Section 8 Landlord Questions

What exactly is the Housing Authority's Role under the lease agreement with my prospective tenant?
One common misconception about the role of the Housing Authority is that the HA is responsible for the tenant's actions under the lease. The role of the Housing Authority is to administer the Section 8 Program which includes determining a family's eligibility for the program conducting annual property inspections, and other administrative functions of the program.

Although we make every effort to counsel tenants on their behavior and take action to terminate a tenant's program participation for repeated lease violations, we have no authority or ability to enforce the lease provisions when a tenant does not comply with the terms of the lease. The Housing Authority is not a party to the lease and consequently has no property management enforcement abilities.

For these reasons, we strongly recommend that you screen your prospective tenants carefully to ensure that your property investment has been placed in the possession of a tenant who will take proper care of your unit.

We also request that you communicate to us when you have lease violation issues with a tenant and provide a copy of any lease violation notices to us that you give to your Section 8 tenants. By providing the Housing Authority with this information, action can be taken to terminate a program participant who repeatedly fails to follow the program rules.

Should the landlord screen the family?
It is the landlord's responsibility to screen the family. The Housing Authority does not screen a family other than to determine if the family's income allows them to participate in the Section 8 Program. Landlords should use the same criteria to screen families participating in the Section 8 program as they would any other prospective tenant. The same rejection criteria should also be applied.

In addition to the screening criteria you use for all other potential tenants, the Housing Authority can also provide you with the following information about program participants:

  1. A participant's current address as shown in the Housing Authority records;
  2. The name and address, if known, of the landlord at the participants current and prior address;
  3. Claim and damage payments made by the Housing Authority on behalf of participants; and the reason, if known, for any evictions.

Each Request for Tenancy Approval Form (the form submitted to request a unit inspection) has a "Tenant Release Form" attached to it. Upon the Housing Authority's receipt of this form, the Housing Authority will provide the landlord with the information listed above.

If, after screening the family, the landlord is interested in renting to the Section 8 Participant, the Section 8 Program Participant and landlord will complete and sign a "Request for Tenancy Approval" form indicating the date the unit is available for rent, the rent desired, and who pays for what utilities. That form is then brought to the Housing Authority to arrange for a unit inspection.

Are there any restrictions on who I can lease my rental to?
Yes. In 1998 HUD revised the regulations which limits circumstances under which a property owner can rent his unit to a relative under the Section 8 Program. The Housing Authority can permit such leasing only if it is determined that the leasing of a relative's unit would accommodate a person with disabilities.

For instance, if a property owner had a rental unit close to his/her property which was handicapped accessible in order to provide attendant assistance to a disabled family member, the Housing Authority could allow leasing to a relative. The relationship which HUD defines as a relative is the parent (including stepparents), child, grandparent, grandchild, sister, or brother of the Section 8 Voucher holder or any of his/her family members.

What is necessary for the Housing Authority to approve a rental unit??
Upon receipt of the Request for Tenancy Approval, the Housing Authority will review the rent and tenant's income to ensure the tenant's rent portion is within the 40% tenant rent portion limitation required by HUD regulations. If the rent calculation is verified as O.K. to process, an appointment will be made with the landlord to inspect the unit. Housing Authority staff usually try to schedule the inspection within 3-5 working days.

When the appointment for the inspection is scheduled, the unit is assumed to be ready for occupancy. The Housing Authority inspector is required to verify the that the unit meets Housing Quality Standards (HQS). These are HUD established standards designed to insure that units on which rent subsidies are paid are decent, safe and sanitary. To view the HQS requirements, visit our HQS page. In addition to inspecting for HQS compliance, the inspector may also note items needing repair that are not required but recommended for preventative maintenance.

To assist you in preparing your unit for inspection, a "Required Repair Checklist" is attached to the Request for Tenancy Approval Form. This checklist shows the items that most commonly fail the HQS inspection. You are encouraged to use this checklist in reviewing your property before the Housing Authority inspector inspects your property.

If there is an HQS violation, the Housing Authority is prohibited from executing a Housing Assistance Payments Contract until the required repair is completed and the unit has been re-inspected. No payment can be made for any days preceding the confirmation of repair completion.

The Housing Authority inspector will also determine what utilities the tenant is required to pay, e.g. gas, electricity, water, garbage etc. The tenant will receive a credit, also known as a Utility Allowance, towards their portion of rent based upon the utilities for which they are responsible. These allowances are developed by the Housing Authority and estimate what a typical tenant's utility costs will be. The Housing Authority inspector will also confirm with the landlord what utilities they will pay for and this will be reflected in the lease and contract.

How much rent can be charged under the Section 8 Program?
NOTE: If you are unsure how much you should request for rent, we recommend that you contact local property management companies and seek guidance on current rents for a specific area.

