Legal Ways to Use Your Housing Voucher When the Rent is Too High

Art: Robin Mead

If you have a Section 8 Housing Voucher, at some point you will (quite likely) run into a problem that you want to rent a place, but your housing authority won’t let you!

They will tell you that the rent is too high. Even though you may have already looked everywhere and discovered absolutely nothing is available for less.

If you run into this problem, don’t make a side deal with the landlord. This is not allowed. However, there are a few ways that are legally allowed! On this page you will find:

  • Four Ways You Can Pay More
  • Seven Ways Housing Authority Can Pay More
  • One Way Everyone Pays More
  • Four Ways No One Pays More

Ways You Can Pay More

Learn About Payment Standards

Before reading all these great ways, you may also find it (super) helpful to figure out: How Do Payment Standards and Utility Allowances Work?

Go Up to 40% of Your Income

If the rent is too high, the Housing Authority will allow you to pay more to get the place you want. This only works if you have countable income. If you have no income, it won’t help you. If your income is very low, it will only help if the amount needed is very low.

You don’t have to do anything special to make this happen. Just submit the forms from the landlord and the Housing Authority will do all the math for you and let you know if it is possible. If you want to do the math yourself, learn more at: How to Go Up to 40% of Income

Separate Non-Rent Expenses

Some leases bundle in services that Housing Authorities do not consider rental expenses. For example:

  • Pet fees
  • Lawn care & snow removal
  • Internet
  • Parking spaces
  • Cable
  • Laundry facilities or washer/dryer in apartment
  • Use of sheds or outbuildings
  • Snow removal

Some of our readers were able to speak with their landlords and request to remove these fees from their rent. The fees were not included in the “rent,” but instead noted in the lease as a separate fee, or attached to the lease in an addendum.

Important: Before going forward with an arrangement like this, make sure the lease language and any addendums gets approved by your housing worker. Side deals with landlords are not allowed, any financial arrangements with landlords must be approved by the housing authority.

Start Low Go High

If you rent a place, your landlord is obligated to offer a one year lease and keep the rent the same.

After that, the landlord can choose to raise the rent. Not all rent changes are accepted by the Housing Authorities. Sometimes there are limits.

If the rent raises, the Housing Authority will give you a choice: Find a new place, or stay and pay more rent.

Pay Utilities Separately

In some situations, it will be easier to stay within payment standards if you look for a rental where utilities are not included in your rent, but you pay your own utilities. This is because sometimes actual utility costs are much higher than the amount the Housing Authority sets in their utility allowance chart.

You may have to get a copy of the utility allowance charts and do a bit of math to see if this will actually make a difference in your case.

Who pays? You pay more. Housing Authority pays the same. But wait! If you pay your own utilities, you are more likely to be eligible for Utility Assistance programs, so in some cases you may actually pay less.

Ways Housing Authority Can Pay More

Look in a Different Zip Codes

Some Housing Authorities use the same payment standard for all zip codes. Others have complex Payment Standards charts where the amounts of the voucher changes depending on your zip code. In some cases, you can move one block, and suddenly have a higher or lower voucher! Look at your payment standard chart to see if there is a nearby zip code that would work better for you.

Move to an Area Where You Are Given an Extra Bedroom

Every Housing Authority has its own rules about how many bedrooms your family will get. It is usually based on age and gender of family members. Learn more about: How Bedroom Policies Work

If you move from one Housing Authority to a different one, the number of bedrooms your family gets may change. If the bedrooms change, the voucher also changes However, payment standards are different in different areas, so be sure to check the payment standards in your new area before moving. Learn more about moving to another area: How to Port

Port to a New City, County or State

In some situations, you can move to a new area or a new state and keep your voucher. If you are aware of an area where affordable housing is more available, you can consider moving. (This is called “porting” your voucher).

When you port, the amount of your voucher will automatically go up or down. It will adjust to the payment standard for the new area: How to Port

Learn the HUD Rules for Disabled

The options below only apply to households that have at least one disabled family member. You do not need to be approved for Social Security disability to be considered disabled by HUD. You do need your doctor to sign a form verifying that you are disabled. Fair Housing Act Definition of Disability

Accommodation for an Additional Bedroom

If someone in the household is disabled: In certain situations, you may be able to request your voucher be changed to add an additional bedroom for a disability-related reason.

This will raise your voucher to the next tier on the payment standard chart. Of course, you will need to find a place that actually has an extra bedroom.

The most common reasons for making this request are: Storage for medical equipment, need for additional space for medical activities, or a person with disabilities who needs a private bedroom due to their disability needs. Learn more: How to Request an Additional Bedroom

If You Need a Live in Aide

If someone in your household is disabled and requires extra help or care in your home, HUD will allow a live-in aide to be added to your voucher. You can select the person you wish as your aide (within some limitations). Your live in aide does not pay rent and their income is excluded.

Your aide may be given an additional bedroom, which would cause the voucher amount to increase. Once again, you would need to find a place that actually has an extra bedroom. How to Request a Live-In Aide in HUD Housing

Accommodation for Higher Payment Standard

If someone in the household is disabled: If you are unable to find a place that meets your disability needs, you may be able to request an accommodation to get a higher payment standard.

