HCV Question: Mandatory Voucher Suspension

Q: Could you please explain the new rule requiring suspension of the voucher term? Is suspension the same thing as “tolling”? Does the new rule apply only to families exercising portability? We have not done suspensions in the past so we’re not sure how it works.
A: You’re correct that suspension of the voucher term, sometimes called “tolling,” is now mandatory. The change was included in the streamlining portability final rule, published on August 20, 2015. The effective date of the rule was September 21, 2015.

Prior to the new rule, suspension of the voucher term was optional for PHAs. And although the change was part of the streamlining portability final rule, it applies to all families, not just to families exercising portability.

Here is the revised regulation at 24 Code of Federal Regulations 982.303(c):

Suspension of term. The PHA must provide for suspension of the initial or any extended term of the voucher from the date that the family submits a request for PHA approval of the tenancy until the date the PHA notifies the family in writing whether the request has been approved or denied.

Suspension means that the PHA stops the “clock” on the voucher term when an applicant or participant submits a request for tenancy approval (RFTA). The minimum voucher term is 60 days; some agencies allow for a longer initial term or allow clients to request extensions. So if the PHA issues a voucher with a 60-day term, and the client submits an RFTA on day 45, the voucher term will still have 15 days to run when the PHA determines whether the unit can be approved.

A couple of things to keep in mind: if the PHA approves the unit and the client leases that unit, the voucher suspension will not have any effect. There would be no reason for the PHA to add days to the voucher term after the client leases a unit. Also, agencies that did not suspend the voucher term prior to the rule change may find that fewer clients will have a need to request term extensions.

Let’s look at an example. ABC Housing Authority issues a voucher to Mrs. Smith, an applicant, on October 1. The voucher has a 60-day term and an expiration date of November 29.

  • On October 15 Mrs. Smith submits an RFTA. The voucher term is suspended with 46 days remaining.
  • On October 23 the PHA inspects the unit. The unit fails the inspection and the owner states that he is not willing to make required repairs. On October 23 the PHA notifies Mrs. Smith in writing that the unit cannot be approved. The voucher term resumes with a new expiration date of December 5.
  • On October 30, Mrs. Smith submits an RFTA for a different unit. The voucher term is suspended again, with 40 days remaining.

On November 5 the PHA inspects the unit. The unit passes and the PHA has determined that the rent is reasonable and that the unit is affordable. The lease and HAP contract are executed with an effective date of November 5. The PHA notifies Mrs. Smith in writing that the unit has been approved. Since the client has leased a unit, the 40 remaining days in the voucher term will not be needed.

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