How to Port a Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher

Map of the United State of America with lines connecting several cities in different parts of the country.

In addition to making your rent affordable, one of the main benefits of having a Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher is the ability to transfer it to a new area. Known as portability (or “porting” for short), this means that renters with a Section 8 voucher can move to a different city, county, or state with their voucher.

This step-by-step guide will take you through everything you need to do to port your voucher.

First, it’s important to make sure that you meet the basic requirements to start the porting process.

  1. Live in the housing authority jurisdiction for at least one year, or be a local resident.

    The first requirement for porting is different, depending on where you lived when you applied for the Section 8 voucher.

    If you were already living in the housing authority’s jurisdiction (or service area) when the application was submitted, you can request a port any time after getting your voucher.

    But, if you had to move into the housing authority’s jurisdiction to use your voucher, you must wait until you have been a resident of the area for at least one year.

    It is also important to know there are some exceptions to this rule for domestic violence survivors and persons with disabilities.

  2. Select a housing authority that participates in the Section 8 HCV program.

    You can only port your voucher to another housing authority that also offers the Section 8 HCV program. If the housing authority does not have Section 8 vouchers, you cannot port to their service area.

    A directory of housing authorities in each state is available on Affordable Housing Online. A list of participating housing programs is provided for each agency.

  3. Plan for moving expenses before requesting to port.

    It is important to consider the expenses involved in moving to a new location, such as your current lease requirements, moving and travel costs, rental deposit for the new unit, and utility costs.

    Have a plan for other needs like transportation, supportive services, employment, school registration, or childcare before you start the porting process. This will make for a smoother transition to your new home.

  4. Contact your Section 8 caseworker.

    Once you have decided to move away from the area where you are currently using your voucher, contact your caseworker to start the portability process. Let your caseworker know where and when you want to move. You should notify your caseworker at least three months before you plan to move, but four to five months ahead can help ease the process.

    Your caseworker will review your qualifications, and start communicating with other housing authorities if you meet the requirements. HUD gives housing authorities a lot of leeway in their porting policy, so there may be other requirements to port your voucher than what is mentioned in this guide.

    The new housing authority must either be “absorbing” or “billing” vouchers to port your voucher there. In both cases, you are a resident of the new housing authority, but payments are processed differently:

    Absorbing: The housing authority takes full control over your voucher, and pays its share of your monthly rent.
    Billing: 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 must give you the contact information for both housing authorities. You choose which one you want to receive the portability packet. If you are not sure which one is best for your situation, you can ask your caseworker to choose for you.

  5. Contact your landlord.

    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 deny your request and make you stick to the original moving 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 terms of the lease. If you 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 date, your housing authority will probably have a form your landlord must sign. 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 agreement.

  6. Wait for your caseworker to notify the new housing authority.

    After your caseworker receives your written request to move, the caseworker will notify the new housing authority to be expecting you. Your caseworker must gather specific information for you from the new housing authority. The new housing authority will provide you with information about the:

    • Voucher payment standard.
    • Income limit for the area.
    • Size of your household.
    • Status if the housing authority is billing or absorbing.

  7. Receive your portability packet for the new housing authority.

    When your caseworker gets a reply from the new housing authority, they will send your portability packet to the new housing authority.

    The portability packet will contain your voucher, HUD forms, and other important information about your household.

    Once the portability packet has been sent, you must contact the new housing authority, and find out the new housing authority’s procedures for the rest of the way.

  8. Pass a criminal background check.

    When you were first awarded a Section 8 voucher, a criminal background check was completed by your current housing authority. 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 its own criminal background check.

    If you acquired a criminal record after you were awarded that first voucher, and the type of charge and/or conviction 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, if you are denied at this step.

  9. Pay back money owed to your current housing authority.

    If you owe any money to any housing authority, it must be paid in full before you can port your voucher to another jurisdiction.

  10. Keep contact information current.

    Make sure the new housing authority has the correct contact information for you. This is especially important if your contact information changed from when the portability packet was sent to the new housing authority to the day you are ready to move.

  11. Attend a meeting with the new housing authority.

    The new housing authority will conduct a briefing session or a caseworker meeting with families porting into their jurisdiction. At this meeting, 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:

    • Bedroom size of your voucher.
    • Payment standard for the voucher.
    • Advantages of living in areas with low concentrations of low-income families. This information must also be provided in writing.
    • Portability procedures.
    • Family and housing authority responsibilities.

  12. Complete housing authority forms after approval.

    After your port has been approved, your new housing authority must give you the following two forms:

    1. 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.

    2. New Housing Authority Voucher Form

    This form will tell you the date your voucher expires if you have not yet found an apartment. 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.

    If you have not submitted the RTA from the landlord before the voucher expiration date, your voucher can expire and you may be terminated from the HCV program.

    Housing Tip: Do not wait until the voucher has expired to ask your new housing authority for an extension. Most housing authorities require that you request an extension 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.

    Once you find a unit that passes the housing authority inspection, required forms are submitted, and you lease that unit, your new housing authority will notify your old housing authority.

    At this point, the new housing authority will manage the Section 8 voucher for you. This means you need to follow the new housing authority’s rules. Everything is now done through your new housing authority, including income and household changes, unit inspections, and your annual recertification.

Exceptions for Portability Rules

Persons who are domestic violence survivors and persons with disabilities are allowed more flexibility in the portability rules.

  1. Exceptions for Domestic Violence

    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 survivors of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault or stalking. The exceptions may allow a household to:

    • Move within the first twelve months.
    • Move before the lease is over.
    • 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 domestic violence claim, but the housing authority may request written documentation. If your housing authority requires written documentation of a domestic violence claim, the housing authority must give you that request in writing.
  2. Exceptions for Disabilities

    Persons with disabilities may make a reasonable accommodation request to move their Section 8 voucher to another housing authority’s jurisdiction.

    The 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, a person with a disability must provide proof that there is a connection between the disability and the need to port their voucher to another jurisdiction. Examples might include being closer to specialized medical providers or a change in caregivers.

    Contact your housing authority to get further information about how to request a reasonable accommodation for porting to a different area or jurisdiction.