Know your rights if you have lost Section 8 assistance.
Termination of Section 8
TYPES OF SECTION 8 ASSISTANCE
There are two types of Section 8 rental subsidies, Tenant-Based and Project-Based. Tenant-Based Section 8 means that the tenant is approved for a subsidy or grant in the form of a voucher (known as a Section 8 voucher or Housing Choice Voucher), and must rent an apartment or home on the private housing market.
The Section 8 Program (“PHA”) must still approve the unit, after reviewing the amount for rent and a proper inspection of housing conditions before the tenant moves in. The landlord of the unit must sign a Housing Assistance Payments (“HAP”) contract with the PHA.
In Tenant-Based Section 8, the PHA deals with the tenant, who has certain duties as a Section 8 voucher holder, and with the landlord/owner of the unit, to whom Section 8 agrees to pay the subsidy.
In Project-Based Section 8, the subsidy is paid for a specific apartment within a building, instead of being paid for the tenant.
As in Tenant-Based Section 8, tenants still have to be approved to occupy the subsidized apartment, but the tenant cannot take the subsidy and move into another apartment. Moving out of the subsidized unit before the first lease term has expired can result in the loss of benefits.
Both types of housing are valuable because the tenant’s part of the rent is based upon their income. Generally, tenants pay no more than 30% of their household income toward their rent.
On rare occasions they may pay more, up to 40% if approved by the PHA. PHAs cover the difference between a tenant’s part and the fair market rent charged for the unit (the “contract rent”).
ELIGIBILITY AND TENANT DUTIES
Each PHA in Tenant-Based Section 8 and each landlord/owner in Project-Based Section 8 have a duty to double-check a tenant’s eligibility. They must re-certify tenants each year to decide their part of the monthly contract rent.
Tenants have a strict duty to report and document members of the household and income changes. In the event that they fail to do so, and their income has increased, the PHA or the landlord/owner will make tenant pay back any extra rent paid on their behalf.
Sometimes the added payments may become unmanageable, and the tenant may be unable to afford the added payments and the ongoing rent at the same time.
A tenant’s failure to make the added payments and/or current rent may be grounds for eviction and/or the loss of that tenant’s Section 8 voucher.
Rental assistance may also be cancelled because the tenant did something that he/she was not allowed to do (such as paying more than the amount of rent allowed by the PHA), or did not do something they were told they had to do.
It is important for tenants to know their duties as related to both their Section 8 program, and their rental agreements (leases) with the landlord. Tenants should always try to avoid the loss of benefits and, when alerted about the end of their assistance, should challenge it right away.
In both programs, benefits can be cancelled if any member of the family fails to sign and give consent forms for collecting facts on family status and family income and assets.
If any family member fails to offer citizenship or legal permanent residency/eligible immigration status documentation benefits can be taken away as well. In Tenant-Based Section 8, there are other grounds for loss of benefits, such as: family violation of any of its duties under the program. If the family commits fraud, bribery, or other corrupt or criminal acts related to any federal housing program.
Also if the family owes money to the program or neglects the repayment agreement with the program. If the family violates the program’s policy on absence from a unit or if the family has been evicted from a federally assisted unit within the last five years.
WHAT IS THE TERMINATION PROCESS AND WHAT ARE MY RIGHTS?
Each PHA must set up procedures addressing circumstances in which a family has engaged in drug related or violent criminal behavior.
Also if a family member’s alcohol abuse or drug abuse may threaten the health, safety, or right to peaceful enjoyment of the premises by other residents. In Project-Based Section 8, a landlord/owner has the power to end a tenancy for tenant violations. Though the grounds for termination of benefits are limited.
In Project-Based Section 8, an owner can stop the tenancy (not merely the assistance) for a tenant’s serious violations of the lease. If the tenant is showing criminal behavior or has a serious violation(s) or criminal behavior of members of the tenant’s household.
When ending benefits for a participant, a PHA in Tenant-Based Section 8 and the landlord/owner in Project-Based Section 8 must give the tenant enough notice.
Tenants have the right to know the charges against them so that they can defend themselves.
Notice to a tenant in the Tenant-Based Section 8 Program must have a short statement of the reasons for ending benefits.
The statement should include that a tenant has the right to an informal hearing challenging the proposed termination. That a tenant has a right to review the evidence that is to be used against them at the informal hearing.
You must also include the method for getting a hearing and the deadline for requesting the hearing. Until there is a hearing and a decision by an informal hearing officer upholding the proposed termination, the subsidy must continue. A tenant may challenge an informal hearing officer’s decision through an Article 78 proceeding.
The Section 8 Administrative Plan, in Tenant-Based Section 8, must give the reasons for which assistance may be terminated and the procedure for the informal hearing.
Tenants may choose to have a lawyer present, and regardless of whether they are represented, have a right to present evidence, which may include evidence from witnesses. Many Section 8 Administrative Plans may be found online.
Tenants have a right to a copy of the Administrative Plan and may obtain a copy from the PHA.
The termination notice to a tenant in Project-Based Section 8 must contain the reasons for ending of benefits. It should also state the date the benefits end, and the amount of rent that the tenant must pay upon termination and that they will be evicted if they fail to pay the full contract rent.
The notice must also inform the tenant that they have 10 calendar days to ask for a meeting with the owner and discuss the proposed termination. It is suggested that a tenant ask for the meeting in writing, and get a copy of the letter, date-stamped by the PHA if at all possible.
Last Reviewed: December 1, 2015