Affordable Housing / Section 8

The 5 Main Responsibilities of a Section 8 Landlord

July 5, 2023

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The Key Responsibilities Of A Section 8 Landlord

A Section 8 landlord is any landlord who accepts families with housing vouchers from the Section 8 program. As a Section 8 landlord, you have several responsibilities that differ slightly from your typical property management duties. In this article, we discuss the five main responsibilities of a Section 8 landlord.  

#1 Ensure the Property Meets HUD Housing Quality Standards 

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development enforces strict guidelines for Section 8 properties. This is because they want to ensure that rentals are safe, decent, and sanitary living spaces for their program participants.  

Thus, the HUD enforces Housing Quality Standards (HQS) for all Section 8 units. As a landlord participating in the program, one of your biggest responsibilities is following and maintaining the Section 8 housing landlord requirements for quality of living. According to current HQS regulations, there are 13 key areas of housing quality, performance requirements, and acceptability criteria that each Section 8 rental must meet: 

  1. Sanitary facilities 
  1. Food preparation and refuse disposal 
  1. Space and security 
  1. Thermal environment 
  1. Illumination and electricity 
  1. Structure and materials 
  1. Interior air quality 
  1. Water supply 
  1. Lead-based paint 
  1. Access 
  1. Site and neighborhood 
  1. Sanitary condition 
  1. Smoke detectors 

Be sure to read through the HUD’s documentation for housing quality standards for more information about the requirements for each of the above 13 areas. 

#2 Submit RFTA forms and HAP contracts  

As a Section 8 landlord, you are also responsible for submitting the appropriate paperwork for voucher families. 

There are two primary Section 8 landlord forms you should know when initially accepting a Section 8 tenant: 

Request for Tenancy Approval (RFTA) Form 

The RFTA form is the initial document you’ll need to supply to the HUD in order to accept a Section 8 tenant into your property and start collecting voucher payments. It essentially lets the HUD know which housing unit the Section 8 tenant intends to apply their voucher at. 

Some details you’ll need to complete this form on behalf of a Section 8 tenant: 

  • The name of the local Public Housing Agency (PHA) 
  • Address of the unit 
  • Requested lease start date 
  • The number of bedrooms and year the unit was constructed 
  • Your proposed rent and security deposit amount 
  • The date the unit is available for inspection 
  • Which utilities and/or appliances are included 
  • The names, contact information, and signatures of the landlord/owner and the head of the Section 8 household 

Housing Assistance Payments (HAP) Contract 

A HAP contract is an agreement between a Section 8 landlord and the local PHA. It finalizes the rent rate and establishes each party’s responsibilities (i.e., the landlord agrees to keep the property in habitable condition compliant with the HUD’s housing quality standards, and the PHA agrees to send the landlord the 70% voucher amount every month). 

HAP contracts have three parts: 

  • Part A: Contract information 
  • Part B: Body of contract 
  • Part C: Tenancy addendum 

Part A includes the basic information about the tenant and rental unit, including the names of the residents, the address of the unit, the initial lease term, the monthly rent amount for the tenant, the housing assistance payment from the PHA, and information about utilities and appliances. Part B is a pre-written agreement describing the purpose, term, and rules of the contract (e.g., the landlord’s responsibility to maintain the unit to HQSs and maintain reasonable rent). Finally, Part C describes the tenant family’s lease of the property, the grounds for termination, and other procedures for the tenancy.  

#3 Cooperate with Annual PHA Inspections  

As you know, a Section 8 landlord is responsible for maintaining housing quality standards for the Section 8 unit. However, the HUD doesn’t just take your word for it that you’re maintaining the property—they also conduct yearly inspection of all properties being used in the Section 8 program. 

Each year that a Section 8 tenant lives in your rental, a PHA official will visit the property to inspect it. They’ll usually request that you attend, so that you’re aware of anything that needs to be repaired or fixed. The PHA official will use this HUD inspection form and checklist to ensure that your property meets all housing quality standards and requirements set by the HUD. 

#4 Screen Tenants Thoroughly but Fairly 

Tenant screening is always one of a landlord’s primary responsibilities. When it comes to Section 8 tenants, screening is just as, if not more important. You are ultimately responsible for deciding who lives in your properties, and as the owner, you retain the right to deny a tenant who does not meet your criteria—including those in the Section 8 program. 

Section 8 tenants won’t have the income you would typically require of a tenant to rent your properties—so you should consider their monthly income in combination with the 70% portion that the HUD voucher will cover. However, you should still run credit, criminal, and eviction checks on Section 8 tenants to find out whether they make reliable payments, have a criminal record, or have ever been evicted by a prior landlord. Each of these factors indicate whether or not the tenant will be a good fit for your property.  

Just remember that in some states, it is illegal to discriminate against applicants solely based on ‘source of income’, including housing vouchers. This means that if a Section 8 family meets all your typical criteria in a state with this protection, you cannot legally deny them housing. And in all states, you must screen all applicants to your property the same – apply the exact same steps, checks, and criteria to all applicants, regardless of Section 8 status, or risk a fair housing complaint. Check your state laws to make sure you are compliant with all fair housing laws. 

#5 Prioritize Regular and Preventative Maintenance 

Due to the frequency of PHA inspections, regular and preventative maintenance is a Section 8 landlord’s best protection against unexpected repairs. It’s not a good idea to neglect inspecting any property, and it’s especially important to maintain inspections and maintenance for Section 8 units. To prepare for PHA inspections, be sure you’re aware of how your tenants are treating the property and what you can do to prevent costly surprises. 

Conclusion 

Becoming a Section 8 landlord is a positive for the community and voucher family, and it can also help you achieve guaranteed rent payments from the housing vouchers. However, understanding how to navigate this program means knowing your responsibilities and obligations to both the tenant family and the PHA. 

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