Applying For Section 8 Assistance
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The process starts when you contact your local PHA and let them know you’re interested in applying for a housing voucher program. To find your local PHA click here. You will want to ask them if the form is available to be filled out online, if not, they will send it to you in the mail or you can pick it up directly from your local office.
If you have any questions in regards to the application, don’t hesitate to contact your PHA. If English is not your primary language getting assistance is even more important. You are welcome to complete the application in the PHA office where they can assist you with any questions. You can even make an appointment to meet with a representative that can help translate or just plain help you complete the application. We strongly recommend taking advantage of this service as we have seen many applications held up due to errors in the form fill out process.
It’s Time To Play the Section 8 Waiting List Game
Once the application has been filed, your local PHA will begin to collect information on the makeup of your family, income and assets. This information will be cross-checked with banks, your employer and local government agencies. During this process, it’s important to understand the typical time frames for response to avoid disappointment.
You must be prepared for a long wait. In some cases, depending on your location, there could be 100,000 applicants for a limited number of spots. In these high density areas, it can take 3 to 8 years to be enrolled in Section 8 while on the waiting list.
If you are in an emergency situation, make sure and inform your local PHA. They will, at times, prioritize and give preference to families that are homeless or living in substandard housing. If you pay more than 70% of your family’s total income to rent or have been displaced through no fault of your own you could also receive waiting list prioritization. It’s important to speak to your local PHA if you are in one of this specific conditions and see how that might affect your place on the waiting list.
From time to time, PHAs do close the waiting list and do not accept new applications. This, however, does not prohibit you from looking for Section 8 housing in another county or even another state that is accepting applications. Do some research and look for new areas you might want to live. A great place to start is the Best Section 8 Homes and Rentals Guide.
Most importantly, don’t lose hope. In most cases, you will not receive this benefit overnight. It takes patience and diligence and staying on top of your local PHA in the hope of acquiring more insight and information.
I Got My Voucher… Now What?
First off, congratulations, you now have the benefit assistance to help you and your family live a healthy and productive lifestyle. There are, however, a number of requirements that you must follow in order to keep your Section 8 assistance. These requirements deserve the same amount of attention and upkeep you exhibited during the application process. Don’t risk losing the benefit assistance you worked so hard to acquire.
Safety Requirements – You must insure you have the proper thermal controls, sanitation systems, running water, no structural or hazardous damage in the dwelling amongst other criteria.
Lease Agreement – If you and your family are renting a living space, you will be required to sign a one year lease. The property owner is obligated to provide “safe housing” and a “reasonable rent”. If, for whatever reasons, the property owner doesn’t fulfill this obligation you are advised to make a formal complaint with your local PHA.
Important Note – Landlords and banks will review your credit score. Ignorance is not an option. Do the smart thing and check your credit score now!
Apartment and Home Maintenance – You must make all rental payments on time, keep the dwelling in acceptable conditions and comply with all terms within your lease contract. Failure to make timely payments or non-payment could very well end up with your Section 8 assistance being revoked. You would then have to reapply and sit in the same waiting category you did the first time around.
Be Aware of Housing Discrimination
By law, a landlord CAN and WILL refuse occupancy due to failure to pass background and credit checks but CANNOT refuse you and your family occupancy purely based on your Section 8 voucher enrollment. Similarly, a landlord cannot charge you more than a non-section 8 tenant. If you’ve checked your credit score and checked your background and still feel the landlord refused you occupancy based only on the fact of your Section 8 enrollment, immediately contact your local PHA.
Don’t Commit Any Fraudulent Acts
Fraud is one of the main reasons for termination of Section 8 benefit assistance. It can result in having to repay the funds you’ve received, probation and even a prison sentence. The bottom line is, if you’re fortunate enough to receive asssitance, don’t risk losing it by trying to take advantage of the system. You will more often than not get caught. Make sure you are well aware of what constitutes fraud:
❌ Knowingly omitting or under-reporting income or assets from household income.
❌ Transferring assets or income to achieve eligibility.
❌ Falsifying or using false Social Security documents.
❌