A landlord is responsible for following the law. If a landlord is renting to Section 8 tenants, the landlord must still follow the statewide landlord-tenant law, but must also follow additional rules placed on them by the Section 8 program.
Find Out If You're Required to Accept Section 8 Tenants
Some landlords rent to Section 8 tenants by choice, and others do not have a choice. Certain states, such as Massachusetts, require that all landlords accept Section 8 tenants. You need to know if this is a requirement in your state so that you are not accused of violating the law if you refuse to rent to tenants with these vouchers.
Select a Section 8 Tenant
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.
A landlord should always conduct the same background and credit check on Section 8 tenants that they conduct on non-Section 8 tenants. These checks help you uncover issues, such as a criminal history or a history of frequent moving.
Submit Request for Approval
A Section 8 tenant cannot live in your property until your property is 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 including:
- The Address of the Property
- Anticipated Lease Start Date
- Proposed Rent
- Included Utilities
- The form 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 set by HUD and by the local public housing authority.
If the unit does not comply with any item on their list of performance standards, the problem must be fixed within a set time frame. 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 first Section 8 inspection, it must pass this yearly inspection for the tenant to continue living in the property. If any items fail the inspection, they must be remedied, or the housing authority may declare that the unit is unfit for the Section 8 tenant.
Collect Security Deposit and Monthly Rent
Section 8 pays the majority of the tenant’s rent, but it does not pay all 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.
Also, the tenant may be responsible for paying a portion of the monthly rent. The amount they will pay will depend on their income. For example, if the rent is $1000 a month, the tenant may be responsible for paying $50. This portion must be paid directly to you by the tenant, so it is your responsibility to make sure you receive it.
Adhere to Terms of the Lease Agreement
As with any other tenant, you must follow the terms of the lease agreement, as well as 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 want 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
- The Date the 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.