How to Port Your Section 8 Voucher

The Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program allows voucher holders to transfer their voucher to pay rent in anew area, once certain conditions are met. This is called portability.

A HCV participant may only port out to a different area after one year of residency in their housing authority's jurisdiction (service area). If the voucher holder was a resident in the jurisdiction when they initially applied for the voucher, they may request to port out to a different jurisdiction at any time.

  • For example, if you live in New York City, NY, and apply for the Chicago Housing Authority's HCV waiting list in Illinois, you must live within the Chicago Housing Authority's jurisdiction with your voucher for 12 months before porting. But, if you live in Chicago, IL and apply for the Chicago Housing Authority Section 8 waiting list, you may port to a new area any time after you receive your voucher.

You can also only port your voucher to another Public Housing Agency (PHA) that also offers the HCV program. Vouchers cannot be ported to a PHA that only offers the Public Housing program.

It is important to consider any expenses involved in moving to a new location such as your current lease, rental deposit, moving and travel costs, and utility costs. Have a plan for transportation, school registration, employment, and childcare before you start the porting process to ease the transition to a new home.

Housing authorities are given a lot of leeway by HUD in their porting policy, so there may be other requirements not mentioned in this guide to port your voucher.

New Admission Rules

If you were just awarded a Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher and you never leased a unit using a Section 8 Voucher before, you are considered as a "New Admission." It's important to know that the portability rules are a little different for you.

You will be required to live in your housing authority’s jurisdiction for the first year if your address was in another jurisdiction when you applied to be placed on the waiting list.

  • Example 1 (Non-local jurisdiction)
    • You are placed on a waiting list for the Section 8 HCV program in Bibb County, Georgia, and your address is in San Diego, California.
    • The Macon Housing Authority — manager of Section 8 Vouchers for Bibb County — has issued you a Housing Choice Voucher.
    • However, you want to stay in San Diego and use your voucher there.
    • Your voucher may only to be used in the Macon Housing Authority's jurisdiction for the first 12 months.
    • So, to keep your voucher, you must find a unit to rent in Bibb County, Georgia.
  • Example 2 (Local jurisdiction)
    • You are placed on a waiting list for the Section 8 HCV program in Bibb County, Georgia, and your address is in Bibb County, Georgia.
    • The Macon Housing Authority — manager of Section 8 Vouchers for Bibb County — has issued you a Housing Choice Voucher.
    • However, you want to move to San Diego, California and use your voucher there.
    • If your legal address was in Bibb County at the time your name was placed on the HCV waiting list, and your current address is still in Bibb County, you may be able to move to San Diego as soon as you receive your voucher.
      • However, if you are allowed to move with your voucher to San Diego, you have to meet the income and bedroom size requirements of eligibility that apply in San Diego. 
        • If you don’t meet these requirements, then you cannot move.

Contact Your Section 8 Caseworker and Landlord

Once you have decided to move away from the city or area in which you are currently using your voucher, you need to start the portability process. Let your caseworker know where and when you want to move. Doing this at least three months before you plan to move is best for your caseworker. And four or five months ahead of time is even better.

The new housing authority must either be "absorbing" or "billing" vouchers to be able to port. "Absorbing" means that the housing authority takes full control over your voucher. "Billing" means that the housing authority will take you in as a resident, but it will bill your previous housing authority for its share of your monthly rent.

If there are two different housing authorities that share jurisdiction for the same area you wish to move, your caseworker is obligated to give you the contact information for both housing authorities. You choose which Housing Authority you want the port packet to be sent. If you are not sure which one is best for your situation, you can ask your caseworker to choose for you.

Even if getting you the contact information for the new housing authority is the caseworker’s obligation, it won’t hurt to be proactive. Get the name, phone number, address and fax number of the new housing authority, on your own. And if you can, get the name and phone of the staff person handling portability at the new housing authority.  A listing of all the housing authorities in the United States can be found here.
 