There is no limit so long as the rent request is not higher than other units renting in the same neighborhood on the open market. A Housing Authority staff person will review the rent the owner is requesting to determine if it appears to be a fair rent based on rents for comparable units. The Housing Authority is required by program regulation to certify that the rent being paid is not greater than rent being charged for comparable non-Section 8 assisted units. This is to insure that tax dollars are not being used to inflate rents in the private rental market.

Rent comparability is determined by comparing the Section 8 unit to other similar units. The comparability process is somewhat like an appraisal. The staff person will consider the subject unit's size, location, quality and age of amenities (e.g. carpet, dishwasher, appliances, etc.). Also considered is the unit's interior condition and the exterior amenities and appearance of the building. These are then compared with other like units and the rents are evaluated.

Under the Housing Choice Voucher Program guidelines, there are two tests which must be made. The first test is conducted when the Request for Tenancy Approval is submitted. The calculation of whether the tenant's rent portion is less than 40% of their monthly income is completed. If it is determined that the tenant's rent will be less than 40% of their income, then the rent reasonableness test is conducted during or after the actual inspection of the rental unit.

How much of a security deposit can a landlord collect under the Section 8 Program?
The security deposit is no longer capped by HUD. Owners may collect a security deposit from tenants provided the following two criteria are met:

  1. The security deposit may not be in excess of amounts charged by the owner to unassisted tenants.
  2. The security deposit required does not violate state or local law.

Subject to state and local law, and in accordance with the lease, the owner may use the security deposit, including any interest on the deposit, as reimbursement for any moneys owed by the tenant.

How is the family's rent share calculated under the new Housing Choice Voucher Program?
There are five factors which affect a tenant's rent under the Housing Choice Voucher Program. What must be known prior to determining the tenant's rent is the following:

  1. 30% of the tenant's monthly adjusted income
  2. 40% of the tenant's monthly adjusted income (under the program guidelines, the tenant's rent portion cannot exceed this amount)
  3. The Housing Authority's "Payment Standard" for the bedroom size the family qualifies for
  4. The Rent the Owner is asking
  5. The Utility Allowance figure (a Utility Allowance is a HUD required allowance which must be deducted from the tenant's rent portion for tenant-paid utilities.)

Under the Housing Choice Voucher Program the rent which can be approved is based upon two factors. The first factor is whether the rent requested is comparable to other units renting on the open-market in that neighborhood.

The second factor is the tenant rent portion limitation. Under the Housing Choice Voucher Program, the family is allowed to pay up to 40% of their monthly adjusted income towards the "gross rent". The Gross Rent is the rent the owner is asking plus the Utility Allowance adjustment. The amount of the Utility Allowance is dependent upon what utilities the tenant pays. The tenant pays the difference between the Housing Authority's maximum subsidy and the rent to the owner.

When does the Housing Authority begin to make rental payments?
After the unit has been inspected and approved and the rent agreed upon, a Housing Assistance Payments Contract (HAP Contract) will be prepared. This is the document between the Authority and the landlord that explains the responsibilities of each under the program rules. The Contract will also indicate how much rent the tenant will pay (the Tenant Rent to Owner or TRO) and how much will be paid by the Housing Authority (the Housing Assistance Payment or HAP). These two amounts combined are the total Contract Rent the landlord will receive for the unit.

You will receive in the mail a completed HAP Contract for your signature. Along with the HAP Contract for signature will be a "check-off" list of items needed such as your Social Security Number, Address information, and a request for you to provide the Housing Authority with a copy of the signed lease between yourself and the tenant. Under the Housing Choice Voucher Program, the Housing Authority Lease is no longer required. A standard lease which you use for open-market rentals should be used listing any additional terms and conditions agreed upon between yourself and the tenant. The Lease effective date should coincide with the date of the HAP Contract.

Before any rent payment can be made, the Housing Authority must have all the signed paperwork, HAP Contract and lease returned to the office for processing. Once the paperwork is received, the Housing Authority will process the file to the Finance Department for payment and send the landlord a copy of the signed HAP Contract. The landlord can usually expect payment within two weeks from the date the Housing Authority receives all of the signed paperwork. After the initial payment, the landlord will begin to receive checks approximately the first of each month.

Please note that the tenant is not responsible for the HAP. The owner cannot terminate tenancy because the HAP has not been paid by the Housing Authority. If for some reason you do not receive a check in the mail please contact the Section 8 Department as soon as possible to resolve the situation.

Is it O.K. to allow the prospective tenant to move in before inspections and paperwork are completed?
The process to execute a contract can take some time and there may be issues which will arise, e.g., required repairs, disagreement over the rent, etc., which result in a HAP Contract not being executed. This could mean the landlord would have a tenant in possession who will not be receiving housing assistance.

