Section 8 housing choice vouchers are provided to tenants who meet certain qualifications, such as that their incomes fall below 30 percent of the median income in the area in which they're looking to rent property. They must also be able to prove that they're legal residents.
Tenants must follow certain rules to keep receiving these vouchers, in addition to whatever obligations they already have under their state’s landlord/tenant laws. Tenants have seven specific responsibilities under the Section 8 Voucher Program.
Find a Section 8 Eligible Housing Unit
The Section 8 office will pay for some or even most of a tenant’s rent in some cases, but it's not responsible for finding the tenant a unit in which to live. The tenant must search on their own for private housing within the specific town or county where their voucher has been approved.
Socialserve.com is a national website where property owners can post units that accept Section 8 tenants. The local Section 8 office might also have its own list or website where Section 8 tenants can view available rentals in the area.
It's up to the tenant to set an appointment to view any properties they're interested in, and to provide the landlord and the Section 8 office with the necessary paperwork to lease the unit. The Section 8 office is responsible for inspecting the unit to determine if it meets HUD’s Housing Quality Standards after the tenant has selected one.
Live in the Unit
The tenant to whom the voucher is given must actually live in the housing unit. They can't lease out the unit to someone else, and this includes family members. This would be considered fraud and would result in the termination of Section 8 voucher privileges.
Pay the Security Deposit
Section 8 vouchers don't include an amount for a security deposit. 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 state and local assistance programs that might be able to help them.
Pay the Tenant Portion of the Rent
Although Section 8 often pays a good part of a tenant’s rent, it usually doesn't pay all of it. The tenant is generally responsible for paying a percentage based on their income, usually 30 to 40 percent of what they earn. The housing authority makes up the difference, making payment directly to the landlord, who enters into a contract with the authority.
The tenant must pay their portion on time each month per the lease agreement. Failure to pay or to consistently pay late can jeopardize their status to continue to receive a Section 8 voucher.
Follow the Lease Agreement Rules
A Section 8 tenant must follow the terms of the lease agreement just like any other tenant. Otherwise, they can be evicted. These tenants receive no special or additional protection against eviction proceedings for cause.
Lease conditions can include keeping the unit clean, not damaging the unit or property, and not disrupting the quiet enjoyment of other tenants in the building. Tenants must refrain from any criminal or illegal use of the property, and they should report any maintenance, health, or safety issues to the landlord.
Notify Section 8 of Any Changes
The amount a tenant receives from Section 8 depends heavily on both household income and the size of the family. The tenant is responsible for notifying the local public housing authority if there are any changes to these circumstances.
For example, the tenant might have received a raise so their income has increased. Section 8 might then increase the portion the tenant has to pay toward rent each month. Their minor child might have gotten a job. This income must be reported as well, although rent won't be adjusted if they're also a full-time student.
If a tenant had a baby but there was no increase in income or she's now unable to work, Section 8 might increase the amount of the voucher she receives.
A tenant could lose their voucher entirely and even face legal action for failing to notify Section 8 of such changes. They usually have 10 days after the change occurs.
Notify the Housing Authority and Landlord When Moving
Tenants must not only notify their landlords when they're vacating the unit. They must also notify the local Section 8 office when they decide to move out. Under normal circumstances, however, a Section 8 tenant can only move when their lease has expired, or they can give proper notice, usually either 30 or 60 days, if they have a month-to-month lease.
Tenants must usually give landlords 30 days’ notice prior to moving out when they have yearly leases. This notice is given so the landlord has enough time to find a replacement tenant and so the housing authority knows when to stop sending housing vouchers to that landlord.