Even if you are currently on a Housing Choice Voucher waiting list, you may lose your eligibility before you receive benefits. This may happen due to changes in your family or your income. The eligibility requirements for the Section 8 program are strict because so many low-income families need help paying for rent each year. If an extremely low-income family needs more immediate help, they may be placed above you on the waiting list.
Reaching the top of the waitlist for your local Section 8 program may take years, which increases the possibility that your current situation may change. If one of your family members passes away, for instance, you may no longer need as much assistance. If a family member develops a disability or becomes pregnant, however, you may qualify for more assistance and be placed higher on the waitlist. Thus, you must undergo a second eligibility verification by your Public Housing Authority (PHA) if you eventually reach the top of the waitlist and receive a voucher offer. In addition, you and your family must pass background checks and submit supporting documents to verify your identity. A background check usually reveals information about your credit score, sources of income, assets, criminal history and more. If the PHA discovers new information that disqualifies you from the program, you will receive a notice of denial. Learn more about Section 8 denials and how to appeal them below.
Why was my Section 8 application denied?
You may be denied housing assistance if you fail to meet one or more of the eligibility requirements for the program. A denial can occur at any point in the application process, including after your application submission, while you are on the waiting list or during a second eligibility verification. It may also occur if you fail to agree to the terms in a contract to lease or fail to meet certain requirements while you are living in a Section 8 home. You may be disqualified for one of the following reasons:
- You or a family member has been convicted of a drug-related crime or violent crime while residing in a Section 8 home
- Your family’s total income exceeds the maximum limit established by your PHA
- You refuse to sign consent forms, which may require the release of certain information or the declaration of your citizenship or immigrant status
- You have received an eviction notice due to certain activities or property damage that occurred inside your home or within the boundaries of the property
- You failed to make payments on your portion of the rent
- You or a family member have been caught committing bribery, fraud or other criminal activities
When reviewing your case, the PHA workers will take many different factors into consideration. For instance, they will examine the severity of an incident that occurred, which family members were involved and how much you or other family members are to blame. They will also factor in the needs of family members who were not involved in the incident and how those beneficiaries will be affected if they no longer receive housing assistance.
Your landlord will also be able to weigh in on the situation and provide the PHA with certain information. He or she may inform the Housing Authority of how often you pay your portion of the rent on time, whether other tenants have complained about you or your family members and how well you take care of the space. He or she may also initiate a denial process if you damage the property, fail to pay your rent or refuse to honor your other obligations in the lease. While the PHA may prevent some of these situations from happening by performing an initial eligibility check, it cannot always predict the behavioral patterns of you or other tenants. Consequently, your agency may rely heavily on the opinion of your landlord and any proof the landlord can present.
What to Do If You Want to Appeal your Section 8 Denial
You may appeal a denial by following the instructions in the denial notification. In general, you must file a Section 8 appeal within a certain timeframe. To do so, you must request an informal hearing, which will give you the opportunity to contest the denial or termination of benefits.
It is also important to know your rights during the appeals process. For instance, the PHA may not stop payments toward your rent until you have argued your case in a hearing and a decision on the appeal has been made. The hearing is usually supervised by a third-party official who is appointed by the Housing Authority. The official may be someone who was involved in your application process, but not involved in the decision to deny your eligibility for the housing voucher. Be sure to bring important supporting documents to the hearing which will help you with your case. These include:
- Your Section 8 Housing contract.
- Your repayment agreements.
- Damage claims filed by you or the landlord.
- Your contract to lease.
- Written complaints, if applicable.
- Witness statements, if available.
- Police reports, if available.
- Certain other documents that relate to the situation.
You are fully entitled to bring a lawyer or a legal representative to the hearing. You or your lawyer may then submit the documents and present your case. Once the hearing has been concluded, the official will give you an estimate of the time it will take to reach a decision. Then, the PHA will notify you of its decision.
What to Do if Your Landlord Requests Your Eviction
If you receive a notice of eviction from your landlord, you must notify your Housing Authority as soon as possible. Your PHA will not stop payments until you receive a decision on the eviction from a court judge. During a court hearing, you have the right to contest your landlord’s claims. However, you may be forced to evict the home if you committed a serious violation and the court rules against you. A serious violation may be property damage, drug-related crimes, violent crimes and certain other violations. In this case, your Housing Authority has the right to stop providing you with housing assistance. At this point, you may still request an informal hearing and make an appeal, but it is much less likely that the PHA will reinstate your housing voucher.