Section 8 Housing Landlord Requirements You Should Know

As a housing provider or property manager, one significant decision to make is whether to accept Section 8 Housing vouchers, also known as Housing Choice Vouchers. This choice sparks debates with compelling arguments on both sides of the coin, weighing the pros and cons of participating in the program. 

While advocates highlight the benefits of expanding affordable housing access, critics raise concerns about the potential challenges and implications of accepting vouchers.

In this article, we’ll cover the Section 8 Housing landlord requirements and explore its advantages and disadvantages for landlords. We’ll also address specific considerations related to the screening process and source of income discrimination.

Understanding section 8

Section 8, officially known as the Housing Choice Voucher Program, is a federal assistance program administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).It aims to help very low-income families, the elderly, and the disabled afford decent, safe, and sanitary housing in the private market. Through the program, participants receive a housing voucher that allows them to find their own housing, including single-family homes, townhouses, and apartments, as long as the property meets program requirements.

Landlords who participate in the Section 8 program receive a subsidy directly from the government that covers a portion of the rent, while the tenants pay the remainder, typically around 30% of their adjusted monthly income. Participation in the program requires landlords to meet specific regulations and standards, including passing a health and safety inspection.

Housing Choice Voucher Program

Becoming a Section 8 landlord

The process to provide Section 8 housing can vary slightly based on local Public Housing Agencies (PHAs), but it generally includes the following steps:

1. Connect with the local PHA: Check out the rules and regulations from the local PHA to understand the rules, responsibilities, and benefits of participation.

2. Property standards: Before you can rent to a Section 8 tenant, your property must pass a health and safety inspection. HUD sets these standards to make sure the property is safe, sanitary, and suitable for living.

3. Apply to become a Section 8 landlord: Contact the PHA to begin the application process. This may involve attending an orientation session, submitting a property listing, and providing details about the property.

4. Property inspection: Once you’ve found a potential Section 8 tenant, your property will need to pass a Housing Quality Standards (HQS) inspection conducted by the PHA. If the property doesn’t meet specific criteria, the agency will give you time to make repairs or adjustments.

5. Set rent amounts: Your rent needs to be reasonable when compared to similar, unassisted units in the area. The PHA will conduct a rent reasonableness assessment to determine fair market rent.

6. Lease and tenancy approval: After passing the inspection and agreeing on rent, you’ll sign a lease with the tenant. You also sign a housing assistance payments contract with the PHA, which outlines your subsidy payments.

7. Receive payments: Once everything is approved and contracts are in place, you’ll receive monthly payments from the PHA covering a portion of the rent, with the tenant paying the remainder directly to you.

8. Maintain the property: To continue participating in the program, the property has to always meet HQS guidelines. The PHA conducts regular inspections to confirm compliance.

Section 8 inspections

The local housing authority conducts a few types of inspections for the housing assistance program. Here’s what happens during these inspections:

Pre-occupancy inspection

Before a Section 8 tenant can move into a property, the property must pass an initial HQS inspection conducted by the PHA. The inspector checks for compliance with HUD’s housing quality standards, which include:

  • Safety: Units must be free from hazards such as lead-based paint, unsafe wiring, and other conditions that could pose a risk to the tenant’s health or safety.

  • Sanitation: Property owners need to have adequate facilities for the disposal of sewage and trash and be free from pests and rodent infestation.

  • Structural integrity: The property must be structurally sound, with no serious defects such as leaking roofs or foundations.

  • Functionality: Essential services and facilities such as heating, plumbing, electrical systems, and landlord-provided appliances must be in good working order.

  • Adequate space and condition: The property must have adequate living space for the family size and must be in a decent, livable condition.

Annual inspections

Your local PHA also conducts annual inspections of Section 8 housing. Landlords are notified in advance and must correct any deficiencies within a specified timeframe. Failure to address these issues can result in the suspension of housing assistance payments.

Complaint inspections

If a tenant or someone else reports a problem with the property that could violate HQS standards, the PHA may conduct a complaint inspection. This obligation includes fixing any damages to the property, regardless of whether they were caused by the tenant or resulted from other issues.

Consequences of failing an inspection

If a property fails an inspection, the agency gives the landlord a deadline to make the repairs. If the landlord does not correct the issues within the given timeframe, the PHA may withhold or terminate the rental subsidy payments and terminate the lease.

Who is eligible for Section 8?

Income level primarily determines eligibility for the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program, but other criteria may also apply. Key eligibility requirements typically include:

  • Income level: Applicants must have incomes that do not exceed 50% of the median income for the county or metropolitan area where they live. Most vouchers go to those who do not exceed 30% of the median income.

  • Family status: Family status, which includes families of one or more people living together, also determines eligibility. The program gives special consideration to elderly, disabled individuals, or displaced families.

  • Citizenship status: Applicants must be U.S. citizens or have eligible immigration status.

  • Eviction history: Renters evicted from housing due to drug-related criminal activity may face a period of ineligibility.

  • Other factors: Local PHAs may have additional criteria like background checks or references from previous landlords.

Section 8 application process for tenancy approval

  • Application submission: Interested parties apply through their local PHA. Given the high demand, some PHAs may have waiting lists or may only open applications during specific periods.

  • Documentation and verification: Applicants need to provide documentation verifying income, family composition, and citizenship status. The PHA verifies this information to determine eligibility.

  • Waiting list: Due to the limited number of vouchers available, the program may place eligible applicants on a waiting list. Priority may be given based on criteria such as income level, family size, and urgency of housing need.

  • Voucher issuance: Once selected from the waiting list, applicants receive a housing voucher, which they can use to find housing that meets the program’s standards and requirements.

