Life can change on a dime. One minute you're comfortable in your home sweet home, then something forces you to pull up stakes and move to another state. You can transfer your Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher to a new jurisdiction, even to another state, if you're receiving assistance from HUD. Transferring is a "portability" feature of the program.
The process can take some time, however. Section 8 is actually managed and administered by local public housing agencies, or PHAs, so moving to another state means dealing with two separate housing agencies.
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Resolve Your Current Lease
The first step is making sure that your current lease is in good standing. Your transfer request can be derailed or delayed if it isn't. You must give your existing landlord notice that you'll be leaving, and you might have to do so a full 30 days in advance. It could even be as long as 60 days.
You should receive a Section 8 transfer packet from your local PHA when you notify them that you want to move, and it should include a notice form for your landlord to sign. You must sign it as well, then return a copy to your PHA. Include a copy of any notice from your current landlord if they're ending your lease. Section 8 prohibits moving before your lease is up.
Transfer Your Voucher
In addition to the notice form for your landlord, your current PHA will most likely give you a list of documents required for approval in your new state, such as birth certificates for all your family members and verification of your income. This is all part of your "Portability Release Form," and in most cases, your current PHA will forward all the documentation to the PHA in the area where you want to move.
You might be required to meet with your current PHA to streamline all this. The process can take several weeks, but it should coincide and overlap with your 30- or 60-day notice to your current landlord.
Find a New Home
This is usually the fun part, but you'll have to take a few extra steps if you're receiving HUD Section 8 assistance and you want to transfer your voucher. It generally makes sense to make contact with the PHA in your new state before you begin looking for a new home. You'll want to understand the rules there in advance, including requirements for inspections of your new property. You'll also want to make sure that there is a PHA in your new neighborhood – not all areas have them.
You might have to requalify for your Section 8 Voucher in your new state. That PHA might want to confirm that you meet the income requirements there, and you might have to attend a meeting or briefing.
Now you can start looking for a new home. Just keep in mind that landlords aren't required to accept Section 8 tenants, and you'll want to be sure that the property you fall in love with meets all local PHA requirements.
There Are Some Restrictions
As with any government program, a few rules and restrictions apply to the portability of your housing voucher. Portability generally isn't an option yet if you've been receiving HUD assistance for less than a year. Section 8 portability rules require that you live in the area where you first qualified for housing vouchers for at least 12 months.
You'll most likely have to personally pay the rent for a short period – most likely less than a month – if your existing lease doesn't end before your new lease begins so there's a bit of an overlap. HUD won't pay twice in the same month for two different premises. And you'll have to pay in advance of moving if you owe your previous landlord because your transfer can't be approved until that lease is paid in full.
You won't be approved for a transfer if your old lease ended because you violated its terms in some way, although an exception to this rule exists under the federal Violence Against Women Act if you're moving because you're a victim of domestic violence.