Section 8 Participant Information

If you are a participant in the Missoula Housing Authority Housing Choice Voucher (Section 8) program, you will find helpful information on the voucher program in this section. If you are interested in applying for a Section 8 voucher, you can find information to help answer questions in the How to Apply section. If you are a landlord with tenants on Section 8 or who is interested in the program, you can find information to help answer your questions in the Landlords section.

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Locating a Unit

After you receive your Housing Choice voucher, it is your responsibility to find a place you want to live and a landlord willing to participate in the Section 8 program. To make this process easier, the Housing Authority office provides listings of houses and apartments with landlords or property managers interested in participating in the program. Please note that there is no guarantee that these units are suitable for your household.

We recommend that you use all available avenues for locating units, including classified ads and print and online housing search sites.

Once a potential home is found, have the landlord submit the Request for Tenancy Approval (RFT) packet. The unit must meet two requirements:

  1. The rent must be reasonable in comparison to rents charged for comparable, unassisted units in the area; and
  2. The participant’s portion cannot exceed 40 percent of monthly income. Your individual “price range” will depend on the current payment standard and utility allowance schedule, as well as your income.

If the requested rent fails to meet one or both of these requirements, MHA will ask the landlord to lower the rent. The landlord is under no obligation to alter the rent. If the landlord does not lower the rent, the unit cannot be used with your voucher, and you will need to look elsewhere. Please remember that your voucher expires in 60 days. There can be no side agreements in which the landlord asks you to pay the difference.

If the requested rent amount meets these requirements, the unit is scheduled for an inspection. We almost always complete the initial inspection within 1 or 2 business days.

Housing Quality Standards (HQS) Inspection

Housing Quality Standards (HQS) inspections ensure that units meet federal standards. Units must pass an initial HQS inspection to be entered into the program, and you should not move in until then. If you move in prior to your unit passing inspection, you are responsible for the entire rent until it passes inspection.

If the unit fails the inspection, all failed items must be corrected before MHA’s housing assistance payments begin. We recommend that you and the landlord do a preliminary walk-through of the unit, before the Section 8 inspector comes, so items that commonly cause units to fail an inspection can be fixed beforehand.

Moving In

After a unit passes inspection, you and the landlord will sign a lease, with a copy going to the Housing Authority, and then you can move in. The term of the initial lease must be at least six months, and both parties are obligated to uphold their responsibilities under the lease. Moving from your unit within six months of the date you moved in will result in your termination from the Section 8 program, and you will not be issued a new voucher. Early release from this lease is allowed only in cases of extreme hardship (such as domestic violence, medical emergencies, or reasonable accommodations for a disability).

Participant Responsibilities

As a participant in the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program, you have responsibilities to both the landlord and the Housing Authority. You must comply with the terms of the lease or lease addendum, including making timely payment of rent and utilities listed as your responsibility. You must use the unit as your principal residence and cannot sublease it or allow unauthorized people to reside in it. All information you supply to the Housing Authority must be true and complete.

Your responsibilities to MHA are listed on your Family Obligations and Grounds for Termination. It is important to understand that any violation of the above obligations could result in the termination of your Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher assistance or denial of another Housing Choice voucher.

Tenant Rights in the Event of Foreclosure

On May 20, 2009, a new federal law protecting your rights was enacted. Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher tenants have new rights regarding eviction from units that have been foreclosed. The new owner must give you at least 90 days notice if they want to terminate your lease. Find out more by reading the Tenant Rights in Foreclosure (PDF).

Reasonable Accommodations

The Missoula Housing Authority is committed to providing accommodations to persons with disabilities so that their living arrangements are comparable to those of other participants. Common accommodations include an extra bedroom for a necessary live-in aide or a home appointment instead of an office visit for a homebound tenant.

Reasonable Accomodation Request Packet (PDF)

Family Self-Sufficiency Program

The Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) Program is a five-year program available to families currently housed through the Housing Choice Voucher (Section 8) program who want to achieve economic independence. Information for Section 8 participants about the Family Self-Sufficiency Program.

