Your first lease at a new home will usually be for 12 months. Toward the end of the first lease period, you will be asked to renew your lease. If you are renting with a subsidy, the landlord or the public housing agency will need to verify your income again and you will need to provide the same financial documentation that you provided when you first were approved for the rent subsidy. This process is called “recertification.” The property manager will probably contact you about three months before your lease ends so they can get your documentation and review it. Your monthly rent may be recalculated if you have a change in income or if the utility allowance has changed. Know that you will always pay 30% of your household income when you use an income-based rent subsidy.
The landlord and/or the public housing agency will also want to inspect your unit. If the public housing agency does the inspection, they will be looking for things that need to be fixed by you and by your landlord. The public housing agency and landlord, when applicable, will also want to make sure that your unit is clean and free of debris that can be a health hazard. If you need help cleaning your unit before the inspection, you can include this in your person-centered plan. If you don’t have waiver services, you may want to ask for help from family or friends.
Utility Allowance Adjustments
When you rent with a subsidy or when you rent a Low-Income Housing Tax Credit Unit, you will have a utility allowance that is deducted from your total rent payment. This utility allowance reduces your monthly rent and gives you some money in your bank account to help pay your utility bill, which will come to you in your name. You are responsible for paying the entire bill, even if it is more than the amount of your utility allowance. For example, if your total rent is $250 (30% of your household income) and the utility allowance for your unit is $50, you will pay $200 in rent each month. If your utility bill is $75, you must pay the whole $75, even though it is more than the $50 utility allowance. If your utility bill is only $40, you are ahead of the game, and only need to pay $40 to the utility company.
The utility allowance can be adjusted by your landlord at any time, however, it is usually done when you renew your lease. If the utility allowance goes down, your rent will go up. Here’s an example: Your total rent is $250, which is 30% of your household income. Your utility allowance used to be $50, which meant you paid $200 in monthly rent. However, the utility allowance was adjusted and is now $40. This means that your new monthly rent payment will be $210. You still have a total obligation of $250. The difference is the ratio between the monthly rent payment and the utility allowance.
Many people find this confusing. If you need help understanding the utility allowance, you can ask your landlord, property manager, HSS specialist or case manager to explain it to you.