1 U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Office of Public and Indian Housing A Good Place to Live!
2 Introduction Having a good place to live is important. Through your Public Housing Agency (or PHA) the Section 8 Certificate Program and the Housing Voucher Program help you to rent a good place. You are free to choose any house or apartment you like, as long as it meets certain requirements for quality. Under the Section 8 Certificate Program, the housing cannot cost more than the Fair Market Rent. However, under the Housing Voucher Program, a family may choose to rent an expensive house or apartment and pay the extra amount. Your PHA will give you other information about both programs and the way your part of the rent is determined. Housing Quality Standards Housing quality standards help to insure that your home will be safe, healthy, and comfortable. In the Section 8 Certificate Program and the Housing Voucher Program there are two kinds of housing quality standards. Things that a home must have in order approved by the PHA, and Additional things that you should think about for the special needs of your own family. These are items that you can decide. The Section 8 Certificate Program and Housing Voucher Program The Section 8 Certificate Program and Housing Voucher Program allow you to choose a house or apartment that you like. It may be where you are living now or somewhere else. The must have standards are very basic items that every apartment must have. But a home that has all of the must have standards may still not have everything you need or would like. With the help of Section 8 Certificate Program or Housing Voucher Program, you should be able to afford a good home, so you should think about what you would like your home to have. You may want a big kitchen or a lot of windows or a first floor apartment. Worn wallpaper or paint may bother you. Think of these things as you are looking for a home. Please take the time to read A Good Place to Live. If you would like to stay in your present home, use this booklet to see if your home meets the housing quality standards. If you want to move, use it each time you go to look for a new house or apartment, and good luck in finding your good place to live. Read each section carefully. After you find a place to live, you can start the Request for Lease Approval process. You may find a place you like that has some problems with it. Check with your PHA about what to do, since it may be possible to correct the problems. The Requirements Every house or apartment must have at least a living room, kitchen, and bathroom. A one-room efficiency apartment with a kitchen area is all right. However, there must be a separate bathroom for the private use of your family. Generally there must be one living/sleeping room for every two family members.
3 1. Living Room The Living Room must have: Ceiling A ceiling that is in good condition. Not acceptable are large cracks or holes that allow drafts, severe bulging, large amounts of loose or falling surface material such as plaster. Walls Walls that are in good condition. Not acceptable are large cracks or holes that allow drafts, severe bulging or leaning, large amounts of loose or falling surface material such as plaster. Electricity At least two electric outlets, or one outlet and one permanent overhead light fixture. Do not count table or floor lamps, ceiling lamps plugged into a socket, and extension cords: they are not permanent. Not acceptable are broken or frayed wiring, light fixtures hanging from wires with no other firm support (such as a chain), missing cover plates on switches or outlets, badly cracked outlets. Floor A floor that is in good condition. Not acceptable are large cracks or holes, missing or warped floorboards or covering that could cause someone to trip. Window At least one window. Every window must be in good condition. Not acceptable are windows with badly cracked, broken or missing panes, and windows that do not shut or, when shut, do not keep out the weather. Lock A lock that works on all windows and doors that can be reached from the outside, a common public hallway, a fire escape, porch or other outside place that cannot be reached from the ground. A window that cannot be opened is acceptable.
4 Paint No peeling or chipping paint if you have children under the age of seven and the house or apartment was built before You should also think about: The types of locks on windows and doors -- Are they safe and secure? -- Have windows that you might like to open been nailed shut? The condition of the windows. -- Are there small cracks in the panes? The amount of weatherization around doors and windows. -- Are there storm windows? -- Is there weather stripping? If you pay your own utilities, this may be important. The location of electric outlets and light fixtures. The condition of the paint and wallpaper -- Are they worn, faded, or dirty? The condition of the floor. -- Is it scratched and worn?
