Since section 8 Owner/Agents are required to complete an annual recertification for each tenant family, it is important to realize that there are key differences between the annual recertification interview and the one performed when they first apply for affordable housing. At the Application interview Owners/Agents gather more data than at annuals (for example, all of the questions pertaining to screening and suitability would not be relevant at the annual). Owners/Agents have the advantage at an annual of having background information about the family from the previous year’s certification. Even so, a thorough interview is needed at annual (and interim) recertification. Owners/Agents should never assume that family circumstances or even family composition is the same as the preceding year. Owners/Agents should compare the new information provided by the family to information in the file. Owners/Agents should look for changes in family composition, income sources and amounts as well as dates of birth and social security numbers for all family members. A discrepancy may suggest additional questions that should be asked. Asking the right questions can also lead to a reduced number of EIV Income discrepancies down the road. Additionally when we perform HUD File Audits, the first thing we do is to see what changed from the last recertification as compared to the most recent certification in effect and what verifications are on file to back that information up..
In preparation for the interview:
Create an interview plan which will ensure consistent results. An interview plan should include:
- A pre-determined and practiced sequence of questions so that all interviews follow the same steps
- Use a checklist so the that the same information and HUD required forms are provided to all applicants and tenants
- Advance review of any known information about the applicant (for scheduled interviews). A discrepancy between known information and new information may suggest additional questions that should be asked. Here is the difference between a well asked questions and a poorly structured question:
A Poorly asked question: “So nothing has changed in your employment status?”
A Better asked question: “What are the names of your employers?”
- Check Appendix 3 in the 4350.3 HUD Handbook for the appropriate verification forms. Remember the purpose here is to verify the information that you collected from the tenant.
- Make sure you are utilizing the mandatory Enterprise Income Verification (EIV) reports such as the Income Report, Income Discrepancy Report as third party verification.
Remember, part of HUD’s RHIIP initiative is to reduce over-payments and under-payments and reduce the number of errors in the computation of rent determinations. So learning to ask the right questions and verifying the data you collect helps to accomplish this goal.
With experience comes great technique, what can you suggest to the person who is just beginning as a property manager. Please share your best interview questions and techniques! (Click on “Leave a Comment”)