Apartment hunting can be an exciting, yet potentially stressful experience for anyone.
However, if you are receiving Section 8 benefits, your housing choices will be limited to dwellings that have been approved for the Section 8 program.
By learning more about Section 8 apartments, your housing options, how to find the perfect home for you and your obligations as a tenant, you can ensure a smoother relocation and reduce a lot of the stress that apartment hunting can bring.
Additionally, it is important to learn more about your housing rights to ensure that you are being treated fairly throughout each step of the process and while living in Section 8 dwellings.
What are Section 8 dwellings?
Section 8 dwellings are properties that have already been approved for the Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program. To qualify for the Section 8 program, a dwelling must pass the housing quality standards enacted by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
Each unit must be inspected and quality must be maintained to retain an applicable Section 8 status. Section 8 dwellings can be several different types of properties, including apartments, townhomes and single-family homes.
Learn About Resources for Finding Section 8 Dwellings
If you are conducting your rental search online, it is important to find online listings that filter for subsidized housing. Fortunately, there are websites that provide a list of homes where you can bring your Housing Choice voucher. Below is a list of home listing websites covering Section 8 tenants.
Learn About Section 8 Requirements
The HCV Program, formerly known as Section 8, is a government housing assistance program that is overseen by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. This program provides assistance to qualifying families and households with low incomes in an effort to ensure access to sanity, safe and decent housing as well as aid households in rising from poverty levels.
To qualify for housing benefits from the Section 8 program, you and your family must meet eligibility requirements. These requirements include citizenship status, family status, income and rental-related history qualifications. For instance, the Housing Choice Voucher Program is limited to U.S. citizens and a few specified categories of non-citizens.
Section 8 benefits are only available to households that meet family status and family makeup qualifications. Benefits are only provided to “families” that have at least one minor child living within the home, households that contain at least one senior citizen and households that contain at least one disabled person.
As this is a low-income assistance program, your family or household must meet income-related qualifications. Income limits vary between counties and metropolitan areas as the limit is based upon the median income level for each area.
In order to meet income-related eligibility requirements, your household cannot have an income that exceeds 50 percent of an area’s median income. However, Section 8 is legally required to provide at least 75 percent of available assistance to very low-income families. Their incomes cannot exceed one-third of the median income of the area.
When applying for the Section 8 program, your household’s rental history and personal history. Program agents will exam if you and your any household members have any recent evictions.
It is important to apply for the HCV Program before searching for any Section 8 apartments. You must be approved for benefits before locating one of these housing opportunities. You can apply by contacting your Public Housing Agency (PHA).
In addition to providing information about each family member within your household, you must provide your PHA with any requested documentation that would assist in determining your family’s eligibility, including proof of income and your banking information. Your PHA will verify the information that you provide to determine your eligibility and the amount of benefits that you are eligible to receive.
If approved for benefits, you will either begin receiving help immediately or you will be placed upon a waiting list until additional funds come available. After you can begin receiving Section 8 benefits, the HUD will provide you with 90 days to find a new place that meets the Housing Choice Voucher Program’s eligibility criteria. An inspection must be performed by the local PHA to assure that the dwelling meets HUD standards before you can sign a lease and move in.
How to Find the Section 8 Home That’s Right for You
Before you begin looking for Section 8 dwellings, it is important to take the time to make a list of the amenities that your family needs or wants as well as the location you would like to ideally live within. You should also consider the amount that your family can afford for rent after your housing voucher has been applied.
By keeping all of these factors in mind when initiating your search, you will be able to narrow down apartment listings more easily. You can obtain a complete list of Section 8 apartments within your community by contacting your Public Housing Agency.
Understanding Your Obligations as a Tenant Under Section 8
After you have selected housing that meets Section 9 eligibility criteria, you must sign a lease with the landlord or property agency that is at least one year in length. Depending on the property, you may be required to pay a security deposit.
Section 8 tenancy rules specify that you must abide by all property regulations, which will be included within your lease agreement. Additionally, you will also need to pay your share of rent on time each month and comply with all Housing Choice Voucher Program requirements. If there are any changes to your family income or composition, you must notify your Public Housing Agency immediately to continue to receive rental assistance benefits.
Can you move while receiving benefits from the Housing Choice Voucher Program?
The HCV Program permits participating to move without the loss of assistance, so long as the family notifies their Public Housing Agency in advance and only terminates an existing lease within the provisions of the lease. You will also be expected to find new acceptable and approved housing to continue to receive Section 8 benefits.
If you are considering a change in residence, it is important to know that you must remain within your current PHA’s jurisdiction for at least one year to retain benefits. Afterward, you can move to anywhere within the United States and retain your benefits, so long as you follow your PHA’s steps for doing so.
Understanding Your Housing Rights
The HUD requires Section 8 tenants to receive the same fair treatment and housing rights as any other tenant. Therefore, it is important to know your rights as you begin your search for your Section 8 apartment.
Under the Fair Housing Act, it is illegal to:
- Tell you that housing is unavailable when housing is available.
- Set different terms, privileges or conditions for the sale or rental of Section 8 dwellings.
- Only advertise housing to preferred groups of individuals.
- Deny your property insurance.
- Refuse to make reasonable accommodations in services, policies or rules to ensure that you have equal housing opportunities compared to non-disabled persons (when applicable).
If you feel like any of your housing rights have been violated or that you have been discriminated against, you are strongly encouraged to contact your local PHA or the HUD immediately for assistance.