Make sure you notify your landlord and your caseworker in writing of the date you plan to move out. If you get closer to that date and you need to stay longer, write to your landlord and contact your caseworker as soon as possible. The landlord might say no and make you stick to the original move date. Unless your caseworker can intervene or you can convince the landlord to let you stay, you will have to move out by that date. Give yourself plenty of time before your planned move-out date.
 
Try to avoid violating the agreements of the lease. If the end date of the lease is October 31, make sure you don’t move before that date. If you really need to move before the end of the lease, try to get written permission from the landlord and your Housing Authority.
 
If your landlord is willing to let you out of the lease agreement before the end of the lease, your Housing Authority will probably have a form your landlord must sign as proof. If you move without permission, your landlord could sue you, your credit rating could be wrecked AND you could lose your voucher for violating the lease agreements.

Pay Back Owed Money to Your Housing Authority

Be advised — if you owe any money to any housing authority, it must be paid in full before you can use your voucher to move to another jurisdiction.

Pass a Criminal Record Check

As you know, before you were first awarded a Section 8 voucher, a criminal background check was completed. If you decide to use the portability option, and your housing authority has determined that you are eligible to move, the new housing authority may complete a new criminal background check. 

If you acquire a criminal record after you were awarded that first voucher, and the type of charge and/or conviction that shows up is unacceptable for the voucher program, the new housing authority may decide to reject your voucher and you would not be able to move.
 
You will get the chance to dispute the criminal record and to appeal the decision. However, you still might not be able to move.

Caseworker Notifies the New Housing Authority

After you notify your caseworker in writing that you want to move, the caseworker will notify the new housing authority to be expecting you. Your caseworker must gather specific information for you, usually by sending an email or a form to the new housing authority that asks questions like:

  • What is the payment standard?
  • What is the income limit?
  • For your size household, what would be the voucher size?
  • Is the Housing Authority billing or absorbing? (Which means, is the new Housing Authority going to charge your Housing Authority every month for your rent or is the new Housing Authority going to take over the rent payments?)

When your caseworker receives a reply to the email, or the completed form back, the caseworker will send your portability packet to the new housing authority.

The portability packet will contain the following:

  • Your Voucher
  • HUD form 52665, that includes information the new Housing Authority will need about your voucher.
  • HUD form 50058 (this gives your family’s birth dates, SS numbers, income, old address, etc.)
  • Your recent income information that appears on a HUD report called Enterprise Income Verification (EIV).
  • Your forwarding mailing address and contact phone number.

Also, if the new Housing Authority asks, copies of SS cards, birth certificates and Picture IDs, might also be sent.

At this point, you absolutely must contact the new housing authority to follow-up on your porting obligations and to learn the new housing authority’s procedures.

Keep Contact Information Current

Make sure the new housing authority has the correct contact information for you. Especially if your contact information changed from the time the portability packet was sent to the new housing authority and the time you are ready to move.

The new housing authority will conduct a briefing session or a caseworker meeting with families porting into their jurisdiction. This is the time when the new housing authority will give you the information you need to find a unit in their area and the documents needed to approve your new unit. 

The new housing authority must tell you the following:

  • The bedroom size of your voucher
  • The payment standard for the voucher
  • The advantages of living in areas with low concentrations of low income families. They must tell you this and also give this information to you in writing (This happens at the Briefing when you first get your voucher).
  • Portability procedures and Family and Housing Authority responsibilities.

Receive Forms After Approval

After your port has been approved, your new Housing Authority also must give you the following two forms:

Request for Tenancy Approval Form

This is the form you take to the owner of the unit you wish to rent. The owner must complete, sign and date the Request for Tenancy Approval form (usually abbreviated as RFTA or RTA) and send it back to the caseworker at your new housing authority.

