Do you know what’s in your lease?

Tenant Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about the CHA lease for public housing (soon to be Rental Assistance Demonstration or RAD developments)

compiled by Teresa Cardosi, Woodrow Wilson Court/Fairmont Village

TUESDAY, MARCH 3, 2015— A new lease, grievance procedure, schedule of maintenance charges and legal fees, and Admissions and Continuing Occupancy Policy for Federal Public Housing (ACOP, the rule book for public housing*) went into effect on November 1, 2014. This followed an intensive process of negotiation between the CHA and tenant leaders and advocates. Teresa Cardosi was part of ACT’s negotiating team. Teresa was concerned that many tenants felt that they had to sign the new lease (not signing would have been a violation of the old lease) before they knew what was in it or what the changes would mean for them.

The CHA’s conversion of public housing to project-based vouchers under the RAD program required CHA to make certain changes to the lease which is why tenants will also be asked to sign RAD and Low Income Housing Tax Credit lease riders. A lot of meetings have been held by CHA, ACT, tenant councils, and the city council housing committee to explain the lease and RAD and tax credits. However, tenants (and CHA staff) may still feel confused about what’s changing, and what isn’t, because of the complicated way that CHA is doing RAD. CHA made a commitment that RAD developments would continue to be operated as public housing (with a public housing lease).

This list of Tenant FAQs is a compilation of questions and concerns voiced by tenants at various meetings and in conversations that have taken place over the past year. A careful study of the lease also identified a number of issues that needed clarification from the CHA.

Kevin Braga, Deputy Director of Operations, was responsible for putting together the CHA’s responses.

* The CHA’s Administrative Plan for Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) Developments; Part Two of the Administrative Plan for the Federal Housing Choice Voucher Program is the new rulebook for formerly public housing.


Tenant FAQs  (Frequently Asked Questions)Regarding Lease and Addenda of Lease signed November 1, 2014— CHA confirmed  answers as of February 17, 2015

 

GENERAL QUESTIONS 

Q.1 GENERAL— Can tenants request their files at any time, even if disputes are not happening?

Answer— Yes.

Q.2 GENERAL— Is the tenant file located at the main office, or at the management site office? 

Answer— Tenant file is located in management site office. However, if a file is requested, it will be sent to CHA main office. Tenant can view the file there with the legal department.

Q.3 GENERAL — Are there ever any circumstances (on an individual basis) in which a tenant could view her file at the management site office, or is it always required to be viewed at CHA main office?

Answer—  To my [KB] knowledge, the file has always been reviewed at the CHA's main office.

Q.4 GENERAL— How long will it take CHA to send a tenant file to the CHA main office (same day, next day or days?)

Answer— It depends on the Manager's availability to bring the file to the main office; at least two days.

Q.5 GENERAL— Must the tenant view her file in the office, or will CHA give tenant a copy to take?

Answer— Tenant will not get a copy of file to take.

Q.6 GENERAL — If the tenant can't take a copy of the entire file, will CHA allow copies of certain documents to be made and taken?  

Answer— Yes.

Q.7 GENERAL — Can the tenant make these copies, or must tenant have legal representative make these copies?

Answer— The tenant can make the copies.

Q.8 GENERAL—Who pays for copies?

Answer— We do not charge tenants for copies of documents made at the site office.

* Regarding the main office, when a tenant is reviewing her file (always reviewed at main office with the legal department), tenant is charged for copies, unless those copies are requested/initiated by CHA.

Examples of copies CHA pays for (at the main office) are: Birth Certificate, Social Security Benefits Statement, any CHA initiated request.

Examples of copies tenant pays for (at the main office) are: legal papers related to a grievance hearing or notes in file that tenant wants, but CHA does not require for the hearing.

Q.9 GENERAL— When a notice/document (anything) is sent to the tenant in error, what does CHA put in tenant's file to indicate the notice/document (anything) was sent in error? 

Answer— If the document/notice has not been entered into the computer, the document is shredded and nothing is put in tenant file or given to tenant.  One example of this is a “Notice of Possible Lease Violation.”

If the document/notice has been entered into computer, it is corrected in the computer, the original is shredded, and tenant gets a copy of the corrected notice/document. One example of this is a corrected rent recert.