To avoid such a situation, it is advisable to postpone the tenant's move-in date until the unit has passed inspection and the rent has been agreed upon. If the landlord wants to allow the tenant to move in, the landlord should collect at least a minimum security deposit and enter into a conventional rental agreement which can remain in place until the Section 8 contract is executed. This way the landlord and the tenant will have a legally enforceable agreement in the event a Section 8 contract is not entered into on the unit.

Why does the Housing Authority require a tax identification or social security number in order to issue section 8 payments?
This is an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) requirement for any person or entity that received rent payments in excess of $600.00 per year. It is critical that the tax identification number that is provided match the name of the owner of the property. The IRS has advised us that if the name and tax identification number do not match, the Housing Authority may be required to withhold 30% of the check amount to insure proper payment of taxes.

Are there any prohibited lease terms I should be aware of?
The lease you sign with a Section 8 participant should be a standard lease you use for any other rental units you own or manage on the open-market. The terms of the lease must be in accordance with state and local law and any additional terms or conditional changes need to be provided to the Housing Authority as they occur. All household members must be listed on the lease and any changes must be approved by both the Housing Authority and the Owner.

Under the Housing Choice Voucher Program, a Housing Authority can approve a lease with less than a one year term if it improves a tenant's housing opportunities and is the prevailing local market practice.

Assuming I enter into a one-year lease, what happens after the first year?
A few months before the one year anniversary of the contract, you and the tenant will be contacted by the Housing Authority regarding continuation of the lease and contract, and, on what terms. (Note: If you do not hear from your Housing Authority representative within 30 days of the anniversary date, it is important that you contact the representative to discuss whether you wish to continue or terminate the tenancy.)

If both you and the tenant plan to continue the tenancy, an inspection of the property will be scheduled. The Authority's representative will contact you and advise you of any items needing repair and/or items recommended for repair and indicate a date by which the repairs must be completed. If the items are not considered to be emergency repairs, the time given landlords is 21 days.

The Authority's representative will also meet with the head of household to review family income and composition to insure they are still eligible to remain in the program and are housed in an appropriately sized unit. The tenant's portion of the rent will also be recalculated at that time to determine if a change is warranted.

What happens if I need more time to complete the required repairs, or I fail to complete repairs by the time frame given?
Upon completion of an annual inspection, the landlord and tenant will be notified in writing of the results. If the unit fails inspection, the landlord is required to complete the repairs within the time specified in the notice. If the landlord has a good reason for needing a time extension to complete the repair, the landlord would need to call the Housing Representative and discuss the problem. The representative will try to accommodate the landlord's request to the extent possible. If the items identified represent a health or safety problem, an extension will probably not be granted to prevent any possible injuries to the tenant family and to reduce the landlord's liability.

The inspector will send a follow-up inspection notice to the tenant indicating when a second inspection will be conducted to confirm repair of HQS fail items. If a landlord fails to complete all required repairs by the time specified and the Housing Authority has not been notified of the landlord's need for an extension, the Housing Authority will stop paying its portion of the rent to the owner. This is known as abatement and is allowed under the HAP Contract. Rent amounts which are abated will not be released even if the landlord ultimately completes the repair. The rent abatement would begin on the day of the follow-up inspection and continue until either the unit passed a third inspection or the contract termination date.

The tenant is responsible for the damages to my unit and subsequently the unit did not pass the annual HQS inspection. Am I still responsible for these repairs?
No. With regulatory changes which went into effect 10/2/95 , owners are no longer responsible for HQS violations caused by tenants. Tenants who fail to pay for utilities for which they are responsible, who fail to supply and maintain appliances for which the owner is not required to supply under the lease, or who (or whose guests) cause damage to the unit beyond normal wear and tear will now be considered to have breached family obligations under the Section 8 program and will face termination by the Housing Authority.

If the repairs are not completed, the Housing Authority would not abate rent under these circumstances but would be required to terminate the contract if the unit was not brought up to HQS standards.

What must a tenant do when the tenant wants to move from a Section 8 unit?

1. If you plan to stay in the Housing  Authority’s jurisdiction, follow these steps:

A. Contact your Section 8 Case Worker and request a transfer Request Form.

B. Wait until your transfer Request is approved before you give a 30-day notice to your           landlord.

C. Be sure you have paid any outstanding debts to your landlord and Housing Authority, including delinquent rent and maintenance charges.

D. Ask your landlord for a pre-move out inspection at least two weeks before your move. This is optional but a good idea to see if there are any tenant damages you will be charged for if they are not repaired.

