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How to Transfer

Produced by Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Reviewed November 28, 2005
  1. How do I request a public housing transfer?
  2. How much time do I have to accept the offer if the housing authority tells me to transfer?
  3. If I am approved for a public housing transfer, when will I be able to move?
  4. Who pays for the cost of a public housing transfer?

How do I request a public housing transfer?

If you wish to transfer, ask your housing authority for a transfer application or transfer request form. You should also ask the housing authority for any information that it has in writing about its transfer process.

Your application must include all the required documentation and information. Once you have completed the form, be sure to make a copy of the form and any documentation for your own records, and then give the originals to the housing authority.

State public housing

If you are requesting a transfer for good cause, the housing authority may require that you and your household:

  • are current in your rent and owe no back charges,
  • have not committed any serious violations of your lease for at least two years, and
  • are not subject to a judgment or to an agreement for judgment in a prior eviction case.1

Federal public housing

If you are seeking a transfer and it is not an emergency transfer, your housing authority is allowed (but not required) to establish requirements. For example, some housing authorities require that residents who are transferring:

  • owe no back rent or other charges, or do not have a pattern of late payment,
  • have not engaged in criminal activity that threatens residents or staff,
  • have no housekeeping violations or history of damaging property, and
  • can get utilities turned on in the name of the head of household.

The housing authority also has the ability to not apply (waive) these requirements and allow a transfer to happen.2

Denial of request

If your request for a transfer is denied, you have a right to challenge the denial through your housing authority’s grievance procedure.

How much time do I have to accept the offer if the housing authority tells me to transfer?

State public housing

The time to accept a transfer offer depends on the type of transfer.

Good cause transfer

In state public housing, if you have requested a transfer for good cause, state regulations say that if the housing authority offers you a new unit, you have seven days to accept this offer. You may, however, ask for an extension of time. If you do not accept the offer within seven days (or the extended time allowed), the housing authority will remove you from the transfer list. You can grieve the removal from the transfer list, but you would need to show that you did not get proper notice or you had good cause to refuse the offer (for example, because the particular offer was not appropriate for your medical needs). Although you may submit a new transfer request, you will not be entitled to priority for a period of three years (unless there are special circumstances).3 But check your lease and housing authority’s transfer policy—they may give you more than seven days.

Administrative transfer

If you are transferring because of an administrative reason, generally you have 30 days to accept a transfer offer and move. You will find information about how much time you have to accept an offer in your lease and the housing authority’s transfer policy.

Federal public housing

There are no federal regulations that specify how much time you have to accept a transfer offer. Check your lease and your housing authority’s Administrative and Continued Occupancy Policy.

If I am approved for a public housing transfer, when will I be able to move?

If you have requested and been approved for a transfer, you will be placed on a waiting list for an apartment that includes people who are applying for public housing. How this waiting list is handled depends on whether you live in state or federal public housing.

In addition, some housing authorities may place you on a housing authority-wide waiting list where you may be assigned to either state or federal public housing. If you live in state public housing, be aware of two special rules in federal housing:

  • Federal public housing rules require that all household members either be citizens or have certain types of eligible immigration status.4 If this is not true for your family, you may not be eligible for federal housing, or you may have a much higher rent. Check on this before you transfer, and tell the housing authority that you have good cause not to accept an assignment to federal housing.
  • Every adult in a federal public housing household must carry out either 96 hours per year of community service or economic self-sufficiency activity in order to remain eligible for public housing, or show that he or she is excused from having to do community service.5

In addition, if you’re being transferred from state to federal public housing or from federal to state public housing, this may mean your rent may be calculated differently.6

State public housing

If you live in state public housing and have requested and been approved for a transfer, you will be placed on a waiting list that includes people who are applying for public housing. When apartments open up, the housing authority then selects people from this combined waiting list based on whether they fit any of the seven priorities listed in state regulations.7

These seven priorities are the emergency priorities that allow people to move ahead of other applicants on the regular waiting lists. For example, people who are homeless because of a natural disaster or fire have first priority. If you have requested a transfer for good cause, that is considered a sixth priority.8 To find out what your housing authority’s priorities are and where you are on the waiting list, ask your housing authority. If there is a long waiting list, you may need to check in regularly.

Federal public housing

If you live in federal public housing, there are no regulations about how different types of transfers are prioritized or when a transfer request takes precedence over that of a person who is applying for housing and on the waiting list. Check your lease and your housing authority’s transfer policy. You can also ask to see the housing authority’s Admissions and Continued Occupancy Policy.

