Twelve Reasons NOT to Port Your Housing Voucher

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Art: Robin Mead

One of the great things about Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers is that you can move anywhere with them! You can move to another city! Or another state! This is called “porting your voucher.”

Porting is great, in theory. And sometimes porting is great in reality. Other times, porting does not work out so well. Twelve things you really want to know before deciding whether to port:

ONE: YOUR NEW HOUSING AUTHORITY WILL BE DIFFERENT!

Don’t expect your new Housing Authority to be like your old Housing Authority. You may be in for a surprise!

Before you port, you really, really, really want to get and read all the policies from your new Housing Authority. You can often find a copy of their administrative plan on their website, or you can contact them to ask if they can mail or email you a copy of their administrative plan, and any other specific policies you need.

Warning: See it in writing! Read it yourself! Not what someone tells you on the phone.

Request an Exception: If they insist that you can only read their plan in their office in person, you may be able to Request a Disability Accommodation for an exception to this rule

TWO: YOU CAN’T ALWAYS PORT RIGHT AWAY

If you are a resident of the area when your voucher is issued, you can request to port immediately.

If you are not a current resident, you may be required to move to the area and live there for 12 months before you can port.

Request an Exception: Under some circumstances you can a disability accommodation for an exception to this rule: Guide to Porting New Vouchers Without Waiting 12 Months 

THREE: YOUR NUMBER OF BEDROOMS MAY CHANGE

Your new Housing Authority may have different rules for bedroom size. This can make your bedroom number go up or down.

Request an Exception: If you already have a disability accommodation for an additional bedroom, the new Housing Authority should honor this.

FOUR: YOU MIGHT WIND UP HOMELESS FOR A WHILE

As you have probably already surmised, finding a landlord to take your voucher is hard. Way hard. Epically hard.

Trying to do it long distance is hard off the scale of hard. You may need to go to the area for a while and stay with friends, family, or in a motel or short term rental while looking.

If you are thinking of porting in the future, one option is to apply to Low Income Tax Credit Housing. This buildings are required to take vouchers. Wait lists are typically 1-3 years, but may be shorter or longer.

Request an Exception: If a landlord or building is requiring you to apply in person, under some circumstances you can Request a Disability Accommodation for an exception to this rule.

FIVE: YOU CAN’T PORT EVERYWHERE

You would need to check with both your old and new Housing Authorities to see if they will allow the port. They may have certain billing restrictions that restrict where ports are allowed.

Request an Exception: Under some circumstances you can Request a Disability Accommodation for an exception to this rule.

SIX: YOU COULD LOSE YOUR VOUCHER 

Finding a landlord while porting is not easy. If it takes too long, you can miss the deadline for your voucher.

Request an Exception: Under some circumstances you can Request a Disability Accommodation for additional deadline extensions (even when told it’s not possible).

SEVEN: IT’S EXPENSIVE

You may wish to save up for moving expenses, rental deposits, utility deposits, landlord application fees, and rent for a place to stay while landlord hunting.

Some areas have programs that assist with deposits and some don’t. Be prepared that your new area might not offer this kind of help.

EIGHT: THE NEW PLACE MIGHT HAVE NEW RULES

Here’s some examples of policies that can change from one Housing Authority to the next. If these are important to you, it’s a good idea to look into them:

  • How much the utility allowance is
  • Number of nights per year overnight guests are allowed
  • Who can be added to a voucher
  • Definition of “family” or “household”
  • How Special Needs Trusts are handled
  • What counts as a medical expense
  • Who can be added as a live-in aide
  • How often accommodation requests need to be re-verified

Request an Exception: Under some circumstances you can Request a Disability Accommodation for an exception to many of the rules above.

Here’s some great Questions to Ask Housing Authorities If You Want To Move

NINE: YOUR NEW HOUSING WORKER WON’T BE LIKE YOUR OLD ONE

Some housing workers are great! Some not so great!

If you currently have a housing worker who returns most calls and emails, gives fair consideration to accommodation requests, doesn’t threaten or intimidate you, and/or generally treats you decently, you may want to think twice before leaving.

If your Housing Authority schedules inspections quickly, processes paperwork on time, and makes it reasonable for landlords to get paid, you may want to think twice before leaving.

