Understanding Your Rights As a Tenant

When Section 8 tenants rent a property using funds given through the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), they benefit from certain rights and responsibilities. The first is the right to a dwelling that meets safety, health and sanitary standards. Once tenants move into a property, there are issues that may arise during their lease term, such as appliances needing repairs and maintenance. Throughout this time, it is important that tenants refer to their contract and state laws to know what actions they can and cannot take to address the situation.

Section 8 violations happen when landlords do not maintain the appropriate standards outlined in the rental agreement and in the HUD program. This can include anything from the unit’s sanitary conditions to eviction notices. Failure to adhere to these rules may lead to Section 8 complaints and tenants finding alternative housing options. Review the sections below for more information about tenants’ rights under the Housing Choice Voucher Program. 

Discover Your Rights Involving Your Housing Unit

Section 8 tenants have laws to protect them from living in inadequate conditions. The HUD conducts inspections to ensure all properties meet housing quality standards. However, each state sets its own regulations on tenant rights and landlord obligations. More broadly, tenants have the right to safe and functional living spaces. This means that landlords must provide heating and cooling systems, electricity and proper illumination, among other basic needs. The housing unit and surrounding area must also be free from trash and rodent infestation. If any of these Section 8 tenant rights are compromised, the property owner must immediately work toward fixing it. 

Many Section 8 complaints arise surrounding maintenance issues. The laws surrounding this apply on a state-by-state basis and in some cases, are specific to the rental agreement. In many states, household repairs fall under the landlord’s responsibility. While in other states, it is only the landlord’s responsibility if it is explicitly mentioned in the contract. 

When Section 8 tenant problems arise, the first step residents must take is contacting their landlords. Communication is one of the most effective ways to resolve issues. If the housing unit requires maintenance or fails to meet HUD standards, tenants have the right to address it with the property owner. The landlord then has the responsibility to resolve any issues within a reasonable timeframe.

Moreover, HUD tenant rights include the right to proper notice prior to eviction. While the reasons for eviction may vary by state, property owners cannot lock out residents from their unit. They must provide notice ahead of time to allow tenants adequate time to find alternative housing. By the same token, tenants in some states have the right to move out with Section 8 benefits before the end of a lease. However, they may be responsible for the cost of rent for the remaining months of the lease. 

Knowing what the laws are surrounding tenants and Section 8 enrollees is critical, as any of these scenarios may come up. It is equally important that prospective tenants fully review their contracts before signing. This will allow them to know what their rights and duties are, as well as what constitutes appropriate Section 8 housing complaints. From there, they may take appropriate action to resolve any issues or report them to the HUD. If the landlord is in breach of contract, tenants may do one of the following, depending on their state:

  • Move out.
  • Withhold rent.
  • Sue for damages.

It is important to note that Section 8 tenants should consult with HUD representatives and sometimes even lawyers before taking any action.

Find Out About Your Responsibilities as a Tenant

Section 8 tenant rights and responsibilities can vary greatly depending on the state in which you live. The landlord-tenant relationship is one that comes with obligations on both ends. As the tenant, you must follow the rules outlined in your lease agreement. Failure to do so can result in your eviction from the housing unit and potentially from the program. One general rule that is standard across Section 8 housing requirements for tenants is the consistent and timely payment of rent. In the lease agreement, the tenant agrees to pay a set amount every month by a specific date. Those who do not pay their portion on time leave themselves at risk for eviction.

Another important responsibility for Section 8 tenants to remember is that they must report changes in income and other household circumstances. The HUD program determines eligibility based on several factors, a main one being income. If income changes, it may affect a tenant’s program eligibility. Failure to report this change falls under Section 8 violations. In addition, residents must report any additions to members living in the housing unit. While the timeframe may vary by state, residents must report any new long-term residents who were not originally listed. 

Moreover, Section 8 tenants cannot engage in any criminal activity in the unit or surrounding areas. They must keep their housing unit in proper condition, which includes disposing of garbage and complying with health codes. Finally, they must behave in a manner that will not disturb neighbors and other residents.

Learn How to Report Section 8 Landlord Violations

All Section 8 housing residents have the right to safe, clean and adequate housing quarters. Unfortunately, not all landlords fulfill their responsibilities and adhere to public housing agency (PHA) regulations. In this case, you may file a complaint against your Section 8 landlord by contact the Multifamily Housing Clearinghouse (MFHC) complaint line. The MFHC is a HUD-sponsored service that allows beneficiaries of various HUD programs to report complaints. This can include reports of illegal activity, poor or lack of maintenance and health and safety dangers.

 Section 8 housing landlord responsibilities include maintaining the decent function of all housing units under their care and resolving issues within an appropriate timeframe. If you feel your landlord has neglected his or her obligations, you may call the line by dialing the following number: 1-800-685-8470. The customer service line is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Eastern Standard time (EST). The HUD program trains representatives to assist beneficiaries by answering their questions, addressing complaints and redirecting them to appropriate sources.