Although there are no regulations requiring housing authorities to have a certain order or priority system for transfers, the following list is an example of how transfers could be prioritized:9

  1. Emergency transfer
  2. Reasonable accommodation transfer
  3. Demolition, revitalization, rehabilitation transfer
  4. Family size changes transfer

Under some housing authorities’ policies, emergency, reasonable accommodation, and rehabilitation transfers take priority over those for people who have applied for a new apartment and are on the waiting list; and family size transfers are mixed in with the assignment of units to new applicants. Information about the process for taking people on the transfer waiting list and the waiting list for new apartments should be in your housing authority’s Administrative and Continued Occupancy Plan.

Who pays for the cost of a public housing transfer?

State public housing

Where the transfer is required for rehabilitation, demolition, or revitalization, or because the existing unit is not fit for human habitation, the state’s relocation assistance law applies. This means that the housing authority must either:

  1. move you or pay your mover directly,
  2. reimburse you for reasonable moving costs, or
  3. pay a fixed allowance to you and allow you to make your own arrangements for a move.1

In all other cases, unless the housing authority’s policy says otherwise, you must pay for moving costs.

Federal public housing

If you live in federal public housing, the housing authority must pay for reasonable costs for the following types of transfers:2

  • Transfers the housing authority initiates for demolition, disposition, revitalization, or rehabilitation
  • Transfers required because of emergency conditions, building systems failures, or other obligations under the lease that the housing authority is not meeting
  • Reasonable accommodations transfers

Reasonable costs include the cost of packing, moving, unloading, and disconnecting and reconnecting services you pay for, such as telephone and cable television.

Generally, residents bear the cost of transfers related to family size. But you should check your housing authority’s transfer policy because some housing authorities pay for moving residents to smaller units.


1760 C.M.R. § 5.03, see definition of "Transfer for good cause."

2Public Housing Occupancy Guidebook, 11.6 (June 2003).

3760 C.M.R. § 5.10(5)(a).

4See 42 U.S.C. § 1436a; 24 C.F.R. 5.500 et seq. Persons who have legal permanent resident status or who have been approved for refugee or asylee status have eligible immigration status under HUD rules. However, persons who are awaiting legal permanent resident status but have not yet been approved (those waiting for green cards) don’t have eligible immigration status.

5See 42 U.S.C. § 1437j(c); 24 C.F.R. 960.600 et seq.

6A resident in federal public housing, for example, gets the benefit of the "earned income disregard" for certain increases in earned income after prolonged unemployment or being on public assistance; the state public housing exclusion is far more limited. Tenants in state public housing can deduct extraordinary medical expenses; tenants in federal public housing ordinarily can do this only if the head of household or spouse is elderly or disabled. If you’ve been forced to transfer due to building or apartment rehabilitation work, and your rent or utility costs increase because of different rent rules, the housing authority should reimburse you for the difference between what you would have paid if you weren’t forced to move and what you have to pay now. See 24 C.F.R. § 941.207(b); M.G.L. c. 79A § 7; 760 C.M.R. § 27.06.

7760 C.M.R. § 5.09(1).

8760 C.M.R. § 5.09(1)(f).

9See Public Housing Occupancy Guidebook, 11.2 and 11.3, which have examples of how transfers could be prioritized and what transfers might take precedence over waiting list admissions.

10See M.G.L. c. 79A §§ 7 and 13; 760 C.M.R. § 27.06; West Broadway Task Force v. Boston Housing Authority, 414 Mass. 394, 608 N.E.2d 713 (1993) (obligation to provide relocation payments triggered when housing authority notifies tenants that they must move due to rehabilitation).

11Public Housing Occupancy Guidebook, 11.7 (June 2003). Payment of relocation costs associated with rehabilitation or moving from an uninhabitable apartment are also required by the state Relocation Assistance Act, even if they would not be required by federal law. See M.G.L. c. 79A, §§ 5, 7, and 13. While HUD states that a temporary transfer to other federal public housing during rehabilitation does not trigger the federal Uniform Relocation Act (see 42 U.S.C. § 4601, as well as 24 C.F.R. 42.1 and 49 C.F.R. 24), it still requires reimbursement of reasonable out-of-pocket expenses associated with the temporary relocation, including moving costs, any increase in monthly rent/utility costs, and incidental expenses. See 24 C.F.R. § 941.207(b).

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