E. Attend the move-out inspection so you know what damages your landlord believes are tenant caused.

2. If you want to move out of the Housing Authority’s jurisdiction, that is use “portability,” follow these steps:

A. Decide where you would like to move by considering things like employment opportunities, neighborhood conditions, quality of schools, access to transportation, and shopping.

B. Contact your Housing Authority representative and tell them where you would like to move. If possible to move, they will mail you a portability Request Form.

C. You must contact the new housing authority and find out what its procedures are for you to move to their area, or “exercise portability.”


What should a landlord do if he/she wants to terminate a Section 8 tenancy?
The landlord can issue a proper notice to vacate at the end of the initial term of the lease or at the end of any successive term (i.e. month to month, year to year). The landlord can issue notice to terminate during the lease term for lease violations or other good cause.

Landlords are strongly encouraged to document tenant violations and to provide the tenant and the Housing Authority with written warnings or notices of the violations whenever possible.

A copy of the notice of termination must be sent to the Housing Authority. If the tenant does not vacate within the time set forth in the termination notice, the eviction action which follows is just like any other eviction action.

If the Section 8 tenant is evicted, the Housing Authority will pay through the end of the month in which the tenant was evicted.

What is considered "other good cause"?
The definition of other good cause includes:

Not accepting an offer of a new lease or revision; a family history of disturbance to neighbors, destruction of property, or living or housekeeping habits which result in damage to the unit or premises; the owner desires to use the unit for a purpose other than a residential rental unit; a business or economic reason such as sale of the property or renovation.

If a landlord does not receive a check when s/he expects one, what should s/he do?
The first of the month rent checks are mailed on the last working day of the prior month. For example, October rent checks are mailed on September 30, if that is last working day of the month. You need to allow adequate time for the U.S. Post Office to deliver the check.

Generally speaking, a check may be reported as lost 10 working days after the date of the mailing. If this time period has passed and you have still not received your check, then call the Finance Department to request a stop payment and a replacement check.

If the landlord is expecting a check for other than the first of the month rent, contact your Housing Authority representative to find out whether the request for payment has been processed. There may be problems such as incomplete required repairs or incomplete tenant verifications which are holding up the check. If there is no such problem and the check still does not appear, the landlord should call Finance and report it as lost.

What should a landlord do if s/he receives a regular monthly check and the tenant subsequently vacates the unit in the middle of the same month?
Under the Housing Choice Voucher program regulations, the owner may keep the Housing Assistance Payment check received for the month in which the family vacates.

What is the process for requesting a rent adjustment?
Regulations revised in 1998 changed the process for rent adjustments. After the initial lease term (i.e., year to year, month to month, etc.) an owner can request a rent adjustment. The Housing Authority will conduct a rent comparability study to assess what current market rents are in the area for like-units.

If it is determined that a rent adjustment is warranted, the Authority will make the proper adjustment so long as the owner has provided a minimum 60-days's notice to the tenant.

HOWEVER, If it is determined that the rent currently being paid exceeds market units, HUD requires Housing Authorities to lower the rent to reflect the actual rents in the market. For this reason, it is important that if you are requesting a rent adjustment you ensure that the request is based on an upward increase in the rental market.

I received a revised amendment which indicates that the tenant's rent portion has changed. What occurred?
It is possible that amendments may occur during the year because of changes in the tenant's rent and or family composition. The tenant's rent portion is generally based on 30% of the family's adjusted gross income. If they have increases or decreases in income or changes in family composition, this may result in a change in their rent portion. If that is the case, a contract amendment will be sent to the owner showing the changes in the tenant's portion of the rent and the Housing Authority's's payment.

If the change in family composition does not warrant a change in the unit size (number of bedrooms) needed, but involves the addition of another family member, the tenant is required to contact the landlord and the Housing Authority in order to secure approval for adding the person to the household. A landlord can then add the person to the lease as another member of the household.

How do I request that my check be sent to a different address?
If you have moved or simply want the check sent to a different address you must notify the Housing Authority in writing of your request. The Post Office does not forward Housing Authority checks even if you have notified them of an address change. A Change of Address Form can be downloaded here.

I have sold or purchased property in which a Section 8 participant lives. What do I need to do?
If you have sold property for which there is an active Section 8 contract, you should notify the Housing Authority and provide the purchaser’s contact information as soon as possible. Section 8 department staff will place a hold on the Housing Assistance Payment and send the new property owner information on how to transfer the contract into their name.

If you have purchased property for which there is an active Section 8 contract, you should notify the Housing Authority as soon as possible. Section 8 department staff will send you a form which substitutes you as the owner and landlord under the current lease and contract and will request a copy of either the Grant Deed or Closing Statement to verify the ownership of the property. When these forms are returned to the Housing Authority any payments due to the new property owner will be released and the new property owner will begin receiving the regular monthly Housing Assistance Payments.