Learn How to Use Your Housing Benefits

When you receive your Section 8 housing voucher after applying for the program, it is important that you are aware of everything it entails. As a tenant, you have certain rights granted to you by law.

This includes the right to housing accommodations that are secure, safe and sanitary. You also have obligations that you must fulfill regarding reporting your income, the clauses in your rental agreement and your conduct while renting the unit.

Your Section 8 landlord also has responsibilities to ensure the housing unit always meets housing quality standards enforced by the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Department (HUD). 

It is imperative that you know your Section 8 voucher duties and rights for both parties, as this will protect you when certain issues arise.

Whether it relates to moving to a new jurisdiction with your benefits or knowing what can disqualify you from the program, you must know what actions you are required to take. Below, you will find a detailed overview of your benefits.

Understanding Tenant Rights

Under Section 8, tenants in the program have rights to protect them from subpar living conditions and misconduct from property owners. The biggest and perhaps the most important right tenants have is to have clean and safe living conditions that do not endanger their security or health.

To ensure this, local public housing agencies (PHAs) conduct initial inspections of housing units in the program. If the unit does not meet the necessary standards, the agency will either give the property owner a set time frame to make repairs or disqualify the dwelling.

The HUD also requires annual inspections of Section 8 housing properties to ensure landlords are completing their obligations.  

Many Section 8 complaints from tenants have to do with maintenance and repairs. In some states, the tenant has the right to request that the landlord repair any and all appliances that require attention.

In other areas, this responsibility falls on tenants if they were the cause of the damage. It is important for Section 8 housing renters to know what tenants’ rights are before signing a rental agreement and moving into a house or apartment.

Find Out About Landlord Responsibilities

The HUD sets strict guidelines for any prospective and current Section 8 landlord. It begins during the tenant search process. While property owners can have preferences in the type of tenant they house, they must act within the confines of the federal Fair Housing Act.

Owners cannot have discriminatory preferences that qualify or disqualify potential tenants based on their:

  • Color.
  • Sex.
  • Race.
  • Religion.
  • National origin.
  • Familial status.
  • Disability.

There may also be other covered identities against which landlords cannot discriminate. Disqualifying potential tenants based on these characteristics may not only lead to severe legal repercussions but also disqualifications from the Section 8 housing program. 

Once the property owner finds an ideal tenant and both parties sign the rental agreement, there are addition Section 8 housing landlord requirements. The first is maintaining the housing quality standards that are set by the PHA.

The unit must be free of hazards, show no sign of infestation and have proper garbage disposal systems in place. In addition, the landlord must respond to requests for maintenance and repairs within an adequate time frame.

There are also regulations on the appropriate way to perform a Section 8 tenant eviction. It is vital that you stay informed of your landlord’s obligations to keep him or her accountable. 

How Tenant Disqualifications Work

As a tenant, you also have obligations that you must fulfill or risk the termination of your Section 8 voucher. One of your most important responsibilities is submitting income and employment information to your local PHA.

When applying for Section 8 benefits, you must provide proof of income for yourself and your family. Once you get the voucher, you must submit recertification documents when requested to verify your eligibility for the program.

If you continuously miss the deadlines to provide those documents, you may no longer receive benefits. Section 8 income reporting requirements also include notifying your agency of any changes in family and income for all residents in your household. 

Section 8 tenants must also refrain from participating in any criminal activity inside or around the unit. This can include acts of violence and illegal drug use. It is important to note that this regulation does not exclude guests of tenants.

In the event a guest breaks the law, PHAs will conduct an investigation to assess the tenant’s involvement in the illegal activity and determine the appropriate action to take. Other Section 8 tenant rules include:

  • Paying rent on time.
  • Reporting any new residents in the home.
  • Maintaining a peaceful environment to avoid disturbing others.

Failure to follow these rules may result in the termination of your Section 8 voucher. 

Learn About Moving With Housing Assistance

Relocating to a new housing unit is another task that requires adhering to Section 8’s moving rules. To maintain your benefits while you move, you must first notify your local PHA. It can offer suggestions for low-income home rentals and tips on moving.

It is important to note that you cannot use the housing voucher to cover relocation expenses. The voucher only covers the cost of the monthly rent. You must also inform your landlord to work out any issues with the lease agreement. 

The next step to complete in the Section 8 moving process is the housing inspection. The property owner must meet with an HUD agent to evaluate the unit’s condition.

If you are moving to a new jurisdiction, you may have to transfer your voucher through a process called “voucher portability.” This allows Section 8 beneficiaries to continue to receive housing assistance after moving to a new residence.

The rules for portability depend on when applicants entered the program. 

Finally, Section 8 tenants cannot forget to inform their landlord if they are moving. If they are terminating the current lease early, they must follow whatever stipulations are outlined in the rental agreement.

If tenants have completed the full term and want to move out, they must inform the landlord that they will not be renewing their lease.