HUD is an acronym for The Department of Housing and Urban Development. It is a government agency responsible for national laws, policies, and programs related to housing necessities. HUD is also responsible for enforcing housing regulations, and continuously providing ways to improve living conditions for all Americans.

One of the primary purposes of HUD is to provide affordable housing. This is accomplished through several of its government housing programs. These programs include:

  • Public Housing: HUD is responsible for the creation of the federal law known as the “HOME Investment Partnership Act.” The Act provides block grants intended to fund affordable housing for low income residents. An example of this would be how if a person does not earn over a certain amount of income, they may qualify for public housing as determined by HUD;
  • HUD Apartments: HUD apartments, or low rent housing, is a cooperative between the government and apartment building owners. The government gives money to apartment owners, in exchange for them lowering their rent in order to accommodate more low income residents. The reduced rent apartments will be given to people who do not earn a certain amount of income. This process is similar to what was described above for public housing; and
  • Other Means of Financial Assistance: There are many other financial assistance programs or resources offered under HUD. Some examples include loans, mortgages, grants, and assistance for those experiencing homelessness. HUD also provides fair housing education materials, in order to protect the general public. Finally, some HUD provided financial assistance programs are offered directly through a local housing agency within a person’s community. This makes these specific programs relatively more accessible to those who may need them.

One of the most popular low income programs offered by HUD is Section 8 housing. Section 8 is a federal housing voucher system. The government supplies qualifying residents with a voucher, which is used to pay for a large portion of their rent. The remaining rent is then covered by HUD. In short, the government sends money to a local housing agency, who will then use it to pay the landlord.

People who qualify for Section 8 vouchers are generally low income families who need the vouchers to supplement their income for housing. Section 8 recipients pay, on average, 30% of their portion of the rent. 

Section 8 real estate laws set the qualification standards of the residents, but also the building inspection criteria. There are specific living conditions that must be met for the health, safety, and dignity of the residents. Discussions of the pros and cons of Section 8 housing are generally targeted towards landlords, and are based on harmful stereotypes and stigma towards Section 8 residents.

Landlords should consider renting as Section 8 housing because of how it provides housing to those who are in need. Additionally, Section 8 residents are partially pre-screened in that they have gone through the assistance application process and have met certain qualifications. Landlords may want to consider the fact that there will be a delay in the first month’s rent when renting to Section 8 residents. This is because the government will not pay out to the landlord until the residents have moved in.

Why Do Some Landlords Not Accept Section 8 Vouchers?

As previously mentioned, many landlords will choose not to accept Section 8 vouchers for various reasons. The prejudices and social stigma that accompany low income residents also influence landlords from accepting Section 8 assistance. Whether it is legal for landlords to turn these residents away varies based on state and local fair housing laws.

At the federal level, the Fair Housing Act (“FHA”) is Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, and was passed to prohibit housing discrimination. The objective of the FHA is to eliminate discriminatory practices, whether renting or buying, based on a person’s belonging to a protected class. When it was first passed, its main objective was to prohibit race discrimination in the sales and rental of housing.

Under the FHA, landlords are allowed to decline residents based solely on them qualifying as Section 8 recipients. However, there are many states and municipalities that ban this type of discrimination. Many landlords claim to fear that Section 8 tenants may be “too poor” to pay their share of the rent, or that they cannot be trusted to be as clean and orderly as any other resident.

Another reason why some landlords do not accept Section 8 vouchers is that, while the rent portion coming from the government is virtually guaranteed, the buildings that Section 8 recipients live in must be approved by the local housing authority. What this means is that the landlords will need to adhere to yearly building inspections that they would not need to prepare for otherwise. 

What Are My Rights? What Options Do I Have?

Residents who live in HUD assisted housing are entitled to many of the same rights as private renters. The following is a list of some of the HUD housing programs residents’ rights:

  • The Right to Live in Safe and Sanitary Housing: This is also referred to as “implied warranty of habitability”. This warranty is guaranteed by law and can be found in all residential leases; meaning, houses, apartments, and the like. Implied warranty of habitability states that the premises must be in fit and livable conditions for human habitation, and that it will remain in that condition throughout the duration of the lease;
  • Right to Minor Repairs: What constitutes a minor repair that would be covered by this right will vary at state level, as well as the terms of each specific lease. Generally speaking, a landlord is liable for minor repairs. The resident also has a right to have that repair made in a timely fashion;
  • Reasonable and Written Notice of Non-Emergency Access to the Residence: All residents, whether private or HUD, have a right to reasonable and written notice if the landlord intends to access the unit for any non-emergency purpose. A landlord must provide notice to the resident at least 24 hours prior to entering the premises, except in emergencies; and
  • Various Other Rights: HUD residents also retain the right to organize and participate in protected resident activities, without fear of retaliation from management or their landlord. An example of this would be how a HUD resident may lawfully post materials in any common areas, with the purpose of informing other residents of their housing rights.

Additionally, Section 8 residents have the right to live with others. However, all residents of a single unit must go through the application and approval process. Section 8 vouchers must be applied towards the entire housing unit, not one singular room of a unit. There are a set of very specific circumstances that must be met. 

Section 8 housing discrimination is referred to as income source discrimination. If you have been discriminated against because you receive Section 8 vouchers, or any of the above mentioned rights have been violated, you should seek out an attorney to pursue legal action. As this is a low income and discrimination issue, there are attorneys who would take on such cases pro bono, or at a discounted rate.

What Will Disqualify You From Section 8? Can You Get Section 8 with a Felony?

If you are denied Section 8 assistance, you should carefully review the denial letter in order to determine why. Why a person may be denied would vary from state to state. In general, federal housing is obligated to deny you if:

  • A member of your household is currently engaged in the use of an illegal drug;
  • The Housing Authority claims reasonable belief that a household member’s drug use threatens the health, safety, or right to peaceful enjoyment of the premises by other housed residents;
  • A member of your household is a lifetime registrant, such as a registered sex offender;
  • A household member has been convicted of manufacturing or producing meth; and
  • Any member of your household has been evicted from federally assisting, for drug related criminal activity, within the past three years.

Again, these disqualifications will vary at the state level.

Section 8 may be available for those with criminal records, especially felony records, in some specific cases. The nature of the felony crime will be heavily considered.

Do I Need a Lawyer for My Section 8 Problem?

If you are facing issues or discrimination associated with receiving Section 8 assistance, you should absolutely consult with a real estate attorney. They can represent you as needed to ensure your rights and dignity are protected. An experienced and local criminal law attorney would be best suited to understanding how those rights may vary according to your state’s specific laws.

If you are a landlord being accused of Section 8 discrimination, or have failed your housing authority inspection, you should consult with a real estate lawyers immediately. The attorney can help determine if any defenses are available to you, as well as how best to proceed should you be facing a lawsuit.