6 2. Kitchen The Kitchen must have: Ceiling A ceiling that is in good condition. Not acceptable are large cracks or holes that allow drafts, severe bulging, large amounts of loose or falling surface material such as plaster. Storage Some space to store food. Electricity At least one electric outlet and one permanent light fixture. Do not count table or floor lamps, ceiling lamps plugged into a socket, and extension cards; they are not permanent. Not acceptable are broken or frayed wiring, light fixtures hanging from wires with no other firm support (such as a chain), missing cover plates on switches or outlets, badly cracked outlets. Stove and Oven A stove (or range) and oven that works (This can be supplied by the tenant) Floor A floor that is in good condition. Not acceptable are large cracks or holes, missing or warped floorboards or covering that could cause someone to trip. Preparation Area Some space to prepare food. Paint No peeling or chipping paint if you have children under the age of seven and the house or apartment was built before Window If there is a window, it must be in good condition. Lock A lock that works on all windows and doors that can be reached from the outside, a common public hallway, a fire escape, porch or other outside place that can be reached from the ground. A window that cannot be opened is acceptable.
7 Walls Walls that are in good condition. Not acceptable are large cracks or holes that allow drafts, severe bulging or leaning, large amounts of loose or falling surface material such as plaster. Serving Area Some space to serve food. A separate dining room or dining area in the living room is all right. Refrigerator A refrigerator that keeps temperatures low enough so that food does not spoil. (This can be supplied by the tenant.) Sink A sink with hot and cold running water. A bathroom sink will not satisfy this requirement. You should also think about: The size of the kitchen. The amount, location, and condition of space to store, prepare, and serve food. Is it adequate for the size of your family? The size, condition, and location of the refrigerator. Is it adequate for the size of your family? The size, condition, and location of your sink. Other appliances you would like provided. Extra outlets.
9 3. Bathroom The Bathroom must have: Ceiling A ceiling that is in good condition. Not acceptable are large cracks or holes that allow drafts, severe bulging, large amounts of loose or falling surface material such as plaster. Window A window that opens or a working exhaust fan. Lock A lock that works on all windows and doors that can be reached from the outside, a common public hallway, a fire escape, porch or other outside place that can be reached from the ground. Toilet A flush toilet that works. Tub or Shower A tub or shower with hot and cold running water. Floor A floor that is in good condition. Not acceptable are large cracks or holes, missing or warped floorboards or covering that could cause someone to trip. Paint No chipping or peeling paint if you have children under the age of seven and the house or apartment was built before Walls Walls that are in good condition. Not acceptable are large cracks or holes that allow drafts, severe bulging or leaning, large amounts of loose or falling surface such as plaster.
10 Electricity At least one permanent overhead or wall light fixture. Not acceptable are broken or frayed wiring, light fixtures hanging from wires with no other firm support (such as a chain), missing cover plates on switches or outlets, badly cracked outlets. Sink A sink with hot and cold running water. A kitchen sink will not satisfy this requirement. You should also think about: The size of the bathroom and the amount of privacy. The appearances of the toilet, sink, and shower or tub. The appearance of the grout and seal along the floor and where the tub meets the wall. The appearance of the floor and walls. The size of the hot water heater. A cabinet with a mirror.
12 4. Other Rooms Other rooms that are lived in include: bedrooms, dens, halls, and finished basements or enclosed, heated porches. The requirements for other rooms that are lived in are similar to the requirements for the living room as explained below. Other Rooms Used for Living must have: Ceiling A ceiling that is in good condition. Not acceptable are large cracks or holes that allow drafts, severe bulging, large amounts of loose or falling surface material such as plaster, Walls Walls that are in good condition. Not acceptable are large cracks or holes that allow drafts, severe bulging or leaning, large amounts of loose or falling surface material such as plaster. Paint No chipping or peeling paint if you have children under the age of seven and the house or apartment was built before Electricity in Bedrooms Same requirement as for living room. In All Other Rooms Used for Living: There is no specific standard for electricity, but there must be either natural illumination (a window) or an electric light fixture or outlet. Floor A floor that is in good condition. Not acceptable are large cracks or holes, missing or warped floorboards or covering that could cause someone to trip. Lock A lock that works on all windows and doors that can be reached from the outside, a common public hallway, a fire escape, porch or other outside place that can be reached from the ground.
