There are a number of ways to report Section 8 fraud. Section 8 housing fraud can be committed in two directions, by a landlord or by a tenant, and it's important to know exactly what is happening to determine which department you need to contact, as well as whether you have the necessary information to report suspected fraud.
How to Tell When It's HUD Fraud
On a small-scale level, individual families may have knowingly or unknowingly violated the terms of their Section 8 lease agreement or the terms under which they are receiving the government assistance. On a larger scale, landlords may be falsifying tenant information and housing conditions to receive unwarranted assistance from the government in excess of the appropriate amounts or for unqualified properties.
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Oversight.gov provides a helpful breakdown of which departments deal with which kinds of fraud, to minimize run-around.Tenants and families receiving Section 8 financial assistance vouchers may not be aware they are violating the terms of their lease or voucher eligibility.
However, if they are found to have done so for a prolonged period, intent may not be considered in their evaluation and sentencing. Falsifying a family's Section 8 paperwork can lead to fines and jail time, so letting a Section 8 family know that they need to update their information can be very important.
More on HUD Fraud
The Office of Public and Indian Housing's fact sheet on public housing assistance vouchers explains that a tenant must inform their regional HUD office if their family grows or shrinks, as well as if their income situation changes, either for better or for worse. Subletting rental units, reporting children as residents when they have moved out or house guests residing longer than 25 consecutive days are all examples of events that need to be reported and evaluated.
Meanwhile, landlords must meet specific criteria and apply to a government office for each property to be considered financially assisted housing, as enumerated in the Electronic Code of Federal Regulations. This means that if a landlord has falsified information or bribed an inspection official to gain or retain FHA or HUD funding, it has been done with intent to defraud the federal and local government.
Additionally, landlords bear the majority of the responsibility to maintain Section 8 housing in a sanitary and accessible condition. Landlords must also not discriminate against applicants based on their race, religion, sex or sexuality. The HUD Oversight Investigation Office provides a short list of common fraud schemes by landlords and by renters.
How to Report a Section 8 Fraud Complaint
If you think that you or anyone else has been discriminated against or exploited by a landlord, you can decide how and whether to report it through the Fair Housing Equal Opportunity website. If you call the Section 8 fraud hotline, the complaint process will begin.
The government takes accusations of fraud very seriously, which is why the Office of Inspector General lists the necessary questions you must be able to answer to file a fraud report, in essence, broken down as the who, the what, the when, the where, the how and the why. You must be able to explain who is committing the fraud, including names, addresses and phone numbers. What specific events and what evidence you have will also help solidify your claim, while any dollar values you can assign to the fraud will communicate the seriousness of the potential offense.
When each specific event took place, as close to the day and even hour as possible, will limit the accused's excuses. You should definitely know where each event took place – there are a large number of HUD regional offices, and if you are reporting widespread fraud, your report may be handled by multiple offices.
More on Reporting HUD Fraud
While these are the more straightforward pieces of evidence to gather, you must also be able to explain how the fraud was enacted. Explaining the actual mechanics involved in each instance of fraud will help investigators pin down details and reinforce the system to prevent future occurrences. Finally, beyond these objective facts, you'll also need to explain why the accused has committed fraud, to provide a reasonable motive to investigate.
If you don't feel like you have a strong enough case to file an official report of fraud, there are steps you can take before litigation. Residents who believe that their living conditions are not being properly maintained can call the multifamily housing complaint line at 1-800-685-8470, while property managers suspecting fraud on the part of an assistance recipient can use the Employment Income Verification (or Upfront Income Verification for new applicants) tool as a multi-faceted approach to removing uncertainty around eligibility for assistance.
- Oversight.gov: Department of Housing and Urban Development OIG
- U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development: Housing Choice Vouchers Fact Sheet
- U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Office of Inspector General: Common Fraud Schemes
- U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Office of Inspector General: Report Fraud
- U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development: Get Help Before Filing a Complaint
- U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Archives: Upfront Income Verification (UIV)