Landlord Obligations Under Section 8

Responsibilities to Section 8 and to Tenant

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Under landlord-tenant law, landlords have certain obligations to their tenants. Landlords who rent to Section 8 tenants have additional obligations. In addition to any statewide laws, the Section 8 program places certain requirements on both the landlord and tenant. Learn the steps you may have to take if your tenant is receiving a housing choice voucher.

Select a Section 8 Tenant

Not all Section 8 tenants are created equal.

Although some states do require that landlords accept Section 8 tenants, a landlord does not have to accept every Section 8 tenant. A Section 8 tenant is still subject to the same qualifying standards as non-Section 8 tenants.

The Section 8 office conducts a very basic background check on all Section 8 applicants. Their screening focuses on a tenant’s income level, which will not be the biggest concern for you, as the majority of the rent will be paid by the Public Housing Agency.

You should always conduct the same background and credit check that you conduct on all tenants on Section 8 tenants. This can help you uncover alarming issues, such as criminal history. It will also show you the tenant’s previous addresses so you can see if the tenant moves on a frequent basis.

You should also get the names and addresses of the tenant’s previous landlords. Contacting these landlords can give you insight into the way the tenant lives.

Were they a clean, respectful tenant who adhered to the lease agreement or were they a destructive, problem tenant who the landlord constantly had issues with?

Submit Request for Approval

In order for a Section 8 tenant to reside in your property, your property must be approved by the Section 8 office.

The first step in this approval process is to submit a Request for Approval of the Tenancy Form. A sample form can be viewed on the HUD website. The form requests basic information such as​the address of the property, anticipated lease begin date, the proposed rent and any utilities that will be included in the rent. It must be signed and dated by both you and the tenant.

Pass Housing Quality Standards Inspection/Pass Yearly Inspections

The Request for Approval Form is the first step in getting your property approved for a Section 8 tenant. The real test is the Housing Quality Inspection. This inspection will determine if your unit meets the minimum housing standards that have been set forth by HUD and by the local public housing authority. If the unit fails to comply with any item on their list of performance standards, the problem must be remedied within a set timeframe. The unit must then be re-inspected before it can be approved for a Section 8 move-in.

Section 8 will perform an inspection once a year, usually when the tenant’s lease is up for renewal. Even if the unit has passed the initial Section 8 inspection, it must pass this yearly inspection in order for the tenant to continue living in the property.

If any items fail the inspection, they must be remedied or the housing authority may deem the unit to be unfit for the Section 8 tenant.

Collect Security Deposit and Monthly Rent

Section 8 pays the majority of the tenant’s rental obligation, but it does not pay the entirety of it. Section 8 does not pay a tenant’s security deposit. The landlord is responsible for collecting this deposit directly from the tenant or from another agency which has agreed to pay the deposit for the tenant.

In addition, the tenant is usually responsible for paying a portion of the monthly rent. The amount they will pay will depend on their income. It will only be a small percentage of the monthly rent. For example, if the rent is $1000 a month, the tenant may be responsible for paying $50. However, this portion must be paid directly to you by the tenant.

You will not receive this portion from the Section 8 office.

Adhere to Terms of the Lease Agreement

As with any other tenant, you must adhere to the terms of the lease agreement as well as to local landlord-tenant laws when renting to a tenant with a housing choice voucher. You cannot take shortcuts when dealing with Section 8 tenants because the rent is being paid by the government.

You must respond to any maintenance requests, address any health or safety concerns, and handle any complaints they may have about other tenants. In a sense, you must be more diligent when dealing with Section 8 tenants because you and your property will be scrutinized by the Public Housing Authority and by HUD.

Notify Section 8 of Rent Increase

If you desire to raise a Section 8 tenant’s rent, you must submit a request to your local Section 8 office. There is usually a form that you must fill out. The form will ask what the current rent is, what the proposed rent will be, and the date this new rent will become effective. You must also certify that the rent you are charging the Section 8 tenant is not more than the rent you are charging for any comparable units in your property. You can only attempt to raise a tenant’s rent once a year.