You can, but it might not get approved.
It does not hurt you to try this. If they cannot approve it now, you can always come back and make a second request after you locate a place.
Advantage to submitting request early:
Some housing programs are very slow to make decisions on accommodation requests. It may take 30 days. By that time, your new landlord may not be willing to keep waiting for a decision. A few options for this situation.
One: One option is to contact congressperson, local politicians and officials, or regional and national HUD offices and request help in getting an expedited decision, particularly if the delay puts you at risk for homelessness. (Success story: One reader tried this method and got her request approved in 48 hours)
Two: Another possibility to try submitting the request before finding a place, so at least your request will be already in process when you do find a place. Or perhaps your housing program can give you some kind of initial preliminary approval, which may make final decision later go quicker.
Three: A final option is to locate a place, and if the place falls through while waiting, you can still get your request approved, and then have freedom to look for another places since your request is now already approved. (HUD guidelines state that once a payment standard is approved, it should not be removed).
Disadvantage to submitting request early:
One: Your request may not be approved right away. Your housing authority may decide that they cannot approve the request until a specific apartment is located. HUD notice PIH 2013-18 states that approvals should be given after a unit is located, however this guidance does not appear in the latest version of the HUD voucher guidebook.
Two: You may get locked in. If you put in the request before you’ve located a specific unit, you will need to find a unit that perfectly meets your request.
Example: Suzy requests an accommodation stating she needs an apartment with several different features. Part of the request is a home with no stairs. Then Suzy finds a place that is 95% perfect… it meets every single disability need, but has three steps on front porch.
Suzy wants to take the place because it is perfect in every other way, and she thinks it is the best she can find. At this point, it is possible Suzy might still be able to get approved, but it is more complicated, because her request and doctor’s letter were for no stairs.
Suzy might be able to still try the request if she can give an explanation for the change. For example, she might show a letter from a local nonprofit offering to build a ramp over the three steps.