How Rent is Set
How rent is set depends on a number of factors. The specific program in which a resident lives determines how the rent is set for that program.
In family state public housing, rent is set at 32% of adjusted income (income after deductions and exclusions). In elderly/disabled state public housing, rent is set at 30% of adjusted income. In federal public housing, rent is set at 30% of adjusted income (or 10% of total income, if this is higher). Both state and federal public housing have certain exclusions and deductions that are used to determine the adjusted income, but the deductions are not the same for all programs.
There is also a “flat rent” option for federal public housing, and families with at least one member who is not a U.S. citizen or eligible non-citizen could have a higher “pro-rated” rent due to immigration status. Some federal public housing tenants in mixed finance developments also pay utilities, and this affects the rent because they receive a “utility allowance.”
Annual and Interim Rent Recertification
Rent Recertification is an annual review of your household’s income and household composition and is used to set and/or revise your rent. The process begins about three to four months prior to the anniversary of when you first moved into Boston Housing Authority (BHA) public housing. BHA staff conduct the recertification three to four months in advance of the move-in anniversary because income sources must be verified with employers and banks. BHA is responsible to provide a 30-day advance notice of any rent increase.
Rent Recertification is required by both state and federal law. If you don’t complete your annual recertification, BHA can start an eviction process against you.
In order to begin the Rent Recertification process, BHA will send you a list of the information you should bring with you to your appointment. This includes information about employment income for any adult household member (ages 18 and older), public assistance received for any family member (TAFDC, EAEDC, Social Security or SSI), unemployment, workers’ compensation, child support and any others. You will also need to provide information about any income earned on assets (interest on bank accounts, etc.). You must also sign releases so BHA can verify your income.
During Rent Recertification, you should let BHA know about any changes to your household composition. This includes any minors (children under 18 years old) added to the household or family members who may have moved out since the last report. You should also report any members over 18 years of age that are full time students. BHA will ask for verification of the full-time student status.
If you have child-care expenses for children under the age of 13, or medical/dental expenses (including medical premiums, prescription drug costs, co-pays or other costs), you should report this to BHA.
Reporting these changes in household composition may help you to lower your rent. Make sure to report any changes during Rent Recertification!
Changes in Income
If your income changes, it is important to report the change to Boston Housing Authority (BHA). Changes in income affect your rent amount.
If your income decreases, it is important to report this right away to BHA. The sooner you report your income decrease, the earlier your rent will be adjusted. It is a good idea to report income changes in writing, and keep a copy of what you submitted with the date on it. BHA must verify the rent decrease and will then process the change. In some cases, it may be that you are temporarily without income, but are waiting for a benefit that may give you income retroactively (such as when you apply for unemployment or TAFDC). BHA is required to make the rent change effective the month you reported the change (if you reported it in the first 15 days of the month) or the first of the next month (if you reported it after the 15th).
Per the BHA’s public housing lease, residents have an obligation to immediately report any increase in income if you last reported “zero income.” BHA requires public housing tenants to immediately report any increase in income of $200/month or more from what they last reported. Income increases of less than $200/month may be reported to management at your next scheduled certification appointment.
How to Report Income Changes
Income changes should be reported to your management office staff. If no one is available to meet with you immediately, you should ask for an appointment. You can ask for a copy of the information you provided for your records.
Changes in Household
Changes in your household are important because they can affect your rent amount and who is or is not allowed to live with you. Changes in the household are not the same as having a friend or relative visit with you for a short period of time. Boston Housing Authority’s (BHA) lease provides information about guests in your home.
BHA residents should be aware of the following regarding changes in their households.
If there is an addition to the household of a minor child by birth, adoption, or court-awarded custody, you should notify BHA within 30 days. Advance approval by BHA is not required. If the minor is 14 years of age of older, BHA will formally screen the minor.
In the case of any other addition to the household – including someone that is living with or marrying a household member – advance BHA approval is required. BHA may permit the person to remain in the apartment until approval under a SPAR application, the process of adding someone to the household. The person’s income will usually be counted as part of household income and they must also be formally screened by the BHA.
Sometimes there are persons living in your household temporarily who wouldn’t be regarded as part of your family. This can include a personal care attendant (PCA) or live-in aide or foster children or foster adults. BHA approval is necessary for such individuals and they must be screened in the same way as other residents, but their income will not be counted as part of the household income in setting rent. In addition, they may have no right to remain or apply to assume the lease if you pass away or are permanently institutionalized.
If someone who was part of the household has moved out, you should notify BHA of this within 30 days. In most cases the, BHA will ask for proof of a new address for the person.
Problems Paying Rent
There are times when residents disagree with their rent amount, have a dispute over a past due balance or need help working out a payment plan.
While rent is usually due by the 5th of each month, the lease allows a resident and his/her manager to agree on another schedule. State law also gives you the right to pay your rent before the day your answer is due in an eviction case. However, you should discuss this sooner with the manager to avoid court costs that can be imposed if you wait until the last moment. Making arrangements with the manager can also avoid late fees of $25 that can be imposed for state public housing tenants.
You have the right to use BHA’s Grievance Procedure to dispute your rent amount. You should look at the written notice of rent change to see what factors BHA used in setting your rent. You can also ask for a meeting with the manager to discuss the rent; sometimes this will fix the problem. Grievance rights are included on all rent change letters. Grievances should be in writing and filed within 30 days of BHA’s action (or failure to act).