Section 8 Vouchers

Can a Landlord Decide to Not Accept Section 8 Vouchers?

Unfortunately, landlords are allowed to turn down a Section 8 voucher since federal laws usually don’t outlaw bias based on income source. Fortunately, some state laws DO prohibit discrimination based on income source, which means that in these states, the landlord can be penalized. You should look at your state’s rental laws before you start your search for a rental property. You have a right to file a complaint if your landlord turned you down because of your voucher if you live in a state where this is prohibited. For more information on how to file a complaint, contact your local PHA.

What is the Validity Period for a Housing Choice Voucher?

Usually, PHA’s gives individuals new to the program at least 60 days to secure a place to rent, but some PHA’s give more time than others. It’s very important that you find a place before the deadline they give you or your voucher will no longer be valid. If you’re having trouble finding a place to rent and your deadline is getting closer, you have the option to apply for an extension. Extensions are usually for a period of no less than 90 days, but are usually only granted in cases of emergency. Reasons for granting extensions vary, depending on the PHA, so you should call your PHA and ask them beforehand.

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How Much Rent do Tenants Pay?

Let’s start by explaining how the PHA determines the amount you, as tenant, will pay. The PHA decides the amount of rent you will pay based on the size of the rental unit and the area’s fair market rent. Fair market rent is an estimate for a unit with a specific number of bedrooms in a particular area. The HUD calculates yearly the fair market value of different areas, including what they spend on essential utilities like electricity, with the help of census data. This is what determines the amount of money the PHA will be able to administer.

The PHA decides the unit size depending on the amount of people that make up your household, for example, if you have a household of 4 members, you may qualify for a 3-bedroom unit, so your voucher will be issued based on the fair market rent of a 3-bedroom unit in that area. The exact amount of money you will pay depends on your income level. It could be a minimum amount set by the PHA, 30% of your adjusted monthly income or 10% of your monthly gross income.

What Happens When You Accept a Housing Unit?

Once you have made your decision on a unit, spoken to the landlord or property owner and received their approval, and had a tour of your potential new home, you must submit a tenancy approval request to the PHA. This form will be provided to you by the PHA and must be filled out and signed by you and the landlord. New Section 8 beneficiaries are recommended to see more than one rental unit before making a decision. After this, the PHA will:

  • Asses your documents and make sure everything is in order

  • Verify the unit is eligible for Section 8 and meets HUD standards

  • Verify that the landlord hasn’t repeatedly rented substandard units or been involved in criminal activity

  • Verify that the rent is reasonable

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Section 8 Standards for Quality of Housing

After the PHA receives and evaluates your tenancy approval form, they will schedule an inspection of the unit. Usually, a member of your household should be present at the time of inspection. During this inspection the PHA will be evaluating the following:

  • If the rental unit is an appropriate size for your family

  • Ensure the unit has no damage to the walls and doors, poor foundation and has sufficient lighting and ventilation

If you would like more information on how the PHA evaluates rental unit quality standards, we placed a link to an article from the HUD called “A Good Place to Live” HERE.

Help with Moving-In Expenses

Most landlords require a moving-in deposit that can be difficult for some to pay, since the PHA doesn’t cover it. There are different charities and agencies that may be able to help you out. Reach out to your local council as well. They may give you a rent deposit loan with little to none interest rates.