afternoon timeframe. The morning timeframe is between 9:30 AM and 12 PM. The afternoon timeframe is between 12and 4:30 PM. The person who will be providing access to the apartment should call the Inspection Department to schedule an inspection. The name of the Inspector and their cell phone number will be provided by phone once the inspection is scheduled. The inspector can be called the morning of the inspections and should be able to give an approximate time they will be at the property.

How will I know if the apartment has passed inspection?

The Inspector will give a copy of the inspection report to the owner at the time of the inspection. If the owner is not available at the time of the inspection, BHA can provide the results the following day.

How long do I have to correct the code violations for an initial inspection?

Because the unit is not under a lease or contract the owner does not have a timeframe to complete the repairs. The owner should be mindful of the Inspection Approval Deadline, and will not be able to rent the unit to the Voucher holder beyond this deadline.

What if I decide not to repair the code violations?

Because the unit is not under a lease or contract, the owner does not have to complete repairs of the code violations. If the code violations are not corrected, though, the unit will not pass inspection and cannot participate in the program. If your apartment does not pass inspection and you choose not to make the repairs, notify the tenant, the tenant’s Leasing Officer and the Inspection Department so the voucher holder can resume his or her housing search.

What do I do once the unit has passed inspection?

Notify the tenant that the unit has passed inspection. The tenant will contact their Leasing Officer to make an appointment to sign the lease and contract.

What is a conditional approval?

If the Inspector determines that the code violations are minor and the presence of these violations does not have a negative impact on the family or pose a health and/or safety risk, a Conditional Approval can be granted. A Conditional Approval provides the owner with 30 days to complete the repairs of the code violations that were cited. Once the violations are corrected and the unit passes a re-inspection, the tenant and owner can sign a lease and contract.

How many times a year is the unit inspected?

The unit will be inspected once every 12 months; however it may take more than one inspection for the unit to pass. 
 

How long do I have to correct code violations cited by the inspector?

HUD regulations require that a re-inspection of the unit be performed 30 days after the code violations have been cited.

Why are my subsidy payments being stopped due to code violations?

HUD regulations require that a re-inspection of the unit be performed 30 days after the code violations have been sited. If all of the cited code violations are not corrected by the re-inspection date, the unit may be placed on “Stop Payment”.

How long do I have to correct the code violations once a Stop Payment has been placed on my subsidy payment?

There is no time limit for the correction of code violations once the unit has been placed on Stop Payment. You are responsible for notifying the Inspection Department once the repairs have been made. An inspection of the unit must be scheduled to confirm that repairs have been completed before the subsidy payment can be resumed. Although there’s no time limit – you should be mindful that units on "Stop Payment" status for a period of 6 months or more are automatically terminated from the program.

Will I get the money that was withheld while the unit was on "Stop Payment"?

No. Once the violations have been corrected and the "Stop Payment" is lifted, regular subsidy payments will resume. The subsidy payments from BHA that were not paid during the "Stop Payment" will not be paid retroactively.

The inspector cited code violations during the annual inspection but the tenant won’t let me in the unit to do repairs.

BHA suggests that owners experiencing difficulties gaining access to their property to make necessary repairs seek legal counsel to resolve the matter. 

Should the tenant pay to have the problems fixed?
As the owner of the property you are responsible for the repairs to your property. If you feel that the code violations are tenant caused the money for the repairs can be deducted from the security deposit collected prior to the occupancy of the unit.
Does the BHA pay for tenant caused damages?

BHA does not pay for any damages caused by the tenant to the unit. 

The tenant has been living in the unit and now I’m being asked to provide a lead letter?

The Inspection Department has been notified by the tenant’s Leasing Officer that there is now a child under 6 residing in the unit. Failure to provide this information will result in the termination of the contract.

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.

Why was my Lead Paint Compliant Letter rejected?

Each Lead Paint Compliance letter is reviewed by the Inspection Manager for consistency. If the Lead Paint Compliance Letter is rejected, the owner will be told of the reason for the rejection. Another Lead Paint Compliance Letter with the noted correction will need to be submitted before the unit can pass inspection. Being unable to read a Lead Paint Compliance Letter is a common reason a letter is rejected. 

Should the tenant pay to have the violations fixed?

As the owner of the property, you are responsible for the repairs to your property. If you feel that the code violations have been caused by the tenant, the money for the repairs can be deducted from their security deposit. 

Why am I now being asked to provide a lead letter when the tenant has been living in the unit for some time?

The Inspection Department has been notified by the tenant’s Leasing Officer that there is now a child under 6 residing in the unit. Failure to provide this information will result in the termination of the contract.

If my tenant is in the process of moving, do I still need to have an annual inspection?
As long as the tenant is still physically in the unit, access will need to be provided for the annual inspection.
Do I need to be available for the annual inspection?

A letter notifying the owner of the annual inspection is sent to the owner as a courtesy; the owner is not required to be there or provide access. Under the terms of the program, the tenant has two responsibilities each year -- one is to be recertified and the other is to allow access to the unit for the annual inspection.

Others

I just bought a property with an existing Housing Choice Voucher tenant in the unit. What should I do?
All owners who purchase property with existing Section 8 tenants should contact the Leasing Officers for these tenants (the tenants have this information). The Leasing Officer can provide a Change of Ownership package that must be completed and returned to assume responsibility of the tenants and the program. The subsidy check will only be issued to the new owner when this package has been completed and processed.
What can BHA do to help move the tenant to another apartment?

The tenant’s Leasing Officer should issue the tenant a Housing Choice Voucher to relocate. The Housing Choice Voucher will only be effective for 120 days. If the tenant does not use the voucher to rent another unit, the voucher will expire. Once the voucher expires, the tenant will no longer be able to participate in the program and must reapply. 

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.