* NOTE TO TENANT:  If a tenant has a conversation with a CHA employee and both agree that item was sent in error, it is best to get confirmation in writing.  One sentence is adequate. NOTE that management is not required to send this.  However, written confirmation protects the tenant in case a dispute occurs in the future.  It also avoids wasting time of all involved when there is a discrepancy. 

* NOTE TO TENANT:  It is the TENANT's responsibility (by phone call, email, or in writing) to inform manager that a notice/document, etc. has been sent in error. 

Q.10 GENERAL— Although the document has been shredded,  is the information corrected in the computer system to indicate that the document was sent to tenant in error?

Answer— Yes.

Q.11 GENERAL— Since they are referenced throughout the lease, are the “ACOP” and “Admin Plan” given to tenant, automatically, when lease is signed?

Answer— No. They are not automatically given.  However, if a tenant requests either of them, tenant will be given one copy of whichever one is requested.  Note that  ACOP and Admin Plan are two separate documents, so you must request both if you want both.  The first copy of each is free of charge. 

Q.12 GENERAL— Regarding late rent, what is the difference between a “Notice to Quit” and a “Notice of Possible Lease Violation?”

Answer—  A “Notice of Possible Lease Violation” is a notice that your rent is late by at least 5 days.   A “Notice to Quit”  indicates that (as of the date of the “Notice to Quit”) you have a minimum of 14 days to pay your rent balance.

Example:   Tenant pays January rent late.  Tenant receives a “Notice of Possible Lease Violation” dated January 5.  The tenant does not dispute (or grieve) information.  Tenant gets “Notice to Quit” on January 10.  Tenant rent is due (at minimum) January 24—because January 24 is 14 days after January 10.

If you receive at least four “Notice(s) to Quit” within a year, that is a reason for legal action for eviction to be taken against you. 

Q.13 GENERAL— For tenants receiving Social Security (or other fixed income), who get their checks after the first of the month, are there any alternatives to paying rent by the first of the month?

Answer— Rent is due on the first of the month.  Lease violation notices for late rent are not sent out before the 5th of the month.

 

QUESTIONS ABOUT THE LEASE 

Q.1 LEASE— Are tenants who never paid a security deposit grandfathered in, or will they be required to give one?

Answer— Tenants who already live in housing and never paid a security deposit are grandfathered in.  That means that these tenants will not be required to pay a security deposit.

Q.2 LEASE— When does a tenant pay water and sewer?  

Answer— Tenant never pays water and sewer.

Q.3 LEASE— Does “incarcerated” include people awaiting trial in lock-up, or just people who have been sentenced?

Answer— “incarcerated” does not include people awaiting trial in lock-up.

Q.4 LEASE— For the household member who is involved in a domestic violence situation that is documented, what is an example of “circumstances that warrant” which would require this household member to pay for re-keying of locks?  (In any domestic violence circumstances the tenant should not be charged, correct?)

Answer— All situations will be evaluated on an individual basis.

However, one example is CHA changes the lock at no cost to the resident, and the resident, two weeks later, asks for another lock change because s/he has given a new set of keys to the abuser and things have gotten out of control again.

Q.5 LEASE—“Tenant's right to privacy” (lease, Page 11, Section 10, A. Quiet Enjoyment [end of sentence]) means that CHA cannot enter an apartment without tenant permission (except for an emergency). How will CHA  make sure maintenance knows this?

Answer— The maintenance employee who fixes the maintenance problem has a copy of the work order. The work order indicates whether tenant has given CHA permission to enter the apartment. 

Q.6 LEASE— Can elderly and/or people with disabilities have CHA install major appliances without charge?  

Answer— Being elderly or disabled does not yield an automatic yes to this. Usually the reasonable accommodation route has to be pursued.

Q.7 LEASE— Are pictures/paintings on wall considered “installations”?

Answer— Light-weight pictures (which are pictures that can be hung with normal picture hangers or nails) are not considered “installations”.  However, heavy items (items that require a more secure way to install), (example, drilling into wall or other methods) require written permission from management.  Some examples (but not all examples) include heavy pictures, heavy mirrors, flat-screen TVs, shelves, etc.

Ask management if you aren't sure. Tenant is at fault if items that need written permission are hung on walls without written permission. A tenant cannot just say, “I didn't know.”

