We often get asked this question by our clients ” What is section 8?” We have found that there are many misconceptions about the program and what it entails. This article will cover all the basics and clear up frequently asked questions that we get asked!
What is the Section 8 program?
Section 8 of the Housing Act of 1937 (42 U.S.C. § 1437f), often called Section 8, as repeatedly amended, authorizes the payment of rental housing assistance to private landlords on behalf of low-income households in the United States. In Maryland, section 8 tenants pay up to 30% of their monthly household income toward the rent payments. In other words, if you have a section 8 resident whose household income is $1,000 a month, your Section 8 tenants will pay up to $300.00 of the rent, and HUD, also known as the Housing Choice Voucher Program, will cover the other 70%. In some instances, HUD will pay 100% of the rent.
Working with the Section 8 program.
You do not need to register with the local public housing office as the program is tenant-based. What that means for you is that tenants with a voucher will find your listing and may contact you. If the prospective resident is interested in renting the property, you should perform your background check as you would for any other prospect and follow your application screening guidelines. Assuming they pass, you will need to fill out an R.T.A (Request for Tenancy Approval). On this form you will fill out the specifics of your property including, how many bedrooms, bathrooms, rent amount, etc. You can find a copy of the form here. After the RTA is submitted to the local housing office, you will be contacted by a caseworker who will schedule an inspection of the property.
The Inspection process
Your property will need to pass an H.S.Q (Housing Standards Quality) inspection to determine whether it meets Section 8 housing requirements. The inspection checklist can be found here. You will be allowed one failed inspection and some time to fix the items on the fail list. If the property fails the second inspection your prospective resident will be issued a new RTA and begin the housing search again. Don’t be surprised if you fail the first time as it is a fairly common thing for the inspector to find an issue.
Pro-Tip: its best to have a lockbox on the property and provide the code to the inspector.
Pro-tip 2: Make sure that all work in the house is completed before the inspection day. The inspector will fail the property if they arrive and see work ongoing.
After the inspection
The caseworker will call you and help coordinate the move-in and the signing of the H.A.P contract. They may also ask for you to approve a rent reduction in certain cases. You can deny this request; however, you will need to start the search for a tenant all over again.
Am I legally required to rent to section 8?
Depending on where your property is located, yes, you may be required to accept Section 8 vouchers. For example, in Baltimore City and Howard County, it is illegal to not rent to some because they have a voucher. This is a form of housing discrimination(income discrimination). You also cannot say in any rental ad in the state of Maryland ” No Section 8″ However, You can reject your Section 8 applicants based on the same criteria you use for other applicants. Remember, all applications should be screened using the same criteria! Even though you cannot say “No Section 8” in the rental ad or property listing description, you can specify why you can’t accept Section 8 tenants, such as:
- You are not authorized to rent to Section 8 tenants as you have failed a previous inspection.
- Your property didn’t meet the Section 8 requirements and failed to pass an annual inspection.
- You are only offering a short term lease ( 6 months or less), and Section 8 requires a minimum of 12 months.
- You occupy a room or a unit in the dwelling you are renting out, which makes you ineligible to rent to a section 8 tenant.
Getting familiar with Maryland Fair Housing Law as well as Federal Fair Housing Law to make sure none of your actions and the words you use are discriminating in nature. As a Top Baltimore property management company, we consider it one of our duties to stay up to date on state and federal laws and regulations pertaining to landlord/tenant relationships.
Contact HomeWorks Property Management if we can help you with your Maryland rental property questions