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Joseph Lyons

Lower-income individuals, the elderly, and disabled persons may apply for the US government’s housing choice voucher program, commonly referred to as Section 8. Under this program, participants can find their own housing which will be subsidized by the federal government. 

This article will discuss: 

  • How does Section 8 work? 
  • How are landlords paid under Section 8? 
  • What are the basic rights and responsibilities of the parties under Section 8? 
  • What happens if a family’s income suddenly rises while receiving Section 8? 
  • What is the HUD Handbook? 
  • When may a landlord evict someone under Section 8? 
  • Can someone on Section 8 be evicted for nonpayment of rent? 
  • What must be in a termination notice? 
  • What is the requirement for a 10-day notice to discuss the termination with a landlord? 


How does Section 8 Work?  

The federal government, though the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), provides funding to local agencies called public housing agencies (PHAs). The PHAs administer the housing choice vouchers within their area.  


How are landlords paid under Section 8? 

Landlords may agree to let an individual or family pay rent through the PHA under Section 8. The housing subsidy is then paid directly to the landlord, by the PHA, on behalf of the participating family. If there is a difference between the actual rent charged, and the amount subsidized by the PHA, the tenant is responsible for paying it. After the landlord and tenant agree to lease terms, the PHA inspects the dwelling to determine the unit is acceptably healthy and safe, and that the rent amount is reasonable. The landlord may later modify the terms of the lease, after approval from the PHA, and proper notice to the tenant. 


What are the basic rights and responsibilities of the parties under Section 8? 

Once the PHA approves the housing unit, the tenant and landlord sign a lease, and the landlord and PHA sign a housing assistance payments contract that runs for the same term as the lease. The obligations of the parties include: 

  • Tenants: the tenant is responsible for complying with the lease and program requirements, paying a security deposit if requested, paying their share of the rent on time, maintaining the unit in good condition, and notifying the PHA of any changes in income or family composition. 
  • Landlords: must provide safe and sanitary housing at a reasonable rent, maintaining the unit to meet certain quality standards as long as the tenant is receiving assistance payments, and providing services agreed to as part of the agreements with the tenant and PHA.  
  • Public Housing Authority: the PHA provides the family with housing assistance and enters into a contract with the landlord to provide housing assistance payments on behalf of the family. The PHA has the right to terminate assistance if the landlord does not meet its obligations under the lease, and must reexamine the family’s income and composition at least annually. It also inspects each unit annually to ensure it meets minimum housing quality standards 


A person seeking to receive a Section 8 housing voucher will apply directly to the PHA. The PHA determines eligibility based on a family’s gross income (in general less than 50% of a county’s median income) and family size. The family must also be US citizens, or eligible non-citizens. The PHA will collect income and family information during the application process to determine eligibility. If eligible, the family will most likely be put on a waiting list, to be contacted later by the PHA. A local PHA may close applications if the volume is too high, giving preference to individuals who are homeless, displaced, or paying more than half of its income on rent. 


The program is designed to let families move without losing assistance. However, the family must notify the PHA ahead of time, terminate its existing lease within the lease provisions, and find acceptable alternate housing. 


If a family’s income rises suddenly after being unemployed, with the person lose their voucher? 


A Section 8 recipient has protections if they receive new income but were previously unemployed (defined as a person who in the prior twelve months did not work more than the equivalent of ten hours per week for fifty weeks at minimum wage). The protection is called a disallowance. This disallowance temporarily excludes the family’s new income. In the twelve-months after the date the qualified family receives an increase in income, the PHA excludes from the family’s annual income any increase over the baseline income (the annual income prior to the disallowance). After this twelve-month period, the PHA excludes fifty percent of the increase in income over the baseline for an additional twelve months. At most, this disallowance lasts for a twenty-four-month period.  


What is the HUD Handbook? 


The Hud Handbook (HUD Occupancy Handbook, Directive 4350.3) restates and expands upon the statutes and regulations which describe HUD’s programs, including Section 8. While it is not law, courts, including Iowa courts, often defer to it is a reference when deciding cases. The HUD Handbook has extensive information about the Section 8 program.  


On what grounds may a landlord evict someone on Section 8? 

Landlords wishing to evict tenants on Section 8 must follow certain procedures. The landlord must comply with the provisions of 24 CFR §247. The landlord may not terminate a tenancy under a subsidized project except for: 

  • Material noncompliance with the rental agreement (see 24 CFR §247.3(c)) 
  • Material failure to carry out obligations under any state landlord and tenant act 
  • Criminal activity by a person related to drugs, or due to alcohol abuse 
  • Other good cause. 

With respect to the last point, “Other good cause,” the tenant cannot be evicted unless the landlord previously gave the tenant notice that the conduct constitutes a basis for the termination of occupancy. This notice must be properly served on the tenant. However, criminal activity is good cause for termination as required, except for specified instances of criminal activity directed at victims of domestic violence.  

Under federal law, “material noncompliance includes” one or more substantial violations of the rental agreement. Material noncompliance also includes repeated minor violations which disrupt the livability of the home, adversely affect the health or safety of any person, including the right of ay tenant to the quit enjoyment of the leased premises, interferes with the management of the project, or has a negative financial effect on the project. Material noncompliance is also a failure to supply on time all required information on income, composition of the family, or other eligibility factors of Section 8, or knowingly providing inaccurate information as required by these provisions.  

However, please note that at least one court has held, under the HUD Handbook, that “if any provision of a model lease conflicts with state or local law, the owner must follow the rule that is of most benefit to the tenant. 


Can Section 8 tenants be evicted for nonpayment of rent? 

If a tenant does not pay rent, a landlord may or may not be able to evict them. It is a material noncompliance if the tenant fails to pay rent beyond the grace period offered by Iowa Law. However, if the tenant fails to pay rent by a due date, put does pay within the grace period, this is only a minor noncompliance. The notice must state the amount of rent due on the rent account and the date of the computation.  

What must be in the landlord’s termination notice? 

The following must be in the landlord’s termination notice, according to 24 CFR § 247.4 

  1. The decision to terminate the tenancy must be in writing; 
  1. State that the tenancy is terminated on a specific date; 
  1. State the reasons for the landlord’s action with enough specificity so as to enable the tenant to prepare a defense; 
  1. Be properly served upon the tenant.  

This notice must be served by sending a letter by first class mail to the tenant, and serving a copy of the notice on any adult person answering the door at the leased dwelling unit, or if no one is available, under the door. When termination is for good cause, the termination date is the end of the term, and in accordance with the rental agreement, but not less than 30 days after the tenant receives the notice. When the termination is based on material noncompliance or failure to carry out obligations under a state landlord and tenant act, the time is the time it would be in accord with the rental agreement and state law.  

A tenant may rely on State or local law governing eviction procedures, which are greater than those under §247.  


What is the HUD Handbook requirement for notice of 10 days to discuss termination of tenancy with the owner? 

When a landlord terminates tenancy, the tenant has 10 days within which to discuss termination of tenancy with the owner. The landlord must give the tenant notice of this right. Tenants with disabilities also must be given notice of the right to request reasonable accommodations to participate in the hearing process. This 10-day notice is not required in cases which involve criminal activity by the tenant.  


Disclaimer: The information provided on this blog is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject matter. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. Each individual's legal needs are unique, and these materials may not be applicable to your legal situation. Always seek the advice of a competent attorney with any questions you may have regarding a legal issue. Do not disregard professional legal advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this blog.

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