Annual Review

*The Annual Review includes both the inspection of the unit and recertification of the tenant, which may or may not occur at the same time.

Unit Inspection

MHA will schedule an annual inspection of the unit, which may or may not be at the same time as your annual participant recertification. The same items reviewed at the initial inspection will be reviewed at annual inspections. Again, we recommend that you and the landlord do a walk-through of the unit before the HQS inspector comes, so items that commonly cause units to fail inspection can be fixed beforehand. The unit must pass the annual inspection in order for MHA’s housing assistance payments to continue. For more information, download the A Good Place to Live (PDF) packet.

Participant Annual Recertification

Every year, the Housing Authority will conduct a review of your income and family circumstances, which determine how much rent you pay and what, if any, utility reimbursement payment you receive. The Housing Authority will begin the process of reviewing your circumstances approximately 120 days before your anniversary date. After gathering information from you and third parties, including employers, MHA will verify your current household composition and annual income. The Housing Authority must receive proper documentation from you before your full recertification date in order for you to continue in the program.

Throughout the year, you must report any changes in household composition and income within 10 days of knowing about the change. MHA will process an interim change depending on current policies. Currently, a reduction in your income will be processed for the next month, but, in most cases, increases in income will be taken into account at your next Annual Recertification.

Moving or Porting Voucher to Another Community

One of the most popular features of the Housing Choice Voucher program is its portability. That means you can move anywhere in the country that has a voucher program and take your assistance with you. You can move either within MHA’s jurisdiction (the City of Missoula plus ten miles outside the city limits), or you can move somewhere else in Montana or around the country. Moving outside our jurisdiction is called porting; it is a bit more complicated because you must transfer to a different housing authority, but it is essentially the same process as moving.

The first step in any move is contacting your Program Specialist. Usually you will need an appointment. The move process may take 30 to 60 days, so think ahead. To be eligible to move with assistance, you need to meet certain requirements.

  • You need to complete the term of your lease.
  • You need to give proper notice to your landlord. You cannot break your lease!
  • We will update your income and household composition if needed.
  • We will get a reference from your landlord. You must be in good standing with the landlord and with MHA.
  • If you owe money to MHA you will not be allowed to keep your voucher when you move.

Once you are approved to move, we will issue you a voucher and give you the Request for Tenancy Approval (RFT) materials to take to your new landlord. The voucher will expire in 60 days.

If you are porting to another area’s agency, we will send your housing documents to that agency. You will need to contact them and they will issue you a voucher good in their jurisdiction. You will need to follow the payment standards and other rules for that agency.

Informal Hearing Rights

Your status may change as a result of the participant review. MHA may change your housing assistance payment, utility allowance or the unit size for which you are eligible. If you ask for an explanation for such changes, MHA will provide one.

If you do not agree with the determination and think the Housing Authority didn’t follow policies or HUD regulations, you may ask for an informal hearing. You must make such a request to the MHA office in writing within 10 business days of MHA’s explanation for the change in determination.

In addition, MHA may at any time terminate your Section 8 assistance altogether. In that case, the Housing Authority will issue prompt written notice to you, explaining its decision. Reasons for termination of assistance include, but are not limited to:

  • A participant’s failure to perform their responsibilities to the Housing Authority and/or the landlord.
  • Absence from the assisted unit for longer than the maximum period permitted under Housing Authority policy and HUD rules.
  • Drug crimes or violent crimes by household members or guests.

If your assistance is being terminated because of a failure to provide evidence of citizenship or eligible immigration status, or the INS’s failure to certify your eligibility for Section 8 assistance, you can file an appeal with the INS, challenging its verification. You can ask for an INS hearing instead of, or in addition to, an informal hearing with the Housing Authority.

Until the INS makes a final decision, you may be eligible for prorated assistance, continued assistance or a temporary deferral of termination. MHA’s notice of termination will explain how you can apply for these. Your occupancy cannot be terminated until all appeals are processed.

For more information about this process, please click on the link(s) below.