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Landlord's Guide to Section 8

Section 8 and Housing Choice Voucher Program are two different names for the same program. Section 8 is a federal assistance program to help low-income people pay their rent. People with Section 8 vouchers find their own housing and pay a percentage of their income for rent. Section 8 pays the landlord the rest of the rent.

These are the steps involved in renting to a Section 8 tenant:

  • A family with a current Section 8 voucher views your apartment and wants to rent it.
  • You screen the tenants to make sure they are suitable.
  • You agree to lease to the tenants and contact the Section 8 office for approval.
  • The Section 8 office checks to make sure the family can afford the rent, the rent is reasonable compared to other rents in the community, and the lease is acceptable.
  • The Section 8 office sends an inspector to check your apartment to make sure it meets program standards.
  • After the apartment passes inspection, the Section 8 office sends you a contract to sign.
  • You sign the contract with Section 8 and sign the lease with your tenants, and the family moves in.
  • The family pays its portion of the rent and Section 8 pays the rest.

Does the housing agency screen Section 8 tenants?

The housing agency does not screen Section 8 tenants for you. You must do this yourself, just as you would screen non-Section 8 tenants. You should ask for Social Security number, references, current and previous landlords, credit history, employment history, criminal record, etc., and check the information carefully.

There are many services available to help you screen tenants. These services can check to see if the prospective tenant has a criminal record, has been evicted, or has bad credit. When checking references, always contact the previous landlord as well as the current landlord, because the current landlord may want the tenants to move out.

The housing agency will tell you the number of people on the voucher, current address. Some housing agencies will also share any other information they have. However, our agency’s main concern is checking that the applicant meets the income limits and other Section 8 eligibility requirements. Screening the tenant is the landlord’s responsibility.

Who pays the security deposit?

If you want a security deposit, you must collect this from the tenant. The Section 8 program has no responsibility for damages, unpaid tenant rent, or other claims you might have against the tenant.

Do I sign a lease with the tenant?

You must sign a lease with the tenant for a minimum of one year. The lease should include:

  • names of the landlord and tenant
  • address of the rental unit
  • term of the lease and how it will be renewed
  • monthly rent amount
  • which utilities are paid by the tenant
  • which appliances must be provided by the tenant
  • Tenancy Addendum

You must include the Tenancy Addendum exactly as it appears on the HUD web site.

What kind of inspection is done?

Your apartment will be inspected to make sure that it meets the housing standards of the Section 8 program. The inspector will examine the exterior of the building, the plumbing and heating systems, the exits and hallways, and each room in the apartment to make sure the unit is safe, clean, and in good condition.

The unit must be vacant at the time of the first inspection, and all utilities must be turned on. The inspector must have access to the unit itself, the basement, and all common areas.

The inspector uses a checklist form provided by HUD, the federal agency in charge of the Section 8 program. For each item on the list, the inspector marks if the unit passes or fails (or not sure). If repairs are needed, the inspector marks this on the form. You can view the inspection form on the HUD web site:

A family will not be allowed to rent your apartment until you have made any needed repairs and the unit passes the inspection. The apartment will be re-inspected each year. If problems are found, you must make repairs within the time allotted or else Section 8 will stop payments.

How much rent can I charge?

The rent you charge must be reasonable compared to other units of similar size in your community. The Section 8 office will compare your rent to their payment standards, which are based in part on the fair market rents in your city or town. The fair market rents are the average gross rents (rent plus utilities) being paid in your community for modest apartments of varying sizes.

If the gross rent (rent plus utilities) for your apartment is less than or equal to the payment standard, the tenants pay 30% of their monthly income for rent and Section 8 pays the rest. If the rent is higher, the tenants must make up the difference. However, they are not allowed to pay more than 40% of their income for rent when they first rent an apartment.

If you want to increase the rent when you renew the lease, you must get approval from Section 8. The rent must remain reasonable and within the family’s ability to pay, or else Section 8 will not approve it.

How do I get paid?

Section 8 will send you a check for their portion of the rent each month. They will continue to do so as long as the tenant remains eligible for Section 8 and your apartment meets the Section 8 program standards. Participants under our NYS HCR Section 8 program, payments are electronically directly deposited into an account of your choice.

May I evict a Section 8 tenant?

You may evict a Section 8 tenant in the same way you would evict a non-Section 8 tenant. The same laws apply.

The tenant wants to move in right away. Can I give the tenant the keys and get paid by Section 8?

No. If you allow the tenant to take possession of the unit before the unit is leased under the program, the tenant is responsible to pay any rent charged between the time the tenant moves in and the time that the tenancy is approved by our office.

The tenant is behind on their rent, what should I do?

You are responsible for collecting the tenant portion of the rent each month. However, failure for a tenant under our program to pay their obligated portion of their rent is grounds for possible termination of their Section 8 Voucher. Therefore, you are obligated to notify our office immediately of any non-compliance.

Landlord Obligations:

  1. Maintain the unit in accordance with our standards and provide normal maintenance.
  2. Provide information as required by our office.
  3. Collect any security deposit and your share of the rent from your tenant.
  4. Collect for any charges for damage caused by the tenant, a member of their family or their guest for your unit.
  5. Enforce tenant obligations under the lease.
  6. Pay for utilities and services unless they are paid by the tenant under the lease.
  7. Owner may not violate:
    1. Fair Housing Act
    2. Federal Equal Opportunity Requirements
    3. Obligations under a Housing Assistance Payments Contract
  8. The owner may not:
    1. Commit fraud, bribery or any other corrupt or criminal act in connection with Federal Housing Program.
    2. Engage in drug trafficking.
  9. Owners are permitted and encouraged to screen families on the basis of the tenancy histories.
  10. Owner may consider family’s background with respect to such factors as:
    1. Payment of rent and utility bills
    2. Caring for a unit and premises
    3. Respecting the rights of others to the peaceful enjoyment of their housing
    4. Drug related criminal activity or other criminal activity that is a threat to the life, safety or property of others
    5. Compliance with other essential conditions of tenancy.
  11. The agency must give the owner:
    1. The family’s current address (as shown in record)
    2. Name and address (if known) of the landlord at the families current and prior addresses, upon request.
  12. This agency must give the owner:
    1. Information about the tenancy history of family members
    2. Information at owner’s request, if available, on drug-related criminal activity by family members.