* NOTE TO TENANT:  Remember, if this was a verbal conversation, it is in your best interest to request this answer in writing from the CHA employee who told you.  One sentence is adequate. * NOTE that management is not required to send this. However, written confirmation protects the tenant in case a dispute occurs in the future. It also avoids wasting time of all involved when there is a discrepancy. 

Q.8 LEASE— Does anything need to be done about items that were already on the wall (before this lease was signed)?

Answer— Items currently on the wall that may cause damage when removed from wall at time tenant moves out is the responsibility of the tenant, who will be assessed for damages.

It is suggested that tenant give manager a list of “installations” that were already on the walls before the lease began.  “Installations” are things like flat-screen TVs, shelves, etc.  Light-weight pictures hung by a nail or picture hanger are not considered “installations.”   

Q.9 LEASE— Will elderly and people with disabilities need to get Reasonable Accommodation to have someone move their stuff, or will CHA do that automatically?

Answer— In case of tenant eviction, or in case of tenant who has decided to leave CHA entirely (for his own reasons), moving is tenant's responsibility.  CHA does not provide help. 

In case of CHA-required tenant relocation (because of construction, etc.), a “Relocation Agreement” is written.  The “Relocation Agreement” specifies whether tenant needs to ask for Reasonable Accommodation or not.

In case of CHA-required tenant relocation (because of being over-housed or under-housed), tenant must request a “Reasonable Accommodation” to have CHA help her move.

Q.10 LEASE— Are tenants allowed an extension if their apartment cannot be vacated within five days after receipt of keys? 

Answer— Requests for extensions are handled on a case by case basis and CHA may charge tenant for delays.

Q.11 LEASE— If an extension is allowed, must there be emergency circumstances? 

Answer— Requests for extensions are handled on a case by case basis and CHA may charge tenant for delays.

Q.12 LEASE—If an extension is allowed, how would a tenant request an extension (in writing, by phone or email)?

Answer— In writing is always best. “E-mail” is considered “in writing.”  E-mail remains on record.

Q.13 LEASE—Regarding “Notice to Quit” what does CHA put in tenant's file to document when a mistake is made?  (Otherwise there is no proof for tenant.)

Answer— If CHA and tenant agree that a mistake has been made, the original “Notice to Quit” will be shredded, so it will not be in tenant's file. There is not any form put into tenant's file saying “Notice to Quit” was sent in error.  Since “Notice to Quit” was never entered into the computer, there is no record of it.

* NOTE TO TENANT:  If CHA agrees that a “Notice to Quit” was sent in error, tenant should ask for written confirmation (email or postal letter) to prove this is the case.  One sentence note is adequate.  NOTE that management is not required to send this.  However, written confirmation protects the tenant in case a dispute occurs in the future.  It also avoids wasting time of all involved when there is a discrepancy.   

* NOTE TO TENANT:  It is the TENANT's responsibility (by phone call, email, or in writing) to inform manager that “Notice to Quit” was sent in error. 

Q.14 LEASE— Regarding “VAWA” (Violence Against Women Act), tenant has only 14 days to give CHA documents for proof of domestic violence.  HUD form 91066 is one of the documents required.  Does CHA provide HUD form 91066 to tenant?

Answer— Yes.

 

“RAD RIDER” LEASE ADDENDUM 

Q.1 RAD— What is the minimum amount of years considered a “long-term” contract?

Answer— Fifteen (15) years.

Q.2 RAD—What happens after the “long-term” contract ends?

Answer—  CHA renews that contract, or obtains another long-term contract.

Q.3 RAD— What are the chances that CHA will not be able to obtain another contract?

Answer— The chances of CHA not being able to obtain or renew a contract are extremely slim.  CHA is very confident that contracts will be renewed and/or obtained without problems. 

 

“LOW INCOME HOUSING TAX CREDIT (LIHTC)”  

LEASE ADDENDUM

Q.1 LIHTC— What happens to people who are over-income, when there are no available Section 8s, MRVPs, or apartments to transfer?

Answer—Tenants who are over-income will be able to stay in current apartment until a transfer is found. This fact is stated in the contract that CHA has with the investor.

 

“CHA GRIEVANCE PROCEDURE” LEASE ADDENDUM 

Q.1 GRIEVANCE— Is the tenant file located at the main office, or at the management site office? 

