Set Resident Selection Plan to Ensure Consistent Application Process
A written resident selection plan ensures that your site's application policies and procedures will be uniformly administered and that all applicants are treated fairly. It outlines for both staff and prospects the tax credit requirements and the site's criteria for screening applicants and renting units. If implemented consistently, the document also will help to protect your site against claims of discrimination.
When developing your resident selection plan, it helps to start with the objectives that the plan will help you to achieve. For instance, an effective resident selection plan should:
- Establish your site's selection policies and procedures so that site staff can follow a consistent approach for processing applications.
- Act as a reference tool to help educate prospects and set their expectations for screening criteria and other requirements.
- Demonstrate to your state housing agency that your site applies selection policies fairly and uniformly, and that you comply with the tax credit program requirements.
Key Items to Include in Plan
A good resident selection plan should explain your site's policies and procedures for every step of the application process. Be sure to clearly outline tax credit requirements as well as your criteria for screening applicants and filling vacant units. The following are a few key items to include:
Statement of nondiscrimination. Begin the plan with a statement of nondiscrimination that affirms that your site follows all nondiscrimination laws and that you don't discriminate based on race, color, creed, religion, sex, familial status, age, disability, or national origin. If your state or local laws protect additional groups or characteristics, such as sexual orientation or source of income, include these in your plan, as well. Check with your attorney or a fair housing consultant to find out if there are any state or local nondiscrimination requirements that you should reference.
Eligibility requirements. Make sure that your plan describes two essential eligibility factors—tax credit income limits and the full-time student rule, advises tax credit consultant Elizabeth Bramlet. Specify the income limit for households, as well as how it is determined (for example, “households must earn no more than 60 percent of area median gross income to be eligible”). Explain that all sources of income and assets may affect an applicant's eligibility for a low-income unit and, therefore, must be disclosed and verifiable for all household members.
In addition, include a statement that households comprised entirely of full-time students, which do not meet the exceptions outlined in Section 42 of the Internal Revenue Code, are not eligible.
Screening criteria. Include any screening procedures that you have in place, such as credit checks, criminal background checks, minimum income requirements, previous landlord references—any standards that you apply to determine if the applicant is somebody you want to rent to,” Bramlet says. Keep in mind that any screening criteria that you use must relate to the applicant's ability to pay the rent or meet other lease requirements. For each standard that you include, you must also define how you will evaluate information to decide whether to reject an applicant (for example, “a history of late payment of rent that shows more than two late payments in a six-month period within the last two years”).
Unit transfer policy. Make sure that your plan clearly spells out procedures for selecting between applicants and current residents who need to transfer because of a change in household status or size or the need for an accessible unit, or due to a medical reason.
Editor's Note: Keep the LIHTC transfer rule in mind before approving a household's transfer. See "Three Things You Need to Know About Unit Transfers," Insider, July 2010, p. 6.
Occupancy standards. Outline your criteria for matching households with the most appropriate unit size for the number of occupants. Also include a statement that management has the right to adjust occupancy limits to make reasonable accommodations for individuals with disabilities. And be sure to check your local landlord-tenant law for allowable occupancy standards in your area, Bramlet adds.
Plan Development Best Practices
The following are a few tips to keep in mind when developing or revising your resident selection plan.
- If your tax credit site also receives assistance through a HUD-regulated program, such as Section 8 or Section 236, your plan must reflect HUD's eligibility, admission, and screening requirements. “Different programs have different income limits and student rules. HUD sites also have many more rules to implement,” says Bramlet. “Examine each item in your plan to determine if there is a conflict between the tax credit program and other programs, and then spell out how you are going to resolve it, and how you decide to whom you're going to lease.”
- Creating a comprehensive resident selection plan can seem like an overwhelming task. How can you ensure that you are including everything that needs to be covered? “Think about how you go through your decision-making process for renting a unit, step by step,” says Bramlet. “That will help you to come up with a list of procedures and policies to include.” She adds that your state compliance manual is a great tool to keep on hand when developing your plan. “That can help you to make sure that you include everything that your housing finance agency views as important.”
- Keep fair housing issues top of mind as you lay out your policies and procedures. Remember that the policies and procedures outlined in your plan are designed to help your staff handle applications uniformly and reject applicants only for acceptable reasons.
Liz Bramlet: President, Liz Bramlet Consulting, LLC; (800) 784-1009; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Writing a Resident Selection Plan: Six Questions to Consider
The following questions will help you to think through your site’s management policies and procedures when outlining your resident selection plan:
- What should your waiting list policy and procedures be?
- Where can you obtain criminal background information, and how will that information be used?
- How will you resolve conflicts among multiple subsidy sources?
- How often should you update your site’s policy?
- How should your site respond to reasonable accommodation requests?
- What training will your staff need to understand and implement the policy?
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