Topic:
LANDLORD-TENANT RELATIONS; HOUSING (GENERAL);
Location:
HOUSING; LANDLORD - TENANT RELATIONSHIP;
Scope:
Connecticut laws/regulations;

OLR Research Report


March 8, 2002

 

2002-R-0295

LANDLORD PARTICIPATION IN THE SECTION 8 RENTAL ASSISTANCE PROGRAM

 

By: Sandra Norman-Eady, Chief Attorney

You asked if landlords have to participate in the Section 8 rental assistance program.

SUMMARY

Landlords are not required to rent to anyone, including recipients of Section 8, a federal rental assistance program. But most landlords cannot discriminate against (includes refusing to rent to) a prospective tenant because he is a Section 8 recipient or derives his income from any other lawful source. Thus, a landlord who screens prospective tenants and lawfully determines that someone who happens to be a Section 8 recipient would not be an appropriate tenant for his building can reject him and rent to someone else. But he could not refuse to rent to the prospective tenant solely because he receives Section 8.

If a landlord elects to accept a Section 8 recipient as a tenant, he must enter a contract with the local Section 8 program administrator (usually a public housing authority), and comply with federal program regulations on such matters as lease terms and changes to them, rent increases, and eviction.

LANDLORDS DUTY TO SECTION 8 RECIPIENTS

Landlords have discretion in selecting tenants to live in their dwelling units. Most landlords want tenants who will pay the rent on time, respect the property, and abide by other lease terms.

When exercising their discretion, the law specifically prohibits landlords of buildings with two or more dwelling units from discriminating against tenants or prospective tenants based on lawful source of income (CGS 46a-64c). The law does not apply to landlords of two-unit buildings if the landlord lives in one of the units. Discriminatory practices include refusing to rent after making an offer, negotiate for rent, or otherwise make unavailable or deny a dwelling unit based on the prospective tenant's lawful source of income (CGS 46a-64c(a)). Since Section 8 is a legal rental assistance program, landlords cannot discriminate against people who rightfully possess Section 8 vouchers. It appears that a landlord could, however, refuse to rent to someone on the basis that he unlawfully possesses such a voucher or certificate (e.g., someone presents an voucher in a another name).

If a landlord elects to rent to a Section 8 recipient, he must comply with federal program regulations and rules (24 CFR 892).

SECTION 8 RENTAL ASSISTANCE PROGRAM

The Section 8 program subsidizes rent for low- and moderate-income people in privately owned apartments. It is funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and administered locally by public housing authorities. These authorities certify eligibility and insure that Section 8 recipients lease safe and decent apartments.

Eligibility

To be eligible for Section 8, applicants must have an income below either the very-low income limit (50% of the area median) or the low-income limit (30% of the area median). HUD annually publishes income limits by family size for each county and area. The 2002 median income for Hartford County is $58,400. Table 1 shows the very-low and low- income levels for up to a family of four in Hartford County.

Table 1: Hartford County's Section 8 Income Limits

Income Level

Individual

Two-person family

Three-person family

Four-person family

Very Low

24,200

27,700

31,150

34,600

Low

38,100

43,500

48,950

54,400

Source: HUD

Other factors for determining eligibility include age (must be at least 18 years of age or emancipated), previous participation in federally subsidized housing, and criminal history.

Once the housing authority determines eligibility, it issues a housing choice voucher to individuals and families who meet the requirements. This voucher enables the family to select a unit of their choice, provided the landlord agrees to have the family as tenants, the unit meets minimum housing quality standards, and the contract rent for the unit is reasonable compared to other similar, unassisted units in the area. (The housing authority inspects the potential dwelling unit after the landlord and the tenant sign a Request for Lease Approval.)

Assuming everything is satisfactory, the landlord signs a Housing Assistance Payment contract with the local housing authority and the tenants move in.

Leases

Under Section 8, the initial lease must run for at least one year. Renewals can be for shorter periods of time. The landlord and the tenant must agree to any changes to the lease terms, which must be in writing. The landlord must send the housing authority a copy of the changes. The housing authority must approve certain changes before they take effect. These include a change in responsibility for utilities, the duration of the lease, and a switch in dwelling units.

Rent

Typically, a Section 8 recipient pays 30% of his monthly-adjusted income towards the rent and the public housing authority pays the balance up to a maximum. The maximum the authority will pay is the lesser of the Payment Standard (an amount determined by the housing authority, generally representing 80% to 100% of the fair market rent) and the actual rent plus utilities. If a tenant selects a dwelling unit where the rent plus utilities exceed the Payment Standard, the tenant

must pay the difference in addition to 30% of adjusted gross income. The housing authority pays its portion of the rent directly to the landlord.

The housing authority must certify Section 8 recipients' eligibility and inspect the dwelling unit each year in order to continue making rent contributions.

The landlord must send notices of rent increases to the authority 60 days before they take effect. The authority reviews increases for reasonableness.

Eviction

As in unsubsidized tenancies, a landlord with a Section 8 tenant must have grounds for eviction. He may evict a Section 8 recipient for: (1) serious or repeated lease violations, (2) violating federal or state law or local ordinances regarding tenant obligations, and (3) other good cause. The housing authority's failure to pay rent is not a good cause reason to evict. Evidence of certain criminal activity (e.g., drug possession) is a good cause reason to evict.

The eviction process is the same as it is in non-assisted tenancies, beginning with a notice to quit and ending with execution of a judgment for eviction.

SN-E:ro