The Section 8 Voucher program offers affordable housing options for low-income families. But, if you take the Section 8 Voucher out of the equation, the relationship between tenant and landlord is the same as any other.
As we administer this program, the team at PMHA has learned a few essential secrets to strong relationships between tenants and owners. We always tell our clients that a good relationship starts with everyone understanding their roles and responsibilities. Knowing these roles can make for a long, happy relationship between both parties.
The Owner is responsible for the following:
Enforcing their lease
Making repairs in a timely manner
Following Fair Housing Laws
Notifying the Housing Authority if a tenant vacates the unit
Providing decent, safe, and sanitary housing
Tenant Responsibilities: Section 8 Voucher Program
Once a tenant signs the lease for a Section 8 rental, it’s important to understand all the terms of the lease. Tenant responsibilities are similar to those included in most rental agreements, but make sure to know what’s expected with payments, maintenance, and communication in particular.
Paying Security Deposit, Rent & Utilities
Most housing units will require a security deposit, which is not covered by the Section 8 Voucher program. This deposit is typically refundable at the end of the lease as long as the property is well maintained, rent is paid, and the tenant meets the terms of the lease.
One of the most critical terms of the lease agreement is paying rent on time. Make sure to know what day your portion of the rent payment is due each month and to pay it by the due date. A landlord may ask tenants to submit a check or pay rent online.
Tenants are also responsible for paying any utilities that aren’t covered under the terms of the lease, such as electricity, gas, telephone, and water bills.
Maintaining the Property
Maintaining the property is about making sure to leave everything in as good condition as it was upon arrival. Part of property maintenance is telling the landlord if any issues arise. For example, if there’s a leaking pipe or an appliance isn’t working properly, it’s important to report that to the landlord.
The same is true if there is accidental property damage. Let’s say a family member accidentally sends a baseball through a window. Tenants need to report this to the landlord and then agree to terms around how the window will be fixed.
The housing authority requires that rental properties meet certain standards. That means the landlord may require periodic access to the property for care and maintenance. Ultimately, maintaining the property is a shared responsibility.
Reporting Changes & Providing Notice
Participants who receive Section 8 Voucher benefits have to report their income and the number of people who will reside at a rental unit. If your circumstances change, this information must be provided to your housing authority because these items impact your benefits eligibility.
It’s important to note that the Section 8 agreement requires that only approved family members can live at the property. Program participants must report any changes to household members including additions and the absence of family members who are no longer in the household.
It’s also important to give a landlord proper notice when moving out of a rental unit. Thirty days notice is customary, but these terms are typically spelled out in your rental agreement.
Avoiding Violent Criminal Activity
Lastly, members of families living in Section 8 properties have an obligation to not engage in violent criminal activity. Each housing authority has its own policy regarding how they deal with violent criminal activity, which could result in termination from the Section 8 program.
Landlord Responsibilities: Section 8 Voucher Program
The owner or manager of your rental unit also has responsibilities under the terms of your lease agreement and in accordance with Fair Housing Laws. If your landlord doesn’t keep up with their responsibilities, then they may not be able to participate in the Section 8 Voucher program.
Just like the tenant, the landlord must comply with the stipulations of the lease agreement and ensure the housing is decent, safe, and sanitary. This typically involves responding to maintenance needs and issues with other tenants, for example. Before raising the rent, the landlord must notify the housing authority. Rent increases can only happen once per year and have to be within fair market standards.
Approving Tenants & Providing Notice
All landlords who accept Section 8 Vouchers are responsible for finding and vetting tenants. Landlords must make sure that tenants are approved for the program, and should conduct the same background and credit checks that they would with any other tenants. These checks help to uncover criminal behavior and rental history.
A property owner is also responsible for reporting to the housing authority when a tenant has vacated their housing.
Meeting Quality Standards & Inspections
To be eligible for Section 8, renters must pass a housing inspection to determine if the unit meets the minimum housing standards set by HUD and the local housing authority.
If the unit does not comply with certain items on the standards list, the problem can be fixed and the unit will be reinspected before a tenant can move in. The housing authority will also perform an inspection yearly, usually when the tenant’s lease is up for renewal. In order to maintain its Section 8 status, the owner is required to make any identified property repairs in a timely manner.
Collecting a Security Deposit & Rent
A portion must be paid directly by the tenant, so it is the landlord’s responsibility to collect it.