There are many resources for low-income housing in Washington State. Each program and sometimes each building have their own application process and eligibility requirements. See Low Income Housing Search for more information on how to access low-income housing and emergency shelter. Some social service agencies can connect their clients with low-income housing programs.
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To read the specific laws in the WA State Residential Landlord-Tenant Act, click on the RCW (Revised Code of Washington) links throughout the Tenant Services website.
Tenants Union Tenant Counselors are not attorneys, and this information should not be considered legal advice. Please read our full Tenant Union Disclaimer.
Low Income Housing FAQ
- How do I find low income housing?
- Can low-income housing providers not rent to me because I have an eviction on my record, a criminal history or bad credit?
- Can a building or unit be more than one kind of low-income housing?
- I currently live in transitional housing. Am I covered under the Residential Landlord-Tenant Act?
- I’m being terminated from the Section 8 program. What do I do?
- The housing authority has raised my portion of the rent for reasons I don’t understand. What can I do?
- My landlord is asking me to pay more in rent than the housing authority says I have to. Can they do that?
- What can I do if my utility allowance doesn’t cover the cost of my utilities?
- What can I do if I believe I was unfairly denied admission to a low-income housing program?
- I’m being evicted from public housing. Am I entitled to a grievance hearing?
- I’m a full time student. Can I apply for housing funded by Low-Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC)?
- I live in a tax credit building. Can my landlord terminate my tenancy for no reason?
- Do I have to give a social security number when applying for LIHTC?
Can low-income housing providers not rent to me because I have an eviction on my record, a criminal history or bad credit?
Low-income housing providers and programs screen tenants for credit, eviction and criminal history. Although such providers can decide not to rent to tenants based on these factors, they may choose to be more lenient than landlords in the private market. This can vary based on the program and the individual tenant applying. You can inquire about screening criteria before you apply for housing to see if you qualify. See Housing Search for further information.
Yes. Section 8 vouchers are often accepted in tax credit subsidized buildings. Most low-income housing providers utilize tax credit subsidies and HUD subsidies to make their housing affordable. Even public housing units are sometimes subsidized with tax credits. There may even be more than two subsidies interacting to make the housing affordable. There can by layered subsidies of many kinds. All rules of all programs attached to the unit’s subsidy can be enforced. Speak to an attorney for assistance if you can’t determine which program rules apply in your specific situation.
I currently live in transitional housing. Am I covered under the Residential Landlord-Tenant Act?
RCW 59.18.040 details the types of living arrangements exempt from coverage under landlord-tenant laws. Some of the living arrangements not covered include institutions, correctional facilities and farm-worker housing. Whether or not transitional housing facilities are covered under landlord-tenant laws will vary on a case-by-case basis. For instance, if your eligibility for transitional housing requires that you receive services from the agency providing housing, you may not be covered. Even if your housing situation is not covered under the landlord-tenant act, it does not mean that you have no legal rights. If the housing provider serves you with a 3-or 10-day notice to vacate, you are covered under the Landlord-Tenant Act. For more information, seek advice from an attorney for your specific situation. See the tenant Legal Assistance Guide for more information.
All voucher holders are entitled to a grievance hearing with an unbiased decision maker before termination. Grievance hearings are explained in detail above in the section on Section 8 Vouchers. All grievance hearing requests must be in writing and must be submitted 10 days from the notice of termination. See a Sample Letter: Section 8 Grievance Hearing Request . You can bring documentation to support your position to the hearing in the form of paperwork and written testimony from witnesses. You can also bring witnesses, advocates and legal representation with you into the hearing to support your case. It is a good idea to secure legal representation to go with you into the hearing. See Legal Assistance Guide for information and contact information. More information is available at Washington Law Help’s Section 8 Vouchers — Denial or Termination of Benefits.
The housing authority has raised my portion of the rent for reasons I don’t understand. What can I do?
Section 8 Voucher tenants can ask their case worker for a copy of their files and for more detailed written explanation of how their rent was calculated. Tenants can also request grievance hearings to contest rent increases and denials of additions to add household members. See the guidelines for grievance hearings above in “Section 8 Vouchers’:/rights/section-8-vouchers/.
My landlord is asking me to pay more in rent than the housing authority says I have to. Can they do that?
No. It is a violation of program rules for a landlord to be charging or collecting any side payments from a tenant. Housing authorities will investigate landlords who are committing fraud. Notify the housing authority in writing about any issues you are having with your landlord as soon as possible. Some PHA’s do allow tenants to pay over 40% of their income to rent after the first year in a unit, but the total tenant payment must still be agreed upon in the contract. Review your contract and contact your case worker for questions regarding the amount of rent you are responsible to pay as well as changes to your income.
Utility allowances are calculated using a complicated system that factors in your household size, the type of utilities and the type of unit you live in. Unfortunately, not all units are well insulated enough to keep utility costs down to the housing authority estimated calculations. The Section 8 program does not have funding set aside to supplement higher than anticipated utility costs, but you can apply for utility assistance to help with high bills. Some utility companies offer some form of financial assistance and some offer free weatherization for units occupied by low-income families. Your landlord may be willing to work with you to bring utility costs down by taking advantage of these programs, which are often free. Seattle’s weatherization program is called HomeWise, and the King County Housing Authority has a Housing Repair and Weatherization program for low-income renters and homeowners. There are also other utility assistance programs in Washington State. See Renters Resources for more information.
Tenants denied admission to public housing can request an administrative hearing. Your request must be in writing immediately after receiving the denial. You may be able to get legal assistance through the CLEAR line or Northwest Justice Project. See Legal Assistance Guide for more information.
Yes. Unless you are being evicted for drug-related activity or activity that threatens health and safety, the housing authority must provide tenants with an opportunity to have a grievance hearing before an unbiased decision maker. See Low Income Public Housing for more information. Washington Law Help has detailed information at Eviction for Nonpayment of Rent in Public or Subsidized Housing, Public Housing Evictions and Public Housing Grievance Hearings.
I’m a full time student. Can I apply for housing funded by Low-Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC)?
There must be at least one household member who is not a full time student in the household in order to qualify for the tax credit program. There are some exceptions to this (for instance, residents on TANF, single parents and people in re-training programs). Check with the property directly to see if you qualify.
Tenants living in tax credit buildings have good cause eviction protection statewide. LIHTC owners are prohibited from evicting residents or refusing to renew leases or rental agreements, other than for good cause. The termination notice must state good cause, and may include either a serious or repeated violation of the lease, crime or drug related activity, or failure to vacate following a condition that leaves the unit uninhabitable. Good cause is not clearly defined in tax credit policy, and is determined on a case-by-case basis. The notice of termination or non-renewal of lease must include a list of the specific good cause reasons for the action. The tenant has the right to raise good cause eviction protection in court as a defense against an eviction if they believe they were evicted for non-good cause reasons. See Eviction and speak to an attorney for more information.
IRS regulations specify that projects financed through the Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program are not required to collect social security numbers from potential residents. However, LIHTC projects still ask for social security numbers on applications and use them to determine applicants’ financial eligibility and suitability as tenants. Equivalent identification would be a Work Visa, Alien Registration Receipt Card, Temporary Resident Card, IRS Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN), or Employment Authorization Card. Failure on the part of applicants to provide social security numbers or equivalent identification could hinder or delay an LIHTC property’s ability to review their applications for housing. For more information on tenant screening, see Housing Search.