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Section 8 housing choice vouchers

Summary

Section 8 housing choice vouchers help low-income families pay their rent. To get a voucher, you need to fill out an application and meet certain requirements. Once approved, you can find a suitable place to live, and the housing authority will help pay the rent. If there are any problems with your home, you can ask the landlord or the housing authority for help. Remember to report any changes in your income or family size.

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Last updated 06/23/2023

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What are Section 8 housing choice vouchers?

Through the Housing Choice Voucher Program, a housing subsidy is paid to a landlord by a housing authority on behalf of a Section 8 voucher recipient. The housing subsidy is funded by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and is administered locally by housing authorities or community action corporations.

How do I get a Section 8 housing choice voucher?

To apply for a Section 8 voucher, you must complete an application at the housing authority. Based on your application, the housing authority will determine if you are eligible. Only low-income families, the elderly, or the disabled are eligible for vouchers. To see whether an applicant qualifies for a Section 8 voucher, the housing authority will gather information including, but not limited to: family characteristics, income and assets, citizenship or legal immigration status, criminal history, and rental references. If you move while you are waiting for a unit, make sure you notify the housing authority in writing that your address has changed. If your household size changes while you are waiting for a voucher, make sure you notify the housing authority in writing.

If the housing authority determines that you are eligible, the housing authority may put your name on a waiting list if there are no available vouchers. The housing authority has the discretion to open or close its waiting lists as needed.

If you do not qualify for a Section 8 voucher, the housing authority must notify you in writing, tell you its reason for denial, and give you an opportunity for an informal hearing.

Renting with a Section 8 housing choice vouchers

A family with a voucher must locate a unit that meets the requirements of the program. Once a unit is located, the landlord and tenant submit a packet (including a lease) for approval to the housing authority. If the unit qualifies and the landlord and housing authority agree on total contract rent, then the housing authority will enter into a housing assistance payment (HAP) contract with the landlord. The housing authority sets the total contract rent. The family will pay the difference between the total contract rent and the amount paid by the housing authority. Your rental portion will be based on your family income and size. The housing authority determines your rental portion. Do not pay more than your rental portion set by the housing authority.

After the housing authority enters into a HAP contract with the landlord, then the housing authority will issue you a move-in slip.

Yearly requirement to report income

Once a year the housing authority will reexamine your income and family circumstances to see whether you still qualify for a Section 8 voucher, and if you do, recalculate your rent based upon any changes.

Requirement to report income changes

If your income or family size changes after you attend the reexamination, may be required to report this change to the housing authority. For your protection, you should report all changes in income and family composition in writing and keep a photocopy of your notification. Failure to report changes in income may be grounds for Section 8 voucher termination or retroactive recalculation of your rent. If you are not sure whether you should report your change of income, then ask the housing authority. If you are entitled to a rent decrease, the decrease will take effect the first day of the month following the date you reported the change. If your rent will be increased, and if you reported the increase timely, then the housing authority must give you at least a 30-day notice before the rent increase takes effect.

Initial inspection and problems with the home

The housing authority will conduct an inspection of the unit. If any repairs are needed, the housing authority will notify you and your landlord and request the repairs be made. If there is a problem with your unit, you should notify your landlord. If the landlord fails to make timely repairs, you should contact the housing authority and request an inspection. If the landlord fails to meet his or her obligations under the lease and HAP contract, the housing authority has the right to suspend or terminate its HAP contract with the landlord. If the housing authority terminates the HAP contract, the housing authority will issue you a new voucher so you can apply it to a new unit.

Lease renewal

When the lease with your landlord expires, in most but not all cases, the landlord is under no legal obligation to renew your lease. If your lease is getting ready to end and you are not sure whether your landlord will renew your lease, ask your landlord.

If your lease is not renewed, you must notify the housing authority so you can be issued a voucher to apply to a new unit. Many housing authorities offer extensions of the voucher if you cannot locate a unit before the voucher expires. In most cases you must request an extension. For your protection, any requests for a voucher extension should be made before the expiration date. The request for an extension should be in writing. Keep a photocopy for your records.

Right to a hearing when there is a problem

As a Section 8 voucher recipient, in most cases, you have the right to request an informal hearing in order to resolve disputes between yourself and the housing authority. For your protection, you should make your request for an informal hearing in writing and keep a photocopy. The housing authority will then contact you with the date and time of your hearing. At the hearing, you should tell your side of the story to the hearing officer. You should bring all your proof to the hearing, such as rent receipts, lease, pictures, etc. After the hearing, the hearing officer will notify you of his or her decision in writing.

How can I lose my Section 8 housing choice voucher?

The grievance procedure also applies when the housing authority proposes to terminate your Section 8 assistance. The housing authority may terminate your voucher if you fail to follow the rules of the Section 8 program. If the housing authority proposes to terminate your Section 8 assistance, it must send a notice of the proposed termination to you. The notice must state the reason why your voucher is being terminated and give you the opportunity to request an informal hearing by a certain date. The housing authority will then contact you with the date and time of your hearing. At the hearing, you should tell your side of the story to the hearing officer. You should bring all of your proof to the hearing, such as rent receipts, lease, pictures, etc. After the hearing, the hearing officer will notify you of his or her decision in writing.

When can my landlord end my lease?

If your landlord wants to terminate your lease before your lease ends, then your landlord must send you a written notice of lease termination. The notice must state the date on which the lease terminates and you must vacate the rental. The notice must specifically state the reasons for the lease termination. A landlord must have “good cause” to terminate your lease early and must comply with all the terms of your lease, including the federal tenancy addendum.

If your landlord issues you a notice of lease termination, notify the housing authority and ask the housing authority to issue you a new voucher.