Section 8 housing eligibility is governed by a complex set of overlapping rules and requirements.
Family composition, which is simply another term for all the individuals living together in one household, plays a key role in eligibility in several ways. Family composition can affect:
- Eligibility based on disability status.
- Total household income calculations.
- The size and style of unit that applicants are eligible for.
- Eligibility based on immigration status, full-time student status, criminal background considerations, previous findings of disqualification from public support and other contributing factors.
As a result, HUD requires that all applicants clearly and completely detail their family compositions on their Section 8 application forms. Applicants must tell HUD upfront who will be living in their assisted housing unit if they are awarded support so that HUD can calculate their eligibility accurately.
Changes to family composition can materially change families’ eligibility for support. As such, HUD requires that families report changes to their family composition within 10 days. While Section 8 tenants are allowed to have short-term guests, anyone moving in long-term may be considered a member of the household and must be reported to the family’s Public Housing Agency (PHA).
Learn About Section 8 Rentals’ Family Composition Rules
When determining eligibility for Section 8 rentals HUD does not discriminate by family type. Families can be comprised on any individual or group of individuals living together. This can include:
- Individual adults.
- Children (biological, adopted, fostered or otherwise).
- Married or unmarried couples of any gender or sexual identity.
- Unrelated individuals of any age sharing a home.
- Some children or adults in other living situations, such as deployed military personnel or disabled family members living in supported or assisted living facilities.
For official purposes, your family is considered to be whomever you listed it as including on your Section 8 housing application. Your eligibility for assistance is determined based on those specific individuals, including their ages, disability statuses and incomes.
How to Add or Remove Members of Your Household
If you live in Section 8 housing and someone joins or leaves your household, you must notify your PHA within 10 days. If you give birth to, adopt, receive custody of or otherwise take in an infant or child, he or she is considered an addition to your household and must be reported. You are required by the terms of your award agreement to complete a form notifying your PHA of:
- The change in family composition.
- The identity and Social Security Number of the individual who joined or left your household.
- The income, citizenship or immigration status, disability status and other key identifying information about the individual joining or leaving, as applicable.
Your PHA can provide you with the required forms, and can assist you in completing them, if needed. The information you provide may be used to recalculate your eligibility for assistance. In some cases, it may lead to you becoming ineligible for the benefits you have been receiving. In that event, you will need to work with your PHA to:
- Change your family composition again, to keep your Section 8 housing
- Transition out of your current housing.
- Transition to a new lease agreement, under which you remain in your current housing but pay full market price without subsidy.
Live-in health care aides are not considered members of your family and you are not required to report them to your PHA when they move in or out. In some cases, you may be required to prove necessity or cause in order for your PHA to give permission for another adult, such as an elderly parent, to move into your unit with you.
Who cannot live in your Section 8 housing with you?
Some individuals are legally forbidden from living in Section 8 rentals or receiving public housing support in any way. These persons may not live in your supported housing unit at any time for any reason. People ineligible to live in your unit with you include:
- Individuals permanently listed on state or national Sex Offender Registries.
- Individuals who fail HUD criminal background checks.
- Individuals who have been denied all further HUD or public assistance due to convictions of fraud, repeated program violations and other previous misconduct.
- Persons whose immigration status disqualifies them for support.
- Persons believed or deemed for any reason to be disruptive to the livability of the unit or a threat to themselves or others.
Full-time college students are also subject to limited eligibility for Section 8 support.
What happens if you break the rules?
The consequences for breaking the rules regarding who may or may not occupy your Section 8 rental can be severe and far-reaching.
- Failure to submit a Section 8 housing application online application update notifying your PHA of a change in family composition can be considered willful violation of your tenancy agreement. This can lead to penalties up to and including eviction from your unit and loss of your Section 8
- If you permit ineligible and unapproved residents to move into your unit, your landlord may find you in violation of your lease agreement and file for your eviction under the “material noncompliance” clause of your rental terms.
- Knowingly providing misinformation to HUD, your PHA or your landlord about a new person residing in your unit can be considered fraud. This is not only ground for termination of your lease and Section 8 support, but also for legal action against you.
It is important to note that violating program rules can make it difficult or impossible for you to get on a Section 8 housing list or any other HUD housing program list in the future. It can also negatively impact your ability to find future housing of any kind, as future landlords may review your housing history and decide against you due to your termination from your current housing and the Section 8 program.
Furthermore, it may make it more difficult for you to receive other forms of public assistance in the future, as termination of services from any government support program will be a mark against you in the enrollment process.