Housing Choice Voucher Program Faq

The Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program has multiple components and a variety of eligibility requirements. In addition, public housing agencies (PHAs) vary in terms of the application process, the number of applicants accepted into the program and the income requirements. To better understand the specifics of the program and how to navigate the application process, read through the frequently asked questions below. 

What types of housing units may the Section 8 program recipients choose?

Most PHAs will not require you to choose a specific type of house, such as an apartment. Instead, you may choose a home that best suits the needs of you and your family. This may be a home that is large enough to accommodate all your immediate family members and may be a duplex, condominium, apartment or a house. Additionally, the home must meet health and safety standards set forth by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and your local PHA. 

Do I have to search for a new home in my current neighborhood?

Because every PHA or Housing Authority operates within a specific town or county, applicants will have certain restrictions on where they can look for new homes. This is because their eligibility depends on the average income level of other people living in the neighborhood. In a different area, a family’s eligibility may change.

State laws and local laws will determine the boundaries of the jurisdiction. Furthermore, the federal government may require families to stay within the jurisdiction if a court order or consent decree was established to desegregate certain neighborhoods. If a family moves outside of the designated area, it will violate the lease and the PHA may not offer the family further benefits. Beyond these limitations, a local agency does not have the authority to purposely reduce the selection of housing units for a qualified family. 

There are certain exceptions to the requirement that families stay inside the jurisdiction. For instance, some families may need to move in order to protect their health and safety. Family members who are victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, gang violence and stalking are within their rights if they choose to move out of the neighborhood. In these circumstances, families may still receive PHA assistance as long as they have not broken other rules in the lease.

Will my local public housing agency or Housing Authority be involved in the tenant-landlord relationship?

Your PHA is responsible for providing your landlord with the housing choice voucher each month, which pays a portion of your rent. Beyond this, however, issues regarding your housing unit will typically be discussed privately between you and your landlord. This includes faulty appliances, utility expenses and more. If there are more serious issues at hand, such as a landlord refusing to honor his or her obligations in the lease, you may contact your PHA for assistance. You or the landlord may also contact the PHA if you are dealing with eviction, the destruction of property or you are in an emergency and need to leave your current housing unit as soon as possible. 

What responsibilities do I have as a tenant?

When you take part in the Housing Choice Voucher program as a tenant, you must honor certain obligations set forth in your lease. These include:

  • Regularly updating your PHA on your income and changes to your circumstances. 
  • Making your rent payments on time.
  • Allowing the PHA to inspect your unit.
  • Repairing any damage to the home that was caused by you, a family member or a pet.
  • Maintaining the home and preventing damage to appliances.

What responsibilities do I have as a landlord?

If you are a landlord and choose to take a tenant who receives benefits from the Housing Choice Voucher program, you must honor the obligations of your lease as well as those set forth by your local PHA. For example, you may be required to do background checks on potential tenants. You are also required to maintain and repair certain appliances as needed because the PHA will not pay for these expenses.

What are the responsibilities of the public housing agency?

While a landlord may perform his or her own background checks on potential tenants, the PHA or Housing Authority has the final say on which applicants are eligible for the Housing Choice Voucher program. The agency must also conduct interviews with accepted applicants, verify supporting documents and inspect the rental units selected by beneficiaries to make sure they meet the program’s health and safety standards. When a unit is selected and the tenant and the landlord have agreed upon a lease, the PHA is responsible for issuing a voucher to the landlord, which pays a portion of the rent.

How long must I stay in a rental unit?

You are typically required to stay in your new rental unit for a minimum of one year. If you have an emergency and need to move before the lease ends, you must notify your landlord and your local PHA. Otherwise, you will violate the lease agreement and jeopardize your eligibility for the program. If you want to move at the end of your lease, you may be required to submit a notice to your landlord 30 or 60 days in advance. 

What are the monetary limitations of a Section 8 housing rental?

Your Housing Authority may establish rent maximums to make sure that you do not go above the average cost of rent in your area. In addition, you may not be approved for a rental unit if the cost of rent goes above 40 percent of your monthly income.

What is the procedure for moving to a different city or state while I am still eligible for Section 8 assistance?

If you want to move to a different city or state and you are not moving due to an emergency, you may no longer be eligible for the Section 8 Housing program in your neighborhood. You must still meet the obligations of your lease, meaning you may not move before one year has passed. Additionally, you must submit a notice to your landlord 30 or 60 days in advance and notify your housing counselor. In some instances, you may still qualify for benefits. If you still qualify, your housing counselor will send a portability package to the local PHA in your new city or state. You must then meet with your new PHA so that a new housing counselor can determine your eligibility in that area.

What if there is a change to my family’s size, address or income?

You are required to notify your PHA and your landlord if your current situation changes. This includes changes to your family’s size if you have a new baby or a family member recently passed away. It also includes changes in income and requests to move to a new home. Your PHA may require you to present documentation that proves the change.  

What happens if I do not qualify for the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program?

If your local PHA determines that you are not eligible for the program, you will receive a notice that explains why your application was denied. The notice will also give you a date by which you may submit an appeal. To request an appeal, you must take part in a hearing and submit certain documents that support your case. The hearing is typically supervised by someone who helped with the application process but did not take part in the eligibility decision.