Answer— The tenant file is located in management site office.  However, if file is requested, it will be sent to CHA main office. Tenant can view the file there.

Q.2 GRIEVANCE— Are there ever any circumstances in which a tenant could view her file at the management site office, or is it always required to be viewed at CHA main office?  

Answer— File may be viewed at the site office with “Reasonable Accommodation” approval.

Q.3 GRIEVANCE— How long will it take CHA to send a tenant file to the CHA main office? 

Answer— About two days.

Q.4 GRIEVANCE— Must the tenant view file in the office, or CHA will give tenant a copy to take?

Answer—Tenant will not get a copy of file to take.

Q.5 GRIEVANCE— If tenant can't get a copy of the entire file to take, will CHA allow copies of certain documents to be made and taken?  

Answer— Yes.

Q.6 GRIEVANCE— Can the tenant make these copies, or must tenant have legal representative make these copies?

Answer— Tenant can make these copies.

Q.7 GRIEVANCE— Who pays for copies?

Answer— We do not charge tenants for copies of documents made at the site office.

Regarding the main office, when tenant is reviewing his file (always reviewed at main office with the legal department), tenant is charged for copies, unless those copies are requested/initiated by CHA.

Examples of what copies CHA pays for (at the main office) are:  Birth Certificate, Social Security Benefits Statement, any CHA initiated request.

Examples of what copies tenant pays for (at the main office) are: legal papers related to a grievance hearing or notes in file that tenant wants, but CHA does not require for the hearing.

 

“MAINTENANCE CHARGES” QUESTIONS 

Q.1 MAINTENANCE— What is not allowed in dumpsters?  Do you have a list?

Answer— CHA does not have a full list of items not allowed in dumpsters.  All large items are not allowed in dumpsters. If you have a question about if something can be thrown in the dumpster, call your manager to find out.

* NOTE that tenant's “Resident Handbook” has a paper labeled “Trash Disposal and Recycling Policy.”  Although this does not specify what can or cannot be put in dumpsters, it does specify what cannot be thrown down chutes.  (If tenant needs a “Resident Handbook,” tenant should call site manager to get one.) 

Q.2 MAINTENANCE— Where do you discard furniture items?

Answer— Please call your manager.  Different complexes have different locations to put these items. 

Q.3 MAINTENANCE— Where do you discard TVs, monitors, tires, etc.?

Answer— It is requested that tenants put these items out on the sidewalk on day of trash removal.  If this cannot be done, please call your manager to find out.  (Different complexes have different locations to put these items.)

* NOTE the following city rule about placing stickers on certain trash items.  (This trash sticker rule was made by the City of Cambridge.  CHA did not have anything to do with it.  CHA does not provide this sticker, and does not pay for this sticker.  CHA cannot answer questions about this sticker. ) Any questions about this trash sticker rule, call Cambridge DPW (Department of Public Works) at 617-349-4866 (recycling department).  

* Cambridge DPW requires all Cambridge residents to put a DPW sticker on certain items before putting them out for trash removal.  There is a charge for this sticker (as of November 2014, the charge is $25 or $20 for seniors 62 and over).  To obtain this sticker, call DPW at 617-349-4866 (recycling department).

Here is a partial list (from DPW) of what does and does not require a sticker:  

SOME items requiring a sticker include

          • large TVs (over 20 inch screen), 

          • large computer monitors (over 20 inch screen),

          • washers, dryers, etc. 

          • air conditioners

SOME items that do not require a sticker include:

          • small TVs (screen that's 20 inches or less)

          • small computer monitors (screen that's 20 inches or less)

Q.4 MAINTENANCE— When mistakes are made regarding any maintenance charge, what is put into tenant file to indicate it was incorrect?

Answer— Since “maintenance charge notice” has been entered into computer, it is corrected in the computer, the original is shredded, and tenant gets a copy of the corrected “maintenance charge notice.” 

* ATTENTION TENANTS:  Some maintenance charges keep increasing when you violate them a second, third, and fourth time.  As of November 2014, these include improper pet waste disposal, improper trash disposal, and failing to complete required resident tasks.

* NOTE TO TENANT:  It is TENANT's responsibility (by phone call, email, or in writing) to inform manager that notice was sent in error.