Your Guide to Section 8 and Low Income Apartments
The Housing Choice Voucher Program, formerly known as Section 8, allows eligible households to afford rental housing.
Learn more about the regulations for Section 8 apartments, your rights as a tenant and how to find the right apartment for you.
General HUD Standards for Section 8 Apartments and Rental Homes
To be eligible to participate in the Section 8 program, rental units must comply with the Housing Quality Standards (HQS) established by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. This includes apartments, condos, private homes and any other property that is being rented.
At least once a year, the Public Housing Agency is responsible for conducting inspections on units in order to check if they are compliant with HQS. Property inspections can be performed by PHA staff or contracted personnel.
Housing Quality Standards consists of checks on these 13 main property requirements, including:
- Sanitary facilities.
- Space and security.
- Sanitary conditions.
- Water supply.
- Food preparation and refuse disposal.
- Site and neighborhoods.
- Illumination and electricity.
- Interior air quality.
- Lead-based paints.
- Access and fire escapes.
- Smoke detectors.
- Adequate heating/cooling.
Each rental property must meet the minimum acceptability standards on each of these criteria in order to be eligible to participate in the Section 8 program.
For certain standards, the inspector must make a judgment call, usually taking the family who will be living there into consideration.
For example, if there are small children in the home, certain hazards may be especially dangerous and should be treated as such.
Learn About Requirements for Section 8 Housing
Before you begin your search for a property that accepts Section 8 housing vouchers, you must first meet the eligibility requirements of the program and submit an application at your local PHA.
Some of the basic eligibility requirements state that you must be at least 18 years of age and hold citizenship or valid immigration status in order to apply.
Undocumented immigrants are currently ineligible to receive benefits from Section 8.
Furthermore, you must have an acceptable history as a tenant in order to participate in the program.
Your local Public Housing Agency will look into your rental history because they approve you for housing assistance. If you have a record of missing rent payments, your application may be denied.
Moreover, if you or any of your household members have previously been evicted from public housing or Section 8 due to drug-related activity, you will be ineligible for assistance for three full years.
This period of time begins from the date of the initial eviction.
Finally, applicants will need to fall within the income limits established by their local PHA in order to receive Section 8 benefits.
Generally, a family’s annual income must be less than 50 percent of the median income for the area where they choose to live.
How to Find a Unit Using the Section 8 Housing List
One of the perks of the Housing Choice Voucher Program is that you will be able to use your benefits at any apartment or home owned by a private landlord that accepts the voucher.
You will also be able to use the vouchers at Low Income Housing Tax Credit properties and other eligible units. During your search for a rental property, you can find helpful resources at the housing authority or Public Housing Agency that is in charge of distributing your benefits.
While you are looking for a new rental that accepts Section 8 benefits, you will want to ensure that the property meets your family’s housing requirements.
Here are some common steps to take while you are looking for a place to rent:
- Determine what you can afford to pay each month for your rent. This way, you can find the best rental unit in your price range. Avoid looking for apartments that exceed your budget.
- Conduct some research about transportation options that are near the property. If you do not own a car, check the public transportation situation in the area.
- Check to see if you schools, grocery stores, banks and other amenities and retailers are conveniently located.
- Ensure that the rental unit is in a safe neighborhood and that there are proper locks on each door and private entrance.
Learn About Your Rights When Looking for Apartments that Accept Section 8
While you are on the search for a rental property that accepts Section 8 housing vouchers, you should be aware of your rights as a renter.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development enforces the Fair Housing Act in order to protect people who are searching for housing. Under the Fair Housing Act, it is considered unlawful for a landlord to:
- Decline to you or sell you housing.
- Tell you that there are no units available when they are available.
- Only show you apartments and homes located in certain neighborhoods.
- Offer you different terms, conditions or privileges for your rental.
- Advertise their units only to preferred groups of people.
- Refuse to provide you with property insurance.
- Provide you with different housing services or facilities than other tenants.
- Perform their property appraisals in a discriminatory fashion.
- Refuse to let you perform modifications for a disability to the common area of the property at your expense.
- Refuse to make reasonable accommodations to rules, policies, practices or services based on your disability.
- Harass, intimidate, coerce or interfere with someone exercising or helping someone else with exercising his or her fair housing rights.
If you feel that a landlord has violated any of these rights, contact your local Public Housing Agency and inform them about the incident.