A Section 8 landlord must meet certain obligations while providing housing to tenants. The first and most important obligation is that the landlord’s housing units must meet safety and health standards. Once the local public housing agency (PHA) determines a property owner is eligible to rent under the program, the landlord may enter into a rental agreement with a tenant. The agreement will outline each party’s responsibilities and rights during the full duration of the lease term. It generally covers topics like early termination, rent payments, repairs and maintenance.
A Section 8 housing landlord must always maintain housing standards. If Section 8 tenants submit requests for an issue, landlords must address these requests in a timely manner. Other responsibilities involve the tenant search process and rent change notices. A landlord’s action or inaction can result in serious legal repercussions. Thus, it is important for both parties to be aware of their obligations. For more information on landlords’ responsibilities, review the sections below.
Set Non-Discriminatory Procedures
When a Section 8 landlord conducts a search for a tenant, he or she must use the same qualifying standards for everyone. The Federal Fair Housing Act protects tenants from discriminatory actions that may prevent them from gaining access to adequate housing options. Property owners cannot disqualify prospective tenants under the basis of color, race, religion, sex, disability, national origin or familial status. It is illegal for a Section 8 housing landlord to have additional requirements for prospective tenants with housing assistance vouchers than they would for non-Section 8 applicants.
There is no requirement in the HUD program stating that a Section 8 tenant must be automatically allowed to rent a unit. Landlords may set their own criteria to select desirable tenants as long as these criteria are not discriminatory. Acceptable ways to find good tenants include background and credit checks to assess the tenant’s criminal history, as well as moving history. However, it is not acceptable to request a background check for a Section 8 recipient, for example, and not for other applicants.
If those renting a Section 8 apartment suspects that a prospective landlord is using discriminatory practices to select tenants, they may file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). To do so, contact the HUD via phone or through its website. A representative from the department may contact the renter to obtain more information on the case. Then, the agency will conduct an investigation to evaluate the validity of the claim and respond accordingly.
Maintain Housing Quality Standards
The Section 8 housing landlord requirements for being able to rent under the program include passing an initial inspection. The housing unit must be sanitary, safe and be fully functional. Public housing agencies (PHAs) will evaluate 13 key areas of each unit to determine if it meets housing quality standards. If landlords do not pass the first time, they may have the chance to make the appropriate repairs and undergo a second inspection. Once the Section 8 housing landlord passes, she or he must finalize the lease agreement with the tenant. This is where both parties will outline obligations on both ends regarding maintenance, repairs and other issues that may arise during the lease term. In some states, the law states that the repairs fall under the landlord’s responsibilities. However, in other states, the rental agreement is the only binding document. If the tenant submits a request or complaint regarding safety or health concerns, landlords must respond within an appropriate time frame, often within 30 days.
In addition to the initial inspections, part of becoming a Section 8 landlord includes undergoing yearly inspections. This is to ensure that landlords are complying with the performance standards set by the HUD. If the inspector determines that the housing unit and surrounding area do not meet standards, she or he will set a time frame to address and resolve the issue.
Send Notices Within a Reasonable Time Frame
Being a landlord involves the monthly collection of rent from tenants. When signing the rental agreement, Section 8 tenants agree to pay a set cost every month on a specific date. If a tenant fails to submit payment on time, landlords must send a notice with a deadline to pay the rent. Section 8 tenant violations must be addressed while following housing laws. They vary from one city or county to the next. Landlords may not evict tenants for failure to pay rent or breaching the rental agreement without giving adequate notice. To process a Section 8 tenant eviction, landlords may have to provide proof of a contract violation.
Moreover, if a Section 8 landlord plans to make changes in the cost of rent, the landlord must notify the local PHA office. Generally, property owners will have to file an application to request the increase. The property owner may have to provide:
- The tenant’s information.
- Details on the housing unit.
- The current amenities and services.
- Information on the rent change.
The Section 8 landlord cannot charge Section 8 tenants more than other tenants. The increase must be comparable to other rent prices in similar units. In addition, landlords are limited in the amount of times they can increase the rent per year. Once the approval goes through, they must inform the tenants of the effective date of the rent increase as soon as possible.
Consequences for Failing Landlord Responsibilities
When it comes to landlords and Section 8 housing, their rights and responsibilities are clearly outlined. Landlords are bound by federal and state laws to adhere by all the rules in the Section 8 program. There are also clauses in their rental agreements with Section 8 tenants that list their responsibilities. Failure to adhere to them can result in legal repercussions. The Multifamily Housing Clearinghouse’s complaint line is a service by the HUD where tenants can file reports of misconduct or unsafe living conditions. If tenants provide proof of misconduct and breach of contract, they can file a lawsuit against the landlord. If found guilty, Section 8 landlords may face large financial penalties. In addition, landlords may be rejected from the housing voucher program and no longer eligible to participate in it.