13 Window At least one window, which must be openable if it was designed to be opened, in every rooms used for sleeping. Every window must be in good condition. Not acceptable are windows with badly cracked, broken or missing panes, and windows that do not shut or, when shut, do not keep out the weather. Other rooms that are not lived in may be: a utility room for washer and dryer, basement or porch. These must be checked for security and electrical hazards and other possible dangers (such as walls or ceilings in danger of falling), since these items are important for the safety of your entire apartment. You should also look for other possible dangers such as large holes in the walls, floors, or ceilings, and unsafe stairways. Make sure to look for these things in all other rooms not lived in. You should also think about: What you would like to do with the other rooms. -- Can you use them the way you want to? The type of locks on windows and doors. -- Are they safe and secure? -- Have windows that you might like to open been nailed shut? The condition of the windows. -- Are there small cracks in the panes? The amount of weatherization windows. -- Are there storm windows? -- Is there weather-stripping? If you pay your own utilities, this may be important. The location of electric outlets and light fixtures. The condition of the paint and wallpaper -- Are they worn, faded, or dirty? The condition of the floors. -- Are they scratched and worn?
15 5. Building Exterior, Plumbing, and Heating The Building must have: Roof A roof in good condition that does not leak, with gutters and downspouts, if present, in good condition and securely attached to the building. Evidence of leaks can usually be seen from stains on the ceiling inside the building. Outside Handrails Secure handrails on any extended length of stairs (e.g. generally four or more steps) and any porches, balconies, or decks that are 30 inches or more above the ground. Walls Exterior walls that are in good condition, with no large holes or cracks that would let a great amount of air get inside. Foundation A foundation in good condition that has no serious leaks. Water Supply A plumbing system that is served by an approvable public or private water supply system. Ask the manager or owner. Sewage A plumbing system that in connected to an approvable public or private sewage disposal system. Ask the manager or owner. Chimneys No serious leaning or defects (such as big cracks or many missing bricks) in any chimneys. Paint No cracking, peeling, or chipping paint if you have children under the age of seven and the house or apartment was built before This includes exterior walls, stairs, decks, porches, railings, windows, and doors.
16 Cooling Some windows that open, or some working ventilation or cooling equipment that can provide air circulation during warm months. Plumbing Pipes that are in good condition, with no leaks and no serious rust that causes the water to be discolored. Water Heater A water heater located, equipped, and installed in a safe manner. Ask the manager. Heat Enough heating equipment so that the unit can be made comfortably warm during cold months. Not acceptable are space heaters (or room heaters) that burn oil or gas and are not vented to a chimney. Space heaters that are vented may be acceptable if they can provide enough heat. You should also think about: How well maintained the apartment is. The type of heating equipment. --Will it be able to supply enough heat for you in the winter, to all rooms used for living? The amount and type of weatherization and its affect on utility costs. -- Is there insulation? -- Are there storm windows? -- Is there weather-stripping around the windows and doors? Air circulation or type of cooling equipment (if any). -- Will the unit be cool enough for you in the summer?
18 6. Health and Safety The Building and Site must have: Smoke Detectors At least one working smoke detector on each level of the unit, including the basement. If any member of your family is hearing-impaired, the smoke detector must have an alarm designed for hearingimpaired persons. Fire Exits The building must provide an alternate means of exit in care of fire (such as fire stairs or exit through windows, with the use of a ladder if windows are above the second floor). Elevators Make sure the elevators are safe and work properly. Entrance An entrance from the outside or from a public hall, so that it is not necessary to go through anyone else's private apartment to get into the unit. Neighborhood No dangerous places, spaces, or things in the neighborhood such as: Nearby buildings that are falling down Unprotected cliffs or quarries Fire hazards Evidence of flooding Garbage No large piles of trash and garbage inside or outside the unit, or in common areas such as hallways. There must be a space to store garbage (until pickup) that is covered tightly so that rats and other animals cannot get into it. Trash should be picked up regularly. Lights Lights that work in all common hallways and interior stairs. Stairs and Hallways Interior stairs with railings, and common hallways that are safe and in good condition. Minimal cracking, peeling or chipping in these areas.