On the other hand, if you already have a housing authority that’s made your life sheer hell, you have nothing to lose. Maybe the next one will be better!

TEN: YOUR VOUCHER AMOUNT WILL CHANGE

The amount of your voucher will change when you move. Ask for a copy of the payment standards chart at your new location. For example, if you move from a super expensive area to a super cheap area, your voucher can go from $2,000 to $1,000.

If your number of bedrooms changes, it will then change again! Make sure to also check their policy on bedrooms.

Request an Exception: Under some circumstances you can Request a Disability Accommodation to go over payment standard (trying to do this while simultaneously porting might be very hard to pull off).

TEN: YOU COULD GET REJECTED

Different Housing Authorities have different policies on eligibility. If you try to port to a new Housing Authority and do not meet their eligibility criteria, your port could be denied. These rules are part of the Moves and Portability guidebook section on Rescreening. A few variations reported by our readers include:

  • Who can be included on your voucher
  • Credit check policies
  • Live in aide policies

Real life example: One of our readers lived with her child and the child’s father. She never had a problem, when she tried to port, the new Housing Authority would not accept them as a “family” because they were not married.

ELEVEN: YOU COULD GET CAUGHT UP IN “MOVING TO WORK”

It’s a good idea to check to see if the Housing Authority where you plan to move is a Moving to Work Housing Authority.

These Housing Authorities may charge you higher rent and may not offer you the same benefits, rights and protections that you would get in other HUD programs. Adults with disabilities may be able to be excused from some of the Moving to Work rules. Parents of children with disabilities usually would not be excused.

Please research the rules and consider carefully before moving to a Moving to Work Housing Authority. Some of our readers report bad experiences. Also, they may have restrictions on porting, so if you change your mind, you might find it difficult to leave.

TWELVE: YOUR VOUCHER COULD GET TERMINATED

When you port your voucher, the new Housing Authority will screen you to see if you pass their background check. If you don’t, they can refuse the port… or they can terminate your voucher!

In most cases, background checks are the same everywhere. So, if you passed the check at your current Housing Authority, you will likely pass in the new one.

However, there are a few areas where HUD allows Housing Authorities to set their own rules. You may wish to get a copy of the rules at your new Housing Authority if any member of your household has any of these issues:

  • Has been evicted from HUD housing in past 5 years
  • Has ever been terminated from a HUD program (not voluntarily) 
  • Has committed fraud, bribery or other acts with HUD housing program
  • Owes money to any HUD housing
  • Owes rent to a HUD housing/voucher landlord
  • Threatening or violent behavior towards housing authority staff
  • Was in a FSS or welfare-to-work program and did not comply with rules
  • Drug-related criminal activity
  • Violent criminal activity
  • Alcohol abuse that threatens safety of other residents

Live in Aides: If your live in aide does not pass background check, you should be able to remove your aide from your voucher and get a new aide. This should not cause a risk for termination.

Request an Exception: Under some circumstances you can Request a Disability Accommodation  to the policies above if the problem was related to or caused by a disability.

Laws pertaining to reasons why someone might not pass a background check are here: https://www.law.cornell.edu/cfr/text/24/982.553 and https://www.law.cornell.edu/cfr/text/24/982.552.

BONUS REASON NUMBER THIRTEEN

We’ve recently heard from readers that if you are in a Family Self Sufficiency program, and have been saving money, then when you move…. the new housing program does not have to continue the program! This means you might lose everything you saved. Check first.

BONUS REASON NUMBER FOURTEEN

If you have a live in aide, it’s a good idea to check the policies and application paperwork for live in aides at your new housing authority. While most housing authorities have reasonable policies, a few are so restrictive it might be impossible for anyone to keep their aide. Here’s an example of a particularly brutal one: http://www.actcambridge.org/sites/default/files/admin/Request%20for%20Verfication%20Regarding%20Need%20for%20Live-In%20Aide.pdf

Thanks for Reading

🌷 This page is part of the free online guide: The Sleepy Girl Affordable Housing Survival Guide

🌷 Learn more here: How to Port 

🌷 Art on this page by Robin Mead and Elizabeth D’Angelo.

🌷 Page Updated: 8/1/19

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