Section 8 Rules for Tenants

Responsibilities to Section 8 and to Landlord

Picture of Section 8 Rules for Tenants
Section 8 Rules for Tenants. Valentinrussanov/E+/Getty Images

In order to receive and keep a Section 8 housing voucher, a tenant must follow certain rules. These requirements are in addition to any obligations the tenant already has under their state’s landlord-tenant law. Here are six things all Section 8 tenants must do.

1. Find a Section 8 Eligible Housing Unit

The Section 8 office will pay a Section 8 tenant’s rent, but it is not responsible for actually finding the tenant a unit to live in.

The tenant must search on their own for private housing within a specific town or county.

Socialserve.com is a national Section 8 website where property owners can post units that accept Section 8 tenants. In addition, the local Section 8 office may have their own list or website where Section 8 tenants can view available rentals in the area.

However, it is up to the tenant to set up an appointment to view any properties they are interested in and to provide the landlord and the Section 8 office with the necessary paperwork. Once the tenant has chosen a unit, the Section 8 office is responsible for inspecting the unit to determine if it meets HUD’s Housing Quality Standards.

2. Pay Security Deposit

The monthly vouchers that Section 8 tenants receive from the public housing agency do not include an amount for the security deposit. Therefore, the tenant is responsible for providing this deposit to the landlord.

Tenants who have difficulty coming up with the security deposit on their own can apply to other assistance programs which may be able to help pay the tenant’s security deposit.

3. Pay Their Portion of the Rent

While Section 8 pays the majority of a tenant’s rent, it often does not pay all of it. The tenant can be responsible for paying a percentage of the rent based on their yearly income.

The amount the tenant must pay on their own will vary greatly from tenant to tenant. However, it is usually a small portion of the rent. For example, if a three bedroom apartment rents for $1200, the tenant may be responsible for paying $150 a month.

As per the lease agreement, the tenant must pay their portion on time each month. Failure to pay their portion, or consistently paying late, may jeopardize the tenant's continued ability to receive a Section 8 voucher.

4. Follow the Lease Agreement Rules

Like any other tenant, Section 8 tenants must follow the terms of the lease agreement. Like any other tenant, a Section 8 tenant can be evicted for breaching their lease agreement.

They must follow the lease, including:

  • Paying their rent on time.
  • Keeping their unit clean.
  • Not damaging the unit or property.
  • Not disrupting the quiet enjoyment of other tenants in the building.
  • Refraining from any criminal or illegal use of the property.
  • Reporting any maintenance, health or safety issues to the landlord. 

5. Notify Section 8 of Any Changes to Income or Family Size

The amount that the tenant receives from Section 8 depends heavily on both the household income and the size of the family. If there are any changes to either of these, the tenant is responsible for notifying the local public housing authority of these changes.

For example, if a tenant received a raise, their income has increased, so Section 8 may increase the portion the tenant has to pay each month in rent. As another example, if a tenant had a baby, but there was no increase in income, Section 8 may increase the amount of the Section 8 voucher the family can receive.

Therefore, the tenant must notify the housing agency of any changes, both those that would increase the amount of their housing voucher and those that could decrease the amount of the housing voucher. Failure to notify Section 8 of the changes could be considered fraud and the tenant could lose their voucher entirely and even face legal action.

6. Notify Housing Authority and Landlord When Moving

When a Section 8 tenant wants to move-out of a unit, they must not only notify their landlord, but they must also notify the local Section 8 office.

Under normal circumstances, a Section 8 tenant can only move when their lease has expired or, for month to month leases, when giving the proper notice, either 30 or 60 days.

For yearly leases, the tenant must give the landlord 30 days’ notice prior to moving out. This notice is given so that the landlord has enough time to find a replacement tenant and so that the housing authority knows when to stop sending the housing voucher to that landlord.