Note: This is the third in a four-part series on voucher program rents. Part One explained Affordability and Rent Reasonableness. Part Two covered Side Payments.
When a landlord and voucher tenant decide to work together and sit down to complete the Request for Tenancy Approval (RTA), one area that often causes confusion is Section 11, Utilities and Appliances, commonly referred to as the utility chart. See Figure 1.
Figure-1. Utility Chart from the RTA
The utility chart is where the landlord lets the tenant and the Housing Office know what kind of utilities are in service at the unit, what appliances are provided, and who pays for service and maintenance of each.
The utility chart is divided into three sections, “Specify fuel type,” “Provided by,” and “Paid by,” all of which must be completed by the landlord. Continue reading below for some tips on how to correctly fill out the utility chart.
Specify fuel type
In this section, the landlord lets the tenant and the Housing Office know what fuel source powers the unit’s heat, stove, and water heater. Electric and natural gas are the two most common fuel sources for these items in Escambia County, but the RTA lists other possibilities.
A unit may use natural gas for all three of these items, electric for all three, or it might use a mix of fuel types. It’s very important to provide accurate information about the fuel types used in the unit. Listing incorrect utility information on the RTA can cause delays in the lease-up process, and in worst case scenarios, can invalidate a Housing Assistance Payments (HAP) Contract.
The “Provided by” column is where the landlord lets the tenant and the Housing Office know who provides appliances for the unit.
The first seven rows of this column may be left blank, as it’s assumed the rental unit comes with plumbing, electrical wiring, and, if necessary, natural gas hookups.
For the rows labeled Air Conditioning, Refrigerator, and Range/Microwave, the landlord should enter an O (for Owner) for appliances that are included with the rental unit, and a T (for Tenant) for appliances that must be provided by the tenant. Please note that the Pensacola Housing Office is mainly concerned with who supplies the stove/range, not the microwave.
Housing Tip: HUD uses the term “owner” inclusively on voucher-program forms to refer either to the property owner of record, or to an authorized agent, representative, or property manager acting on that owner’s behalf.
The “Paid by” column is where the landlord lets the tenant and the Housing Office know who pays for the unit’s essential utilities and appliances.
Housing Tip: Any utilities assigned to the tenant must be separately metered for the tenant’s living space only. A voucher tenant cannot be asked to pay utilities for common areas, or for areas the voucher family doesn’t use (for example, if there’s a storage building on the premises that the landlord reserves for her own use.) The tenant must be able to set up utility accounts in the head of household’s name, so proofs of utilities can be furnished to the Housing Office, and usage monitored by the tenant.
It is assumed the owner will cover maintenance for any appliances she provides.
“Other Electric” refers to all the electricity usage that occurs in a residence besides the uses that are called out separately (heating, cooking, water heating, air conditioning). Examples of costs included under “Other Electric” are lighting, television, and small kitchen appliances.
If the owner pays for electric service in the unit, an O should be entered. If the tenant pays for electric service, it should be a T.
If the unit is on a septic tank, enter an O in the Paid by column and write septic in the far left column.
If the tenant pays for electricity, then enter a T in the Paid by column, even if the ac unit is provided by the owner.
If the owner provides the refrigerator, enter an O in both the Provided by and the Paid by columns. If the tenant must provide her own refrigerator, enter a T in the Provided by column and leave the Paid by column blank.
Housing Tip: If the tenant supplies her own refrigerator and is currently leasing or paying for the appliance, the tenant may be eligible for an additional utility allowance. To be eligible for this allowance, the tenant must provide documentation of the monthly costs for the refrigerator to the Housing Office during the RTA appointment.
If the owner provides the stove/range, enter an O in both the Provided by and the Paid by columns. If the tenant must provide her own stove, enter a T in the Provided by column and leave the Paid by column blank.
Housing Tip: If the tenant supplies her own stove and is currently leasing or paying for the appliance, the tenant may be eligible for an additional utility allowance. To be eligible for this allowance, the tenant must provide documentation of the billing for the stove/range to the Housing Office during the RTA appointment.
Sample Utility Chart
An example of a completed utility chart appears below. In this example, the unit has electric heat but a natural gas range and water heater. The unit is on a septic tank, and the landlord pays for trash service at the property. The landlord provides central air conditioning, a refrigerator, and a stove. The tenant is responsible for paying for her own electric service, natural gas, and water. See Figure 2.
Figure-2. Sample Utility Chart
Part Four in this series reviews The Importance of the Utility Chart.