Section 8 FAQs

Answers to your frequently asked questions

  • What is Section 8?

    Section 8 is a government program in the United States that provides rental assistance to low-income individuals and families. The program, officially known as the Housing Choice Voucher Program (HCV), is administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

    Under the Section 8 program, eligible participants receive vouchers that they can use to help pay for housing in the private rental market. The amount of assistance is based on the participant's income and the fair market rent for the area.

    Landlords who participate in the Section 8 program agree to rent their properties to eligible tenants and receive a portion of the rent directly from the local housing authority, with the tenant paying the remaining portion.

    Participating in the Section 8 program can provide a steady source of rental income for landlords and help low-income individuals and families afford safe and decent housing.

  • Should I make my rental home available for the Section 8 program?

    Deciding whether to make your rental home available for Section 8 housing vouchers involves several considerations. Here are some key points to keep in mind:

    1. Rent Stability: Section 8 vouchers often provide stable rental income because the government pays a portion of the rent directly to you. This can be advantageous if you prefer reliable payments.
    2. Tenant Pool: Accepting Section 8 vouchers can expand your pool of potential tenants, as it allows individuals and families with lower incomes to afford your rental property.
    3. Property Condition: Section 8 housing standards may require your property to meet certain conditions, such as safety and habitability standards. Ensure your property meets these requirements before making it available for Section 8. Properties in HOA communities should not be considered for the Section 8 program due to the strict cosmetic maintenance requirements.
    4. Payment Structure: With Section 8, you may receive a portion of the rent directly from the tenant and the remaining portion from the housing authority. Section 8 is a work program so participants are expected to pay a portion of the rent and the amount is dependent on their financial situation and ability to pay. Make sure you understand the payment structure and are comfortable with it.
    5. Local Market Conditions: Consider the demand for Section 8 housing in your area. Some locations have a high demand for Section 8 housing, which can lead to shorter vacancy periods.
    6. Regulations and Paperwork: There are regulations and paperwork associated with participating in the Section 8 program. Familiarize yourself with these requirements to ensure compliance.

    It's essential to weigh these factors against your specific circumstances and preferences before making a decision.

  • What are the requirements for my home to be eligible for Section 8?

    For your rental home to qualify for the Section 8 program, it must meet certain requirements set by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). These requirements are related to the condition and safety of the property. Here are some key factors:

    1. Housing Quality Standards (HQS): Your property must meet HUD's Housing Quality Standards, which set minimum requirements for health and safety. These standards cover areas such as sanitation, heating, water supply, structural integrity, and location.
    2. Inspection: Before you can rent your property to a Section 8 tenant, it must pass an inspection by the local public housing authority (PHA) or a HUD-approved inspector. The inspection ensures that the property meets the HQS.
    3. Local Requirements: Some local housing authorities may have additional requirements beyond the HUD standards. It's important to check with your local PHA for specific requirements in your area.
    4. Rent Reasonableness: The rent you charge for your property must be reasonable compared to similar unassisted rental units in the area. The PHA will assess the rent to ensure it meets this requirement.
    5. Lease Agreement: PHA has their own lease agreement which can be complemented with your own lease. Your lease agreement must be approved by the PHA and may cover things not found in the PHA lease, such as lawn care requirements, home alterations, and certain maintenance activities.
    6. Compliance with Fair Housing Laws: You must comply with all fair housing laws, which prohibit discrimination based on factors such as race, color, religion, sex, disability, familial status, or national origin.

    Meeting these requirements is essential for your rental home to qualify for the Section 8 program. It's advisable to contact your local PHA for specific guidance and to ensure that your property meets all the necessary criteria.

  • How do I get approval to make my home available for the Section 8 program?

    To get approved to put your home in the Section 8 program in Georgia, you'll need to follow these general steps:

