CHA's administers several federal and state funded voucher programs. CHA's voucher programs allow low-income households to rent privately owned apartments by helping them pay a portion of the rent. Typically tenants pay landlords around 30% percent of their monthly income towards rent, and the Cambridge Housing Authority pays the rest. CHA's rent payments, called Housing Assistance payments (HAPs) are deposited directly into landlords' bank accounts on the first of each month.
An important fact that many owners don’t know is that participation in a voucher program is not voluntary in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. You cannot deny a prospective tenant housing just because they are getting help paying rent from a Housing Authority. Please contact the Cambridge Human Rights Commission 617-349-4396 or visit them online
for more information on the fair housing laws in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and City of Cambridge.
LEASE-UP PROCESS (A Step By Step Guide)
Find a good candidate:
Carefully screen any prospective tenants. The CHA does not screen tenants for owners. CHA only screens applicants to make sure they are eligible to participate in a voucher program. This usually means the CHA has verified that the household meets a program's immigration and income requirements. CHA typically denies anyone with a history of drug distribution or violence in the past five years from participating in any voucher program.
Complete the Request For Tenancy Approval (RFTA):
The RFTA is the document that notifies CHA of an owner's intent to rent to voucher holder. The prospective tenant may bring this document to an owner. Owners can also download the RFTA from Useful Documents
on the right side of this page. Please make sure the RFTA is complete before submitting it to CHA. Incomplete RFTAs will slow-down the lease-up process.
First-time participants in the leased housing program must include a copy of the insurance binder for the unit they wish to rent.
Lead Law Compliance:
If a pregnant woman or child under the age of six (6) will be occupying the unit, owners need to provide CHA with certification that the unit is in compliance with the Lead Paint Law. Please make sure that the Certification provided does not predate 1997.
Information on lead certification is available from the City's website
or from a privately licensed lead paint inspector. It is a good idea to do this IMMEDIATELY. If a Lead Paint Compliance Letter is required, owners must furnish a copy of the Deleading Certification to the CHA’s Inspector before a new tenant can move in.
Once an owner has gathered and completed all of the required documents they can be faxed to 617-520-6420, or mailed to the CHA’s Leased Housing Department at 675 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 02139. Owners or prospective tenants can deliver the forms to CHA.
Collect Security Deposit:
As in market units, it is up to owners and tenants to agree on the amount of a security deposit, as long as the security deposit does not exceed one month’s rent. Of course owners must comply with all state, city and federal regulations regarding the collection of security deposits.
Set up City Inspection:
Contact the City Inspectional Services Department (ISD)
to set up an inspection. ISD can be reached at (617) 349-6100. Please remember that it is your responsibility to arrange this free inspection. The CHA inspector will ask for a copy of the “Inspection Approval Form” the City Inspector will give you once the unit passes the ISD inspection. Please remember to hold onto this!
After all of the necessary documentation is submitted to the CHA (Lead Paint certificate, Building Insurance and Request For Lease Approval), CHA's housing Inspector will contact the owner to arrange for a final inspection.
Since CHA is paying some (often most) of the rent, we inspect the unit before the new tenant moves in and rent payments begin. CHA's inspector makes sure that the unit is safe and sanitary, and that the requested rent is reasonable given the unit's condition, amenities and location.
The CHA inspectors determine whether or not the requested rent is reasonable based on the condition and location of the unit, and by comparing the prposed rent to market rents for similar units in the neighborhood. If the inspector determines that the rent asked is not comparable to similar units in the same neighborhood or is unreasonable given the unit’s condition, you and the inspector can negotiate an acceptable rent or you can choose not to rent the unit to the prospective tenant, and put the unit back onto the open market.
CHA inspectors will not typically agree to rents higher than the Payment Standard
, adjusted for included or excluded utilities.
Contracts and Lease Signing:
Once the inspector approves the unit, the tenant is called in to sign a lease. A Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) contract, HUD Lease Addendum and the lease are mailed to owners to sign and return. Owners can allow the tenant to move in on whatever date they and their tenants agree on once the contracts are signed.
Requesting Rent Increases:
Owners can request increases each year, providing the increases are sent in writing to the tenants and CHA at least sixty days prior to the lease's anniversary. CHA's Inspector reviews the increase request and conducts a rent reasonability comparison in order to determine whether or not the requested increase is reasonable when compared to other, non-subsidized units of similar quality in the same neighborhood.
If a request is determined to be reasonable, it is agreed to and the change is made automatically, effective on the first day of the new contract year. If the request amount is determined to be too high, owners and the CHA can negotiate an acceptable increase, or if the request amount is non-negotiable and CHA doesn’t agree that the increase is reasonable, owners can simply give the tenant notice to quit and put the unit back onto the open market.
Any notices of non-renewal must be sent in writing to both the tenant and CHA at least thirty days prior to the lease anniversary date.
CHA does not typically agree to increases resulting in rents greater than the Fair Market Rent, adjusted for included utilities.