Planning and Development - Division of Community Development

Tenant Based Rental Assistance

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What is Tenant Based Rental Assistance (TBRA)

McHenry County offers HOME Investment Partnerships grant funding to agencies to provide Tenant Based Rental Assistance (TBRA) to eligible clients.  HOME funds can be used to provide direct assistance to low-income households who need help paying their rent. HOME- funded Tenant-Based Rental Assistance (TBRA) is a rental subsidy that helps make up the difference between what a renter can afford to pay and the actual rent for a home.

Low-income households can receive HOME TBRA to help pay rent, utility costs, security deposits, and utility deposits. HOME TBRA Program is unique because:

It helps individual households,
It can be used in a unit chosen by the tenant, and moves with the tenant, and
The amount of the rental subsidy is based on the income of the household, the particular unit the household selects, and the McHenry County rent standard.


The majority of households who receive HOME TBRA assistance must be very low-income. This means that they have a gross annual household income of 60 percent or less of the median income for their area, as determined by HUD. No assisted household may have an income that exceeds 80 percent of area median income.

Organizations providing TBRA are responsible for verifying that those assisted meet the low-income requirements before assistance is provided, and annually during the period of assistance.

Assisted households identify the housing unit of their choice. Eligible properties may be publicly or privately owned and must meet Housing Quality Standards, as determined by McHenry County prior to occupancy and annually thereafter. TBRA may be used in HOME-assisted units, but the property does not have to be a HOME-assisted unit. The County can elect whether it will allow an assisted household to choose a unit outside its jurisdiction, and this is usually limited to those fleeing domestic violence.

Units must have reasonable rents, based on rents that are charged for comparable unassisted units in the jurisdiction and within the McHenry County established rent standard. TBRA can pay an assisted household no more than the difference between 30 percent of the household’s income and the McHenry County rent standard. McHenry County has set $1 as the minimum tenant contribution toward rent.

Key Program Requirements

HOME requires that TBRA projects meet the following requirements:

     ❑ The organization providing assistance must select families based on written tenant selection policy and criteria;

     ❑ Assisted units must meet applicable property standards;

     ❑ Property owners must use leases that contain certain provisions to protect tenant’s and other participants’ rights. The McHenry County Community Development Division must approve the lease used;

     ❑ Length of TBRA assistance must be for at least one year (unless otherwise agreed upon by owner and tenant), and may not exceed two years. It is renewable;

     ❑ The McHenry County Community Development Division must monitor its TBRA program on an ongoing basis, to ensure compliance with HOME Program requirements. At a minimum, monitoring must include an annual:
          ✓ Inspection to determine that the unit continues to meet property standards,
          ✓ Re-verification of tenant income to ensure assisted households are low income, and
          ✓ Review of rental payments to determine that the rents remain reasonable. 

How to Access the HOME TBRA Program

Tenant Based Rental Assistance Applicants must follow a series of steps before moving into their unit.

1. Meet with a Case Manager to begin the eligibility process. This will include filling out a packet of information and signing a release of information that allows your Housing Case Manager to discuss your rental program with potential landlords. You and your Housing Case Manger will explore your long-term goals, preferred location and rental costs, and the structure of your unique subsidy.

2. Once you and your Housing Case Manager have outlined where you would like to live, how much you would be willing afford and when, and defined your role and responsibilities by participating in the TBRA program, your application will be considered for acceptance in to the program and approval to move forward.

3. You may begin looking for a suitable unit. When you find one, contact your Housing Case Manager so she/he may contact the landlord and schedule a walk-through. It is advisable to allow your Housing Case Manager to speak to the landlord first, as they have been trained in how to explain the TBRA program and answer questions the potential landlord may have. The Housing Case Manager will also do a habitability inspection to ensure your new home meets minimum safety and quality thresholds.

4. If the unit is cleared by your Housing Case Manager, the landlord will likely ask you to undergo a credit check and/or background check. If you have less-than-perfect rental and/or credit history, your Housing Case Manager may be able to reassure the landlord that you have been accepted into a rental subsidy program in which the organization sponsoring you can guarantee your rent is paid for an agreed upon period of time. Damage you cause to the unit is your responsibility to repair. Behavioral infractions that are expressly forbidden by the terms of a residential lease may be cause for eviction. Your Housing Case Manager has no authority to override your landlord’s rules unless they violate federal discrimination laws.

5. Participation in a self-sufficiency program is not required to obtain TBRA, however, your provider may institute other requirements to maintain your subsidy, such as monthly check-in’s or quarterly goal progression update sessions. Refer to your organizations’ program literature to determine what your roles and responsibilities are while accessing TBRA funding.