The RTA will include:

  • Address of the unit
  • Type of unit (single family home, duplex, apartment, high rise, etc.)
  • Number of bedrooms in the unit
  • Requested rent amount 
  • Utilities and who pays for them (owner needs to indicate if the utility is included in rent or the family is obligated to pay).
  • Date the unit is available for inspection

New Housing Authority Voucher Form

This form will tell you the date of expiration of your voucher. When the new housing authority receives your voucher, they are obligated to add at least 30 more days to the expiration date and issue you a new voucher from their housing authority.

  • Example: The voucher issued by your housing authority has an expiration date of 3/29. The new Housing Authority will issue you a voucher with an expiration date of 4/28. This gives you 30 more days to get things done.

Be aware — If you have not submitted the RTA before that voucher expiration date, your voucher can expire and you may be terminated from the Section 8 program. Do not wait until the voucher has expired to ask your new housing authority for an extension. Most housing authorities require that your request for an extension be in writing. Make sure you submit the request before the expiration date of the Voucher.

Once the completed RTA is submitted to the new housing authority, the time left on your voucher is suspended.

  • Example: Your voucher expiration date is 4/28. Your potential landlord submits a completed RTA to your caseworker on 4/20. The inspection of the unit turned up many problems and the landlord refuses to make the necessary repairs. The unit will not pass inspection without the repairs. You need to find another unit. The caseworker notifies you, in writing, on 4/22. This means you have 2 more days tacked on to the expiration date of your voucher. The new expiration date is 4/30.

When you find a unit, everything is completed, and you lease that unit, your new Housing Authority will immediately notify your housing authority.

At this point, the new housing authority will administer the Section 8 Voucher for you. This means you need to follow the rules of the new housing authority. You report changes in your income and household circumstances to your new Housing Authority. Annual recertifications and unit inspections will be conducted by your new housing authority.

How to Port a VASH Voucher

Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (VASH) Vouchers can be used to port to a catchment area in a different part of the country. However, if the veteran wants to port outside the Veterans Administration Medical Center (VAMC) catchment area, the VAMC case manager must approve the move.

For VASH Vouchers, the catchment area is the geographical area served by the local Veterans Administration Medical Center. The catchment area usually consists of the city in which the VAMC is located, and surrounding counties.

Contact Your VAMC Case Manager

To port their VASH Voucher, a veteran will submit a written request to move, to both the VAMC case manager and the Public Housing Agency (PHA) caseworker. Three months advance notice is best, and at least a 30 day written request is usually required.

The VAMC case manager will allow the move if there is an open VASH voucher available in the new catchment area, as well as the needed case management and supportive services are available for the veteran. Moving expenses and travel arrangements will be the responsibility of the veteran.

As a priority, the VAMC will give available VASH vouchers to homeless veterans already residing in the catchment area.

VASH Portability Policy

The policy for portability of a VASH voucher is as follows:

  • A veteran may move inside the VAMC’s catchment area, if the same VAMC continues to provide case management services.
    • Example: A veteran has been awarded a VASH voucher. The veteran lives in Indianapolis but wants to move to Greenwood, Indiana. The VAMC in Indianapolis also serves Greenwood and case management services would be from the same case manager. The VAMC would most likely give approval for the veteran to use the VASH voucher to move to Greenwood, Indiana.
  • A veteran can move to a new catchment area only if the original VAMC verifies the new VAMC has an available case management opening.
    • Example: A veteran has been awarded a VASH voucher. The veteran lives in Kansas City but wants to move to Laurinburg, North Carolina. The VAMC in Fayetteville, North Carolina has Laurinburg in its catchment area. The Kansas City VAMC case manager will contact the Fayetteville VAMC to make sure there is case management available. If so, the VAMC case manager in Kansas City, will most likely approve the veteran to move with a VASH voucher to Laurinburg, NC.
  • The veteran cannot move under portability if there is no PHA designated to administer the VASH voucher program, in the area in which the veteran wants to move.
  • If there is a PHA to administer the VASH voucher in the new catchment area, the new PHA has the option to ‘absorb’ or 'bill' the VASH voucher.
    • Absorbing means that the veteran may use one of the new PHA’s own VASH vouchers.
    • Billing means that the new PHA may choose to bill the originating PHA for administration of the original VASH voucher.
      • This can only happen if the VAMC case manager verifies that case management services will be provided by the new VAMC case manager, and has approved the move for the veteran.