Who pays more? Both you and your Housing Authority will pay more. Your portion of rent will go up to 40% of your income (instead of 30%), any amount over that will be paid by the Housing Authority. How to Request a Higher Payment Standard.

Request a Higher Utility Allowance

If someone in the household is disabled: If you have a medical need for using more utilities, you can make a disability accommodation request for a higher Utility Allowance. If your request is approved, this would raise the amount of rent possible for a rental that included utilities: How to Request Disability Accommodations

Ways Everyone Pays More

Add Someone to Your Voucher

Every Housing Authority has its own rules about who can be added to a voucher. You may be able to add a family member to your voucher so they can live with you. In some situations, you can add someone who is not a family member.

Every Housing Authority also has its own rules about number of bedrooms. If you add someone to your voucher this may or may not cause the number of bedrooms to increase. When number of bedrooms increases, then amount of voucher increases. Learn more about: How Bedroom Policies Work.

Do I Pay More? Maybe. If the person you add has income, your monthly payment will go up. Unless the person is a live-in aide, in which case their income is excluded.

Does the Housing Authority Pay More? Maybe. If adding someone causes bedroom size to increase, Housing Authority will pay the extra.

If you add someone and this does not make bedroom size increase, then the voucher will not go up. You’ll still be in the same price range, just with more people.

Ways No One Pays More

Negotiate with Landlord

If you are only over a small amount, sometimes a landlord will be nice and will lower their price for you.

If you submit the completed landlord forms to the Housing Authority, many Housing Authorities will contact the landlord for you to let them know the amount it is over and ask if they are willing to bring down the rent.

Get an Extension and Keep Looking

If you’re having trouble finding a place within payment standard, take a look here: How to Use a Housing Voucher to Actually Find Housing

If you are unable to find a place before the deadline, you can request a time extension. Most Housing Authorities will grant one or two extensions.

Get Three, Four, or Five Extensions

If someone in your household is disabled, and this disability makes it harder to find a housing, you can request an accommodation for more than two extensions. My Housing Worker Said, “No More Extensions”

Rent Reasonableness

If you are trying to rent a place, but the Housing Authority tells you that the rent is too high, the problem is usually that you are above payment standard. But sometimes it happens for another reason! A little (and annoying) rule called Rent Reasonableness

If you run into problems, look into ways to Troubleshoot Rent Reasonableness.


Some Housing Authorities are participating in a program called Moving to Work. If you are in a Moving to Work Housing Authority, some of the rules on this page may be different.

Learn More: Section 8 Guide For the Disabled and Plucky

Facebook Group: HUD and Section 8 Disabled Residents & Family Members

Updated Jan 2019. Please comment below with stories, ideas, questions or suggestions. Please let us know if any links on this page stop working. If you found this page helpful, please share it with others by pressing one of these magic little buttons: 

6 thoughts on “Legal Ways to Use Your Housing Voucher When the Rent is Too High”

  1. You should add “Request a 120% Payment Standard” to this page. Disabled people who can’t afford the rent and can’t find suitable alternate housing cheaper can request a 120% payment Standard. Valid reasons for needing the apartment include: close to medical providers, security (alarm in apartment and amenities), low crime, noise. Be ready to prove you looked for other places by having a list of places ready to show with their rents in case you are asked.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Another thing that can be done if your housing authority wants to raise your rent is to make a Reasonable Accommodation request for a higher payment standard. You can get up to a 120% payment standard if you can justfy why you need to stay in your place. Some examples are: no other cheaper apartments with needed amenities (ie. security system in apartment, good parking lot lighting, carded exercise rooms).


  3. I am searching for answers ,i have lived in this apartment for over a year now,i have a section 8 voucher for almost 10 years now.I lived in my previous house for 9 years through the program,i loved it it was a single family and a 2 bedroom,it was perfect i am disabled,but i think i was nervous because the owner was selling and moving out of state which is why i am in the place i am now.The rents are too high,i live in the worst part of town not to mention i have had bed bugs 2 times in this place.I called section 8 several times ,but as you know you need to find a place on your own.I new this would not be my home away from home but i had no idea in would be this hard finding something.I ask all the questions and i get all the same answers and when it comes down to it i want the voucher to work for my family not the other way around.So here goes and no rents are so high,and searching everywhere but no one wants to take section 8 ,i have seen rent to own but section8 says no they don’t do that,so where do i go from here with a bad credit score,please help with this,is it because i am disabled will i never get to participate in any of the homeownership programs?


  4. “Look at your payment standard chart to see if there is a nearby zip code that would work better for you.” ? Can you explain more please? My h.A. manages 39 counties and they didn’t even send me a pymt chart when I transfered they said everythings the same in michigan except pymt standard.
    Also I believe my voucher paperwork actually states not allowed to enter in to a rent to own etc contract.
    And the pymt standard 40 % do IO really need to contact them I see they have already calculated if by 30 or 40%.


    1. Hi Ann,

      You can ask for a written copy of payment standard chart. Sometimes it is on their website.

      Some areas change by zipcode and some don’t. I can’t imagine it would be the same in 39 counties though.

      I have never heard of one HA managing 39 different counties? Is it a statewide HA?

      They most likely will calculate rent 30%. If you choose a more expensive place above payment standard, they may go up to 40%.

      Hope this helps.


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