    1. Contact the Local Public Housing Authority (PHA): Reach out to the PHA that serves your area, which is generally by county, and express your interest in participating in the Section 8 program. Each county in Georgia has its own PHA, so you'll need to find the one that covers your rental property's location and there may be multiple PHA’s for any county.
    2. Attend a Landlord Orientation: Most PHAs require you to attend an information session to learn more about the Section 8 program, how it works, and the responsibilities involved by both the landlord and tenant.
    3. Complete an Application: The PHA will provide you with an application form to complete. This application will ask for information about yourself, your rental property, and your rental history.
    4. Provide Required Documentation: You may need to provide additional documentation, such as proof of ownership of the property (deed or security deed), proof of insurance, and financial/mortgage information.
    5. Property Inspection: Your rental property must pass an inspection to ensure it meets HUD's Housing Quality Standards (HQS). The PHA will schedule an inspection, and you'll need to make any necessary repairs or improvements to meet the standards. Many owners think it is only the interior that matters but Inspectors consider the location of your property. For example, if there are nearby boarded up homes or buildings, the home is on a busy street, or the type of business that may be operating next door. Once approved, you will receive a vendor number and access to their portal (if they use one).
    6. Determine Rent: PHA will generally not tell you the amount of rent you will receive until the applicant has been accepted. When listing your home, you will need to stay within market rates because rent must be reasonable compared to similar unassisted rental units in the area.
    7. Advertise Your Property: Once your property is approved for the Section 8 program, you can advertise it as available to Section 8 voucher holders. The PHA may also list your property as available to their voucher holders. We recommend listing your property on Section 8 websites and sending flyers to the PHA’s.
    8. Screen Tenants: You can screen tenants as you would for any rental property, but you must comply with fair housing laws and the Section 8 program's nondiscrimination policies. We recommend looking at evictions, criminal background, and non-payment of essentials such as utilities.
    9. Sign a Request for Tenancy Application (RTA) and Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) Contract: When you find a tenant, they must submit a housing voucher application, called an RTA. You need to complete your part, sign and submit the RTA to the Housing Authority. Once the RTA is reviewed and approved, an inspection will take place to ensure the home meets HQS requirements. Upon passing, a HAP is issuedand you should have your tenant sign your additional lease with the tenant maintenance requirements. The HAP contract outlines the terms of the rental agreement and the housing assistance payment you'll receive and the amount the tenant will owe.
    10. Receive Rental Payments:The HAP usually has a start date of either the day the home passed inspection or the 1st of the next month. On the start date, which is on the HAP, you'll receive a portion of the rent directly from the PHA, with the tenant paying the remainder. It is your responsibility to collect the tenant portion.
    11. FOLLOWUP, FOLLOWUP, FOLLOWUP with the Housing Authority!

    It's important to work closely with the PHA throughout the process to ensure compliance with all Section 8 program requirements. Continue to maintain your home is good condition and you’ll find the tenant remains in the home for a long, long time.

  • How are Section 8 voucher amounts determined?

    The amount of a voucher provided by the local Housing Authority is determined based on factors such as family size, income, and local rental amounts. Typically, the voucher holders are responsible for about one third of the rental amount. In certain cases, the Housing Authority may also cover the security deposit or offer monthly utility assistance.
  • What if the tenant is not paying their portion?

    If a Section 8 tenant is not paying their portion of the rent, you should take the following steps:

    1. Communicate with the Tenant: Reach out to the tenant to discuss the issue within the first few days their rent is past due. They may have encountered a temporary financial setback and be willing to work out a plan to catch up on payments. Encourage them to work with their case worker. If their financial situation has changed, the Housing Authority will generally work with them and adjust the amounts until the tenant can get back on their feet.
    2. Contact the Public Housing Authority (PHA): Inform the PHA that the tenant is not paying their portion of the rent. The PHA may be able to offer assistance or intervene on your behalf.
    3. Send a Notice to Pay or Quit: If the tenant continues to not pay rent, you may need to send them a formal notice to pay rent or vacate the property. This is a legal document that gives the tenant a specified amount of time to pay rent or move out. We recommend working out a payment plan with the tenant but if the amount is in the thousands, it will probably be impossible for them to catch up.
    4. Eviction Proceedings: If the tenant still does not pay rent or move out after receiving the notice, you may need to start eviction proceedings. Follow the legal process for eviction in your area, which typically involves filing a complaint with the court and attending a hearing.
    5. Work with the PHA on Termination: If eviction becomes necessary, work with the PHA to terminate the Section 8 assistance for the tenant. The PHA may have specific procedures you need to follow in these circumstances.

    It's important to handle non-payment of rent by a Section 8 tenant carefully and in compliance with all applicable laws and regulations.

  • How long does a Housing Voucher participant generally stay in a lease?

    The duration of tenancy for a participant in the Housing Choice Voucher Program (commonly known as Section 8) is not fixed and can vary. Participants typically sign an initial lease for one year. After the initial lease term, the lease may be renewed as long as the landlord and tenant agree and the housing authority determines that the unit still meets program requirements.

    HUD studies have shown that 8.75 years is the average household time in the program. During their tenancy, their family situation may change requiring them to downsize as the family members move out or may increase as the family size grows. These would be reasons a family would move from one home to another. In general, as long as the participant continues to be eligible for the program and follows program rules, they can stay in the housing as long as they wish, provided the landlord continues to participate in the program and the unit meets the program's housing quality standards.
  • What if a market renter wants to rent the home?

    Participating in the Housing Voucher program does not stop you from leasing to a market renter as long as it is still available. Participating in the Housing Voucher program is just an alternative form of payment for rent. You may market and show your home to both Section 8 and market renters and choose which ever renter you deem meets your requirements. At the end of the lease, you may market the home again to both market renters and Section 8.
  • How long is a Housing Voucher lease?

    Most HAPs are a minimum of 12 months. As long as the home is maintained and meets the Housing standards when inspected annually, the lease is renewed. Each year, there is an inspection and as long as the home passes, and both the tenant and landlord want the lease to continue, the Voucher will be renewed for another 12 months.
  • Does HUD screen HV participants?

    The local Housing Authority performs a limited screening of the applicant. There are specific guidelines that applicants must meet. All other tenant screening for tenancy can be performed by the landlord. Landlords can have specific requirements but must be applied the same to all applicants.