Learn About the Section 8 Program and Housing Appeals

Learn About the Section 8 Program and Housing Appeals

The Housing Choice Voucher Program, commonly referred to as Section 8, is a government assistance program that provides monthly housing benefits that are paid directly to participating landlords in an effort to reduce the amount of money that a family must pay for housing. 

Program benefits are distributed on a local level by Public Housing Agencies (PHAs) and some eligibility requirements, such as income-based requirements, between PHAs.

If a household does not meet eligibility requirements, the household will be denied Section 8 benefits.

Furthermore, a household that is currently receiving benefits can have their benefits altered or revoked due to violations of Section 8 rules and eligibility requirements.

If your benefits have been denied, altered or revoked, it is crucial that you understand how to read your Section 8 denial letter, when to file an appeal and how you can file an appeal, should you choose to do so. 

Understanding Your Section 8 Denial Letter

If your household is denied benefits from the Housing Choice Voucher Program, you will receive a letter from your local PHA that will detail the reason why your benefits were denied, altered or revoked. This letter will also include instructions that you may follow to submit an appeal, should you wish to do so. 

What are the most common reason for Section 8 benefits to be denied?

The Housing Choice Voucher Program is a federal program designed to provide housing assistance to low- and very low-income families and households that qualify.

As an income-based program, the most common reason for a denial of benefits to be issued is when a family or household has too high of an income to receive Section 8 benefits. 

If your household was denied benefits due to income, it is worth knowing that you could still qualify for the program in a different county or metropolitan area. Each county or metropolitan area has its own income limit that is determined based upon the median income level for that area.

Therefore, if you were denied for benefits based upon income, it is worth considering whether or not to submit an application to a different Public Housing Agency. 

However, there are several other reasons that benefits may be denied to a household.  Other reasons that your benefits may have been denied include: 

  • A family member living within the household was previously convicted of a drug-related crime while living within a Section 8 rental. 
  • A family member living within the household was previously convicted for a violent crime. 
  • An applicant refuses or is unable to provide any document that is necessary to approve an application and provide benefits to a household, such as proof of income. 
  • A household does not meet family composition requirements for Section 8. 
  • A household has a recent eviction record.

If you have been denied benefits, it is very important that you review your Section 8 denial letter to determine the exact reason for your denial. In reviewing the reason for your denial, you will likely gain a better understanding of whether or not you may be eligible for benefits in a different county or metropolitan area as well as whether or not you should file an appeal. 

Can Section 8 benefits be altered or revoked after a family begins receiving benefits? 

Under the current law, a Public Housing Agency can choose to revoke benefits if a family no longer qualifies for assistance under the Housing Choice Voucher Program. Section 8 benefits can be withdrawn at any time. 

However, if benefits are altered, denied or withdrawn, the law requires that a denial letter be issued to the household. Section 8 benefits can be revoked under several circumstances, including if: 

  • A household member commits a drug-related or violent crime. 
  • The family no longer qualifies for benefits due to income, household composition or another eligibility requirement that must be maintained for benefits. 
  • Changes to the household, including changes to income, household size or family composition, is not reported to and approved by the Public Housing Agency. 

In many cases, the Public Housing Agency will consider several factors when determining whether or not to revoke or alter benefits.

For example, if one household member commits a violent crime, the PHA will determine whether or not the entire household should lose eligibility or just the member that committed the crime.

In some cases, the PHA may instead choose to continue to provide benefits to the remaining household members. 

What happens if I lose my qualifications for Section 8 while on a waiting list?

Section 8 waiting lists are notoriously long, especially in highly populated areas where the demand and need for housing assistance is exceptionally high.

It is not uncommon for applicants to become no longer eligible to receive Section 8 benefits while on a waiting list. 

If your household is put on a waiting list for Section 8 assistance, your household’s eligibility will need to be determined again before benefits can be issued.

Additionally, if your family is still eligible to receive benefits, the amount of benefits your family is eligible to receive can also change from a previous estimate due to determining factors, such as income and household size. 

Tips to Find Housing After a Section 8 Denial

After a Section 8 denial, you as the tenant can stay in the rental unit but must pay the full market rent. If you are not able to pay the full price, then you may have look for other ways to pay rent. Below are some ways you can pay rent while you pursue the Section 8 appeal process or wish to remain in the Section 8 rental.

  1. Find a Roommate. Finding a roommate is simple to find online, but the process may be more daunting. If you have a friend or family member willing to enter a legally binding contract, perhaps this will make the process easier. But if you cannot convince someone close to you, then you must take the necessary precautions with someone else to make ends meet.

  2. Borrow money. If you do not wish to be with a roommate, then you may want to ask friends and family to assist you. However, it is important to consider how this may affect you relationship with this person. You must also make repayment expectations clear to the other person.

  3. Apply for Charitable Grants. Faith-based charities, as well as secular ones, can provide you with emergency rental assistance. You may find local housing assistance through 2-1-1.org or search Google for nearby locations.

Who can file an appeal After a Housing Choice Voucher Program denial?

You have the legal right to file an appeal with your PHA should you receive a Section 8 denial letter that pertains to the denial, alteration or revocation of benefits.

While an appeal does not guarantee that a different decision will be reached, it will provide a second review of your family’s denial to determine if the correct decision was reached. 

Discover When to File an Appeal for Section 8

If you receive a Section 8 denial letter, it is crucial that you file for an appeal right away if you intend to do so. All requests for an appeal must be made prior to the mandatory date that will be listed on the Section 8 denial letter.

If you do not file for an appeal before the date that is shown, you will lose your ability to appeal the decision regarding your Section 8 benefits, and you must instead reapply for benefits. 

Find Out How to File a Section 8 Appeal

Your Section 8 denial letter will include detailed instructions on how you can file an appeal and request an informal hearing.

Once your request for an informal hearing has been approved, the PHA cannot legally stop making rental payments on your family’s behalf until a decision regarding your appeal has been reached. 

Section 8 informal hearings are conducted by third parties that have been appointed by your Public Housing Agency.

Prior to the hearing, you must provide any documentation that may help you in your case, including documents such as: 

  • Your Section 8 housing contract.
  • Your lease contract. 
  • Any written complaints. 
  • Statements from witnesses, when applicable. 
  • Official reports made by law enforcement, when applicable. 

Should you choose to do so, you have the legal right to obtain counsel and have a lawyer represent you during the hearing.