Pros and cons of the Housing Choice Voucher program

There are both pros and cons to becoming a Section 8 landlord for your rental units. Areas you should evaluate include:

Pros for private landlords

  • Consistent rent payments: The government portion of the rent is usually reliable, providing a steady income stream.

  • Expanded tenant base: Access to a larger pool of potential tenants can help reduce vacancy rates.

  • Property maintenance: Housing authority-required inspections can help in maintaining and improving the property’s condition.

  • Rent security: Rents are based on market rates, offering some level of stability and predictability.

Cons for private landlords

  • Complex process: The application and approval process can be lengthy and involve significant paperwork and the need to follow specific regulations.

  • Strict inspection standards: Meeting and maintaining the required property standards can involve additional costs.

  • Regulated rent increases: If a Section 8 landlord wants to increase rent, they’ll need approval from the local public housing authority, which could affect profitability.

  • Tenant selection limitations: There are restrictions on tenant screening processes, which could impact landlord control over tenant selection.

Affordable housing tenant protections

The Section 8 program has enhanced tenant protections to provide additional security and stability to low-income tenants. These protections influence how landlords manage their properties and interact with tenants, especially regarding lease termination and eviction processes. Here’s a closer look at what this involves:

Specific eviction rules

  • Grounds for eviction: Section 8 landlords must have a valid reason for eviction, such as serious violation of the lease, violation of federal or state law, or other good cause. This is different than in non-subsidized rental agreements where “no cause” evictions might be allowed under certain conditions.

  • Notice requirements: Landlords must provide tenants with adequate notice before eviction, often with specific requirements about the notice period and the reasons for eviction. Landlords must also send these notices to the local housing authorities, a step not required in the regular rental market.

  • Legal Process: Evictions must go through a formal legal process, where landlords need to prove the grounds for eviction in court. While this is also true for non-Section 8 rentals, the scrutiny and the requirement to inform the local housing authority adds an extra layer of complexity for Section 8 landlords.

Lease termination

  • Lease renewal: For Section 8 tenants, landlords should renew leases unless there is a valid reason not to. This contrasts with market-rate rentals, where landlords might choose not to renew a lease for a variety of reasons, like renovating the property, increasing the rent, or changing the use of the property.

  • Tenant protections against discrimination: The program protects Section 8 tenants against discrimination based on their participation in the voucher program. This means landlords cannot refuse to renew a lease simply because a tenant is using a housing voucher, a protection that extends beyond typical anti-discrimination laws affecting all rental housing.

Managing Section 8 properties

There are a few specific differences in handling security deposits, lease agreements, and maintenance requests for Section 8 compared to managing traditional rental units:

Security deposit

The amount and conditions for security deposits in Section 8 housing are generally similar to those in the private market. However, the local PHA may have limits on the maximum amount a landlord can charge.

As with any renter, landlords must comply with state and local regulations regarding security deposits.

Lease agreement

Section 8 lease agreements must include specific clauses required by HUD, such as the tenancy addendum, which outlines the program’s rules and the obligations of both the landlord and tenant. Additionally, the appropriate housing authority must execute the lease and all necessary addendums for it to be valid and enforceable.

This verifies that both parties understand and agree to their responsibilities under the terms of the Section 8 program.

Maintenance requests

Landlords are required to address maintenance requests in a timely manner to ensure the property continues to meet HUD’s quality standards. Failing to do so can lead to the withholding of housing subsidy payments until the landlord resolves the issues.


Day on market

Because the program involves inspections and requires signatures from a third party, the property might have to be taken off the market for longer than usual compared to traditional leases. To minimize this downtime, housing providers should take legal measures to reduce the period the property is “off market” as much as possible.

Which states prohibit income-based discrimination?

States with statewide policies banning source of income discrimination:

  • California

  • Colorado

  • Connecticut

  • Delaware

  • Hawaii

  • Illinois

  • Iowa

  • Maine

  • Maryland

  • Massachusetts

  • Minnesota *

  • New Jersey

  • New York

  • North Dakota

  • Oklahoma*

  • Oregon

  • Rhode Island

  • Utah

  • Vermont

  • Virginia

  • Washington

  • Wisconsin*

(*Excludes Section 8 housing)

In Arizona, Indiana, and Texas, state laws prevent the enactment of source of income discrimination statutes. Despite this, local regulations can vary. For instance, Phoenix, Arizona, introduced a city ordinance in March 2023 that prohibits discrimination based on income source.

Wrapping up on Section 8 property management

Ultimately, you should carefully evaluate the decision to become a Section 8 landlord as a business choice based on your individual circumstances and goals. While the program can provide a steady stream of income and help fill vacancies, it also comes with additional regulations and potential challenges.

Be sure to research the requirements and implications of participating in the Section 8 program, as well as assess its compatibility with your current rental operations. By understanding the pros and cons and setting realistic expectations, landlords can decide if offering Section 8 housing is a suitable strategy for their rental business.

As you consider the benefits and challenges of becoming a Section 8 landlord, remember that managing the application process and verifying compliance with state and federal laws can be involved. RentZap’s fully managed application underwriting service assists property managers in this exact scenario. By guaranteeing that your screening process is compliant and managed efficiently, we help you make the most of the opportunities Section 8 housing offers.

Rentzap managed application screening

FAQ on Section 8 housing landlord requirements

What is the most rent section 8 will pay?

The maximum rent Section 8 will pay is based on the local housing authority’s payment standard, usually between 90% and 110% of the Fair Market Rent set by HUD for the area.

Can a landlord refuse action 8 in NY?

No, landlords in New York cannot refuse to accept Section 8 vouchers; it’s against state law to discriminate based on source of income.

How does Section 8 work in Texas for landlords?

In Texas, landlords voluntarily participate in Section 8. They must comply with HUD’s standards, including property inspections and rent reasonableness, to receive direct subsidy payments for eligible tenants.

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