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Rights and responsibilities

Rights and responsibilities

Housing Choice Voucher program tenants and landlords each have rights, and are subject to requirements, while participating in the program. Seattle Housing Authority performs specific duties as the administrator of the program. For information on each party’s rights and responsibilities under the Housing Choice Voucher program open the options below.

For comprehensive information and resources on Seattle rental regulations visit the City of Seattle’s Renting in Seattle site and their Renter’s Handbook.

Tenant rights

As a tenant, state law grants you the right to a livable dwelling, protection from unlawful discrimination, the right to hold the landlord liable for damage caused by the landlord's negligence, and protection against lockouts and seizure of personal property by the landlord.

You are also entitled to a determination of eligibility based solely on income, household composition, suitability and Seattle Housing Authority rules—without regard to race, color, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, sexual orientation, age, veteran status, the presence of any sensory, mental or physical disability, or familial status.

Tenant responsibilities
  1. Supply required information—You must submit all information for regular re-examinations of income, household composition, immigration status, and to verify that you live in the unit
  2. Report changes in income or household members within 10 business days—You must update Seattle Housing Authority if family income, household composition, student status, or immigration status changes in any way, or if the household is being evicted. You must also notify the agency after a birth, adoption or legal-custodial arrangement, or if a family member moves out of the unit
  3. Allow Seattle Housing Authority to inspect the unit—You must allow Seattle Housing Authority to inspect the unit to ensure that it complies with HUD's Housing Quality Standards. You must also allow the agency to inspect the unit as requested by the landlord
  4. Live in the subsidized unit only—You must use the subsidized unit as your primary residence. You cannot lease or sub-lease the unit
  5. Pay bills as required by the lease—You must pay your portion of the rent each month, as described in the lease. In addition, you must pay utility bills and supply appliances the owner is not required to provide under the lease
  6. Comply with the terms of the voucher, the lease and the Tenancy Addendum—You should read the terms of the voucher, lease, and Tenancy Addendum carefully. If you have questions about any of these documents, contact the Housing Choice Voucher Program at 206-239-1728
  7. Do not commit any prohibited, unlawful or criminal act—You must not commit any prohibited or unlawful act in connection with the program, such as fraud, bribery or making side payments to landlords. You also must not participate in illegal drug activity or violent criminal activity of any kind
  8. Abide by the obligations of Washington State Landlord–Tenant law—Under state law, voucher-assisted tenants have the same responsibilities as unassisted tenants
Landlord rights

Landlords have the right to hold tenants responsible for tenant-caused damage to a unit, not including normal wear-and-tear. Tenants may be required to pay for or repair damage they have caused.

Landlords have the right, and the obligation, to select tenants using the same standards they apply to all applicants for their rental units. They may deny voucher-holders who do not meet their standard screening criteria. Under Seattle ordinance, they may not discriminate against voucher-holders simply because they participate in the Housing Choice Voucher Program.

Landlords do not have an automatic right to participate in the program. In rare cases they may not be allowed to work with the program because they have breached leases with participating tenants or violated relevant laws or program rules. In most cases, landlords may not rent units to voucher holders who are relatives.

Landlord responsibilities
  1. Screen all applicants for suitability—Landlords should screen prospective Housing Choice Voucher Program tenants just as they would unassisted tenants. Landlords may ask Seattle Housing Authority to supply the name, address, and telephone number of the last landlord to rent to the tenant
  2. Allow Seattle Housing Authority to inspect the unit—Landlords must allow Seattle Housing Authority to inspect the unit to ensure that it complies with HUD's Housing Quality Standards. Landlords must also allow the agency to inspect the unit at its request, or as requested by the tenant
  3. Make timely repairs to keep the property in good condition—Landlords are required to keep the unit in good condition and ensure that it complies with Housing Quality Standards. They must make all necessary repairs in a reasonable time period, or, if damage is caused by the tenant, notify the tenant that it is his or her responsibility to pay for or repair the damage
  4. Collect the tenant's portion of the rent—Seattle Housing Authority will not collect rent Housing Choice Voucher Program tenants
  5. Abide by the lease (with the tenant) and the HAP Contract (with Seattle Housing Authority)—Owners must comply with the terms of the lease signed with the tenant and the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) Contract signed with Seattle Housing Authority
  6. Comply with federal fair housing laws—For questions about the requirements of federal fair housing laws, contact the Housing Choice Voucher Program at 206-239-1728
  7. Abide by the obligations of Washington State Landlord–Tenant law—Under state law, landlords have the same responsibilities to voucher-assisted tenants as they do to unassisted tenants
SHA's role

As the local administrator of the Housing Choice Voucher Program, Seattle Housing Authority:

  • Determines whether tenants are eligible for the program
  • Establishes the maximum rent a tenant can afford to pay when first leasing a unit
  • Reviews unit information to make sure utility information is correct
  • Assigns an appropriate utility estimate, based on Voucher/unit size and payment responsibility
  • Pays the program's portion of the rent to the landlord in a timely manner
  • Inspects units to ensure that they are sanitary, safe, and decent
  • Re-certifies tenants' income once a year to re-establish rent portions for the tenant and Seattle Housing Authority
  • Re-inspects units at least once a year to make sure they still meet Housing Quality Standards
  • Monitors tenants and owners to ensure compliance with program rules
  • Manages daily operations with fiscal integrity and in accordance with federal rules and regulations
  • Seattle Housing Authority's role in the program is limited, and there are some things the agency does not do. In general, Seattle Housing Authority does not:
  • Screen tenants for suitability
  • Collect tenants' portion of rent
  • Enforce lease terms
  • Evict tenants who do not comply with the lease
  • Resolve disputes between owners and tenants
  • Share the tenant's personal information with the owner without written releases of information from the tenant