Learn About Section 8 Denials and Appeals

The Section 8 program has many rules and guidelines, both at the federal and local level.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) finances and oversees the program, but public housing authorities (PHAs) are responsible for determining eligibility and issuing the housing choice vouchers. As such, local PHAs have the discretion to approve or deny applications at any time, and for a variety of reasons.

Most denials are issued when applicants are unable to meet the eligibility requirements for the program, including those regarding income. Even current program participants can have their housing vouchers terminated if they no longer meet the necessary qualifications, are convicted of certain crimes or receive an eviction from their Section 8 rental.

However, all applicants have the right to appeal a Section 8 denial if they believe it was wrongly issued. Further details regarding this process are outlined below.

Why was I denied a housing choice voucher?

Since Section 8 is overseen by HUD, each local PHA is required to adhere to certain guidelines for eligibility and enrollment. These PHAs are also able to determine some of their own practices based on the area, such as local median income level and length of the waiting list

As such, there are several reasons why a PHA may choose to deny an application for a housing voucher. Most commonly, applicants may receive a denial if:

  • They earn an income that is above the PHA’s established income limits.
  • They cannot provide the necessary information on their application.
  • They fail to respond to a notice from the PHA regarding their waiting list status.
  • They do not attend the mandatory Section 8 interview.

It is also possible for tenants currently enrolled in the program to have their benefits withdrawn. In particular, PHAs may terminate applicants from the program if:

  • They commit fraud in relation to their enrollment in the Section 8 program.
  • They receive an eviction notice from their Section 8 landlord.
  • They are convicted of a violent or drug-related crime on the premises of their rental, or another location.

PHAs also take several factors into consideration before making the final decision to withdraw support. Elements such as the severity of the case and effects of the termination on the rest of the family are reviewed thoroughly before a denial notice is issued.

It is important to note that the PHA does not have any control or involvement in whether a landlord accepts a housing voucher. As such, landlords have the right to deny any applicant if he or she does not meet the requirements for that rental unit.

Tenants are also expected to maintain the property and pay their portion of the rent in order to remain in good standing with the landlord. 

What happens if my Section 8 application gets denied?

If your application is denied or you are facing termination from the program, the PHA is required to send you a formal Section 8 denial letter in the mail. It is important that your current address is listed in the system to ensure that you receive this notice, so you can take action promptly.

This notice should outline the reason for your denial or dismissal from the program. It also provides information about your right to appeal the decision in a timely manner. If you choose to appeal your denial, you must do so within a certain amount of time. This deadline is determined by the PHA.

The appeals process is initiated when you submit a request for an informal hearing. To conduct the hearing, the PHA is responsible for hiring an impartial third party who can review your case with a fresh perspective. This hearing officer is an individual who played no part in the decision to deny or terminate your benefits. Once your request is accepted, you must take the time to prepare your case.

How to Appeal a Section 8 Denial

The first step in appealing your Section 8 denial is to review your denial notice thoroughly and prepare your case. This means gathering any and all relevant documents in order to present them to the hearing officer. These can be used to support your claim that you were wrongly denied from the program.

Most documents and correspondence that you used or received in regards to your Section 8 housing voucher can be helpful in your case. Examples of such documents include the following:

  • Your initial application
  • Income statements and other financial documents
  • Citizenship or immigration paperwork
  • Your Section 8 contract
  • Your lease agreement
  • Emails from your landlord or PHA contact
  • Written complaints
  • Witness statements and police reports

In addition to presenting any or all of these documents, you also have the right to legal representation for your case. If you choose, you may hire a lawyer or other legal representative to present your case for you at the hearing. Then, the PHA will submit its reasons for denial, and the hearing officer will issue a final decision.

Note: If you are already enrolled in the program, your PHA is not permitted to terminate your benefits while the appeals process is in effect. Until the hearing officer issues a decision, your housing voucher remains valid.

Learn About Section 8 Evictions

Since evictions are issued by your landlord rather than your PHA, other there are different steps you need to take. For example, you are required to report your eviction to the PHA as soon as possible. As with denial notices, you have the right to contest your eviction in court.

While the PHA can ultimately decide to terminate your voucher due to an eviction, you will maintain your enrollment until the court makes a decision in your case.

If your eviction is confirmed and the PHA withdraws your voucher, you still have the option to request an informal hearing. However, it is much more difficult to contest this type of denial if it is supported by a court order. A good way to prevent eviction from your rental is to maintain the property and follow the terms of your lease.