19 Pollution No serious air pollution, such as exhaust fumes or sewer gas. Rodents and Vermin No sign of rats or large numbers of mice or vermin (like roaches). For Manufactured Homes: Tie Downs Manufactured homes must be place on the site in a stable manner and be free from hazards such as sliding or wind damage. You should also think about: The type of fire exit. --Is it suitable for your family? How safe the house or apartment is for your family. The presence of screens and storm windows. Services in the neighborhood. --Are there stores nearby? --Are there schools nearby? --Are there hospitals nearby? --Is there transportation nearby? Are there job opportunities nearby? Will the cost of tenant-paid utilizes be affordable and is the unit energy-efficient? Be sure to read the lead-based paint brochure give to you by the PHA or owner, especially if the housing or apartment is older (built before 1978).
21 Now that you have finished this booklet, you know that for a house or apartment to be a good place to live, it must meet two kinds of housing quality standards: Things it must have in order to be approved for the Section 8 Rental Certificate Program and the Rental Voucher Program. Additional things that you should think about for the special needs of your family. You know that these standards apply in six areas of a house or apartment. 1. Living Room 2. Kitchen 3. Bathroom 4. Other Rooms 5. Building Exterior, Plumbing and Heating 6. Health and Safety You know that when a house or apartment meets the housing quality standards, it will be safe, healthy, and comfortable home for your family. It will be a good place to live. After you find a good place to live, you can begin the Request for Lease Approval process. When both you and the owner have signed the Request for Lease Approval and the PHA has received it, an official inspection will take place. The PHA will inform both you and the owner of the inspection results. If the house or apartment passed, a lease can be signed. There may still be some items that you or the PHA would like improved. If so, you and your PHA may be able to bargain for the improvements when you sign the lease. If the owner is not willing to do the work, perhaps you can get him or her to pay for the materials and do if yourself. It the house or apartment fails, you and/or your PHA may try to convince the owner to make the repairs so it will pass. The likelihood of the owner making the repairs may depend on how serious or costly they are. If it fails, all repairs must be made, and the house or apartment must be re-inspected before any lease is signed. If the owner cannot or will not repair the house or apartment, even if the repairs are minor, you must look for another home. Make sure you understand why the house or apartment failed, so that you will be more successful in your next search.
22 Responsibilities of the Public Housing Authority: Ensure that all units in the Section 8 Certificate Program and the Housing Voucher Program meet the housing quality standards. Inspect unit in response to Request for Lease Approval. Inform potential tenant and owner of results and necessary actions. Encourage tenants and owners to maintain units up to standards. Make inspection in response to tenant or owner complaint or request. Inform the tenant and owner of the results, necessary actions, and time period for compliance. Make annual inspection of the unit to ensure that it still meets the housing quality standards. Inform the tenant and owner of the results, necessary actions, and time period for compliance. Responsibilities of the tenant: Live up to the terms of your lease. Do your part to keep the unit safe and sanitary. Cooperate with the owner by informing him or her of any necessary repairs. Cooperate with the PHA for initial, annual, and complaint inspections. Responsibilities of the owner: Comply with the terms of the lease. Generally maintain the unit and keep it up to the housing quality standards outlined in this booklet. Cooperate with the tenant by responding promptly to requests for needed repairs. Cooperate with the PHA on initial, annual, and complaint inspections, including making necessary repairs.
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