This page is for people who have housing vouchers and are having difficulty finding a landlord. If this is your situation, you can find lots more information and ideas here: Self-Advocacy Guide to Finding a New Home with a Housing Voucher
Many landlords state they require you to have income that is two or three times the cost of the rent. For example, if the rent is $2000, they will expect your household income to be $6000.
If you run into this problem, you may have a few options:
Strategy one: check their policy
🌸 If they are a building that is “affordable housing”, or that is used to working with vouchers, they may have different rules for voucher holders. In fact, you might be able to completely ignore the income minimums listed on their website! Call and ask.
Strategy two: make an accommodation request
🌸 You can make a reasonable accommodation request to be exempt from their policy about three times rent. With your request, be sure to include documentation demonstrating that you can easily meet the amount of rent due.
🌸 Here is a court case where someone made this request, and the judge found in favor of the tenant. You can use this to advocate for yourself: https://shelterforce.org/2019/06/10/when-a-renter-with-disabilities-is-denied-housing/
🌸 Here’s where you can learn more about how to make accommodation requests: Epic Master List of Disability Accommodation Letters for Housing
Strategy three: add all your income and savings
🌸 When you are filling out the rental application form, be sure to include everything you get. Include food stamps. Include child support. Include the value of your voucher. If your voucher is worth $1200 per month, write that down as income.
🌸 Also include any savings you have, including any trust or special needs accounts. Sometimes the savings will be used in A formula for income. They will divide your savings by 12 and add it to your income.
🌸 In some cases, this will make your income high enough that you will meet the criteria without needing to take any other steps.
Strategy four: get a cosigner
🌸 If you have a friend or family member who has income and is willing to cosign the lease withe you, some landlord will allow this.
🌸 Important: if you have a housing voucher, please make sure that if someone doesn’t live with you, that person should never be listed as as a tenant on your lease. If someone is co-signer, they should be lifted as a co-signer only, not as a tenant. Next to their name, it can say “no right to tenancy”.
Strategy five: ask them to use a different formula
🌸 If they ask that your income is two times rent or three times rent, you can try showing them that you have a voucher which means you only pay a share of the rent. Your income is in fact three times your share of the rent. It may not be three times the entire rent, but it is three times the amount you pay. See below to learn how Lilac did this.
How I Got around the criteria for three times rent
By lilac flowers
I am a voucher holder and I was having trouble getting approved for housing. All of the landlords were requiring that my income be 3X rent, which is impossible for a voucher holder.
After being turned down many places, I wrote a letter to request that my income be considered in a different way. My letter also included a few other things, but this was an important part of it.
If you would like to see the full letter that I sent it is here: Lilac’s Letter for Source of Income Discrimination Protection
if you’d like to see something shorter, here’s the text Hazel sent when this happened to her: Hazel Speaks Up About Minimum Income Requirements
It worked! I was able to get approved and now live somewhere I love it.
In my case, The full rent was $1200. The landlord would be expecting my income to be $3600. My disability income was only $800. So, traditionally I would be denied.
However, instead I requested that they use the figure for my tenant portion of rent. This figure appeared on my last Housing contract that I was sent by the Housing Authority. It showed me how much rent I actually pay.
My tenant portion of rent is only $100. My income is $800. Using this formula, my income is 8X rent.
What is source of income protection?
Source of income protection are special laws that require landlords to accept housing vouchers.
If you live in an area with Source of income protection laws, it may be easier to insist a landlord use this formula. It could be argued that it would be illegal for them not to use it.
If you live in an area that does not have source of income protection laws, you have less legal power. However, it doesn’t hurt to try. You could still send a letter similar to the one I sent and see how they respond.
Here’s where to find the laws in your area: Map of Source of Income Laws
Do landlords have to follow this formula?
There’s no law that says they do. There’s also no law that says they don’t. It also doesn’t necessarily matter because most landlords don’t know these laws very well anyway.
I found this fact sheet from an organization called the equal rights center. I used this to write a landlord and I hope it works well in letting landlords know that they should use this formula. The fact sheet is below. This is for DC, but the rules should be same in any area with source of income protection. you can also print this link:
You can read my whole story, and learn how I got landlords to approve my application here: How I Got Every Landlord in Town to Accept My Housing Vouche
If you are still having trouble getting approved, here are some court cases you can use to help advocate for yourself: