For the most part, Section 8 requirements do not place any restrictions on the type of housing participants can choose from.
Tenants can generally apply their housing voucher to any property, as long as they come to an agreement with the landlord. This includes:
However, the chosen property must meet the Section 8 standards regarding sanitation and safety, as well as rent limits. The local PHA is responsible for inspecting the property before tenants move in to ensure it meets these basic requirements.
While tenants are not limited to certain types of housing, they must choose affordable properties within the jurisdiction of their public housing authority (PHA). Each PHA presides over a designated area, in which program participants can find affordable, safe and clean living arrangements.
These location restrictions also help PHAs to monitor the local median income. With this knowledge, PHAs can outline income limits that are used to determine a Section 8 applicant’s eligibility.
Once an applicant is approved for the Section 8 program, he or she is responsible for securing a property that accepts the housing voucher. As such, much of the lease arrangements are made between the tenant and the landlord.
The PHA has very little involvement beyond the inspection to ensure that the property meets program standards. However, PHAs can step in if serious issues occur, such as eviction or property destruction.
To remain in good standing with the housing voucher program and the landlord, tenants are obligated to fulfill certain responsibilities. Failure to meet these obligations can result in eviction or removal from the program. These responsibilities include the following:
Landlords have their own set of responsibilities within the Section 8 program. Most importantly, landlords are expected to use the same screening system on housing voucher recipients as they do with other tenants.
This generally involves performing a credit and background check to ensure that applicants will be responsible renters. Section 8 landlords are also required to:
Due to the long wait times for assistance, many PHAs require tenants to remain in their chosen property for a designated amount of time. Generally, Section 8 recipients must live in the unit for a minimum of one year before they are able to move to another location.
It is also important for tenants to communicate any intentions to move with the landlord.
In general, PHAs only require that the rent requested by a landlord is considered reasonable. This is often based on the average local rent and the conditions of the individual unit. PHAs also work to determine a payment standard, which is the cost of a moderately priced unit in the area.
Using this payment standard and personal income information, the PHA determines the level of benefits Section 8 tenants receive. It is important to note that this payment standard does not limit the amount of rent a landlord can request. However, any amount left over beyond this payment standard is the tenant’s responsibility.
The Section 8 program exists across the U.S., so it is possible to move and maintain eligibility for a housing voucher. However, you must complete the terms of your lease and live in your PHA’s jurisdiction for the minimum amount of time specified.
Once this period is up, you can request to transfer to a different PHA. Your current PHA is responsible for contacting the receiving PHA, and sending a portability package with your information.
Keep in mind that you must then meet the specific eligibility requirements for the receiving PHA, so you are required to participate in another Section 8 interview to complete the process.
As with any other government assistance program, you must continue to meet eligibility requirements in order to maintain your benefits. For this reason, you are expected to inform your PHA as soon as possible when significant changes in your household income or size occur.
It is also important to keep your address up-to-date to ensure that you receive any important notices sent from the PHA. In order to report these changes, you may be required to fill out a specific form and provide supporting documentation to verify the new information you are providing.
In the event that you are denied a housing voucher by the Section 8 program, the PHA you applied to will send a denial notice. This notice generally outlines the reasons your application was rejected, and provides options for how to proceed.
In particular, the housing choice voucher program has an appeals process that you can initiate if you believe you were wrongly denied.
If you are denied a housing voucher, you have the option to appeal the decision with the PHA. In order to initiate the process, you must submit a request for an informal hearing.
This hearing is generally conducted by a representative that helped with your application, but did not take part in the final decision. During your hearing, you are required to submit any relevant documents from your case for review.