Here are some things you should know before you start looking at properties.
Once you have a Housing Choice Voucher, can you do whatever you want with it? Unfortunately, no, as your Public Housing Agency (PHA) has specific guidelines you must abide by when finding a home.
Since the PHA and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) are providing some of the monthly rent, they have the final say in what’s acceptable housing. This can restrict your housing search a bit, which is why it’s best to know what’s expected before you begin.
Although you will have some work ahead of you, know that the hardest part of the Section 8 application process – sitting on the long waiting list – is now over.
Is there a monthly rent restriction when picking a Section 8 home?
Yes, and it is known as the Payment Standard. The PHA uses this to determine what reasonable rent is for your location. You will have to use the Payment Standard as a guide if you don’t want to be stuck paying a ton of rent out of pocket.
If the rent is too high, any excess beyond the housing voucher value will have to be covered by you. Choosing a property with high rent could land you in financial trouble if you cannot cover your end.
Contact your PHA to see what the Payment Standard is where you live. It’s essential to know this amount before you begin your search, as you can use it as a guide to narrow down properties that interest you.
Can you pick any Section 8 home you desire?
While the Payment Standard limits how much rent will be paid by the voucher, the Housing Quality Standards (HQS) also restrict your choices. These standards are used to ensure that the home you pick is safe and efficient.
For example, if a home you like is missing smoke detectors, has issues with water availability, or lacks proper indoor air quality, it may not pass the HQS test. In short, you won’t be able to use your voucher towards the rent there.
To determine HQS eligibility, the home will have to be inspected. If it passes, you can then move one step closer to moving into your Section 8 rental.
Must every landlord accept Section 8 vouchers?
No, unless they are located in certain parts of the country. For example, these states have anti-discrimination laws that protect Section 8 users:
- Washington D.C.
- North Dakota
- New York
- New Jersey
There are also some cities and counties that offer similar protection. To find out where your voucher must be accepted, contact your PHA.
How can you find Section 8 housing?
There are plenty of sites that will let you look for Section 8 rentals online. You can also ask your PHA for a contact list of landlords that are housing voucher-friendly.