Project-Based VASH Voucher Portability Rules

A Project-Based VASH Voucher can only be used at the property for which it is issued. Project-Based VASH Vouchers are not portable.

However, a veteran may choose to move from the Project-Based VASH property after the first 12 months, if certain conditions are met. At that time, the PHA may issue the veteran a tenant-based voucher or a regular VASH voucher.

Persons seeking a regular VASH Voucher can contact their local VA facility.

Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) Exceptions

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) protects applicants, tenants and program participants from being evicted, denied housing assistance, or being terminated from the Section 8 program based on incidents of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault or stalking. VAWA protects both men and women.

There are a few exceptions to portability rules for voucher holders who are victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault or stalking.

The exceptions may allow a family to:

  • Move within the first twelve months,
  • Move before the lease is over, or 
  • Move more than once within a twelve month period.

If you need to move because of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or being stalked, your housing authority must allow it, if your claim is determined to be accurate.

The housing authority may choose to accept your verbal statement or other corroborating evidence concerning your claim of domestic violence or the housing authority may request written documentation. If your housing authority’s policy states that you must submit written documentation of a domestic violence claim, the housing authority must give you that request in writing. 

Your response to the housing authority’s written request for documentation must be submitted to your caseworker within fourteen business days from the date of the written request. Acceptable written documentation may include one or more of the following:

  • Form HUD 5382, titled Certification of Domestic Violence, Dating Violence, Sexual Assault or Stalking and Alternate Documentation. (You may request this form from your caseworker.)
  • A written statement signed by both you and a professional such as a victim service provider, attorney or a medical professional, who assisted you because of an incident of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault or stalking. The written statement must specify the incident is grounds for protection and remedies under the VAWA Final Rule and the incident meets the definition of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault or stalking.
  • A police report, court document or restraining order.

In cases of moving a family because of domestic violence issues, your Housing Authority shall not consider the move as a violation of Housing Choice Voucher policy.  This includes allowing your family to port to a different city or state, outside of your Housing Authority’s jurisdiction. 

In fact, housing authorities are required to have a plan in place for emergency transfer of Section 8 Voucher families who are victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault or stalking.

If you need to move because you fear for your safety or you are being stalked, or you have been sexually assaulted within the past 90 days, do not hesitate to contact your housing authority and request an emergency transfer. 

The housing authority must keep your information confidential and act quickly as possible to determine approval and get your voucher transferred. 

If you are or have been a victim of domestic violence, you may contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at (800) 799-7233, or chat on the organization's website. If you are a victim of sexual assault, you may contact the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network Hotline at (800) 656-4673, or chat on the organization's website.

Persons with Disabilities Accomodations

A reasonable accommodation request from a person with a disability may include moving with their Section 8 Voucher to another housing authority’s jurisdiction.

The requested accommodation will be considered reasonable if it does not create an undue financial and administrative burden for the housing authority or result in a fundamental alteration in the nature of the program. 

Also, to use a Section 8 Voucher to move to an area outside of the Housing Authority’s jurisdiction, a person with a disability must provide proof that the request has a connection between the disability and the accommodation.

  • Example: After five years, a medical provider for a person with a disability has moved their practice to another city. The person with the disability found a house to rent that is just two blocks from his medical provider’s new office. The person with a disability makes a reasonable accommodation request to use portability to move to the new city, and be closer to his medical provider. 

Contact your housing authority to get further information about the procedure to request a reasonable accommodation to port to a different area or jurisdiction.