In most respects, tenants receiving Section 8 assistance -- a federal subsidy that covers a portion of their private market rent -- play by the same rules as unsubsidized renters. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, through the Code of Federal Regulations, sets regulations that govern the terms under which it distributes and continues to provide a family benefits.
HUD requires prospective Section 8 tenants to undergo two separate screenings -- one by the public housing agency that runs the Section 8 program in their area and another by the landlord they wish to rent from. PHAs check a family's criminal background and rental history and verify household size, employment status and income and asset information. While PHAs provide landlords with contact information for a Section 8 household's current and prior landlord and information regarding criminal activity, it expects landlords to conduct their own usual screening, focused on rental history and a family's ability to pay their share of the rent.
Just as landlords can screen Section 8 applicants as they do unsubsidized renters, they can also charge fees associated with the rental process, including security deposits, as long as they follow applicable laws. Federal regulations allow landlords to withhold all or part of a Section 8 tenant's security deposit upon move-out to cover unpaid rent, property damage or other lease violations.
Cooperation With PHA
Section 8 tenants must cooperate with their PHA when they apply for and subsequently begin receiving assistance. The Code of Federal Regulations states that applicants must provide PHAs with all requested information if they wish to secure benefits. Once tenants, the family must permit PHA inspections of their unit, which generally occur prior to move-in and annually, thereafter. When a family acts to terminate their lease with their landlord, moves out of their unit or receives an eviction notice from their landlord, they must promptly notify their PHA.
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HUD uses household size and composition to determine the amount of the Section 8 benefit as well as the size dwelling a family qualifies for. When household size changes, because of a family break-up or other event, the family must inform their PHA. The PHA then determines, at its discretion, which family members can continue to receive Section 8 assistance. PHAs must permit domestic violence and stalking victims to keep their benefits.
Section 8 landlords must have good cause, according to federal regulations, if they wish to terminate a Section 8 lease. Good cause includes non-payment of rent, another serious lease violation or a violation of the law that impacts the tenancy. A PHA may terminate Section 8 benefits under several circumstances, outlined in the Code of Federal Regulations. Reasons include eviction for a serious breach of the lease terms and the family's refusal to execute a lease with its landlord or a Housing Assistance Payments contract with its PHA.