24 CFR § 960.253 - Choice of rent.

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§ 960.253 Choice of rent.

(a) Rent options -

(1) Annual choice by family. Once a year, the PHA must give each family the opportunity to choose between the two methods for determining the amount of tenant rent payable monthly by the family. The family may choose to pay as tenant rent either a flat rent as determined in accordance with paragraph (b) of this section, or an income-based rent as determined in accordance with paragraph (c) of this section. Except for financial hardship cases as provided in paragraph (d) of this section, the family may not be offered this choice more than once a year.

(2) Relation to minimum rent. Regardless of whether the family chooses to pay a flat rent or income-based rent, the family must pay at least the minimum rent as determined in accordance with § 5.630 of this title.

(b) Flat rent. The flat rent is determined annually, based on the market rental value of the unit as determined by this paragraph (b).

(1) The PHA must establish a flat rent for each public housing unit that is no less than 80 percent of the applicable Fair Market Rent (FMR) as determined under 24 CFR part 888, subpart A; or

(2) HUD may permit a flat rent of no less than 80 percent of an applicable small area FMR (SAFMR) or unadjusted rent, if applicable, as determined by HUD, or any successor determination, that more accurately reflects local market conditions and is based on an applicable market area that is geographically smaller than the applicable market area used in paragraph (b)(1) of this section. If HUD has not determined an applicable SAFMR or unadjusted rent, the PHA must rely on the applicable FMR under paragraph (b)(1) or may apply for an exception flat rent under paragraph (b)(3).

(3) The PHA may request, and HUD may approve, on a case-by-case basis, a flat rent that is lower than the amounts in paragraphs (b)(1) and (2) of this section, subject to the following requirements:

(i) The PHA must submit a market analysis of the applicable market.

(ii) The PHA must demonstrate, based on the market analysis, that the proposed flat rent is a reasonable rent in comparison to rent for other comparable unassisted units, based on the location, quality, size, unit type, and age of the public housing unit and any amenities, housing services, maintenance, and utilities to be provided by the PHA in accordance with the lease.

(iii) All requests for exception flat rents under this paragraph (b)(3) must be submitted to HUD.

(4) For units where utilities are tenant-paid, the PHA must adjust the flat rent downward by the amount of a utility allowance for which the family might otherwise be eligible under 24 CFR part 965, subpart E.

(5) The PHA must revise, if necessary, the flat rent amount for a unit no later than 90 days after HUD issues new FMRs.

(6) If a new flat rent would cause a family's rent to increase by more than 35 percent, the family's rent increase must be phased in at 35 percent annually until such time that the family chooses to pay the income-based rent or the family is paying the flat rent established pursuant to this paragraph.

(c) Income-based rent.

(1) An income-based rent is a tenant rent that is based on the family's income and the PHA's policies for determination of such rents.

(2) The PHA rent policies may specify that the PHA will use percentage of family income or some other reasonable system to determine income-based rents. The PHA rent policies may provide for depositing a portion of tenant rent in an escrow or savings account, for imposing a ceiling on tenant rents, for adoption of permissive income deductions (see § 5.611(b) of this title), or for another reasonable system to determining the amount of income-based tenant rent.

(3) The income-based tenant rent must not exceed the total tenant payment (§ 5.628 of this title) for the family minus any applicable utility allowance for tenant-paid utilities. If the utility allowance exceeds the total tenant payment, the PHA shall pay such excess amount (the utility reimbursement) either to the family or directly to the utility supplier to pay the utility bill on behalf of the family.

(4) The PHA may elect to establish policies regarding the frequency of utility reimbursement payments for payments made to the family.

(i) The PHA will have the option of making utility reimbursement payments not less than once per calendar-year quarter, for reimbursements totaling $45 or less per quarter. In the event a family leaves the program in advance of its next quarterly reimbursement, the PHA must reimburse the family for a prorated share of the applicable reimbursement. PHAs exercising this option must have a hardship policy in place for tenants.

(ii) If the PHA elects to pay the utility supplier, the PHA must notify the family of the amount of utility reimbursement paid to the utility supplier.

(d) Ceiling rent. A PHA using ceiling rents authorized and established before October 1, 1999, may continue to use ceiling rents, provided such ceiling rents are set at the level required for flat rents under this section. PHAs must follow the requirements for calculating and adjusting flat rents in paragraph (b) of this section when calculating and adjusting ceiling rents.

(e) Information for families. For the family to make an informed choice about its rent options, the PHA must provide sufficient information for an informed choice. Such information must include at least the following written information:

(1) The PHA's policies on switching type of rent in circumstances of financial hardship, and

(2) The dollar amounts of tenant rent for the family under each option, following the procedures in paragraph (f) of this section.

(f) Choice between flat and income-based rents. Families must be offered the choice between a flat rental amount and a previously calculated income-based rent according to the following:

(1) For a family that chooses the flat rent option, the PHA must conduct a reexamination of family income and composition at least once every three years.

(2) At initial occupancy, or in any year in which a participating family is paying the income-based rent, the PHA must:

(i) Conduct a full examination of family income and composition, following the provisions in § 960.257;

(ii) Inform the family of the flat rental amount and the income-based rental amount determined by the examination of family income and composition;

(iii) Inform the family of the PHA's policies on switching rent types in circumstances of financial hardship; and

(iv) Apply the family's rent decision at the next lease renewal.

(3) In any year in which a family chooses the flat rent option but the PHA chooses not to conduct a full examination of family income and composition for the annual rent option under the authority of paragraph (f)(1) of this section, the PHA must:

(i) Use income information from the examination of family income and composition from the first annual rent option;

(ii) Inform the family of the updated flat rental amount and the rental amount determined by the most recent examination of family income and composition;

(iii) Inform the family of the PHA's policies on switching rent types in circumstances of financial hardship; and

(iv) Apply the family's rent decision at the next lease renewal.

(g) Switch from flat rent to income-based rent because of hardship.

(1) A family that is paying a flat rent may at any time request a switch to payment of income-based rent (before the next annual option to select the type of rent) if the family is unable to pay flat rent because of financial hardship. The PHA must adopt written policies for determining when payment of flat rent is a financial hardship for the family.

(2) If the PHA determines that the family is unable to pay the flat rent because of financial hardship, the PHA must immediately allow the requested switch to income-based rent. The PHA shall make the determination within a reasonable time after the family request.

(3) The PHA policies for determining when payment of flat rent is a financial hardship must provide that financial hardship include the following situations:

(i) The family has experienced a decrease in income because of changed circumstances, including loss or reduction of employment, death in the family, or reduction in or loss of earnings or other assistance;

(ii) The family has experienced an increase in expenses, because of changed circumstances, for medical costs, child care, transportation, education, or similar items; and

(iii) Such other situations determined by the PHA to be appropriate.

[65 FR 16726, Mar. 29, 2000, as amended at 80 FR 53712, Sept. 8, 2015; 81 FR 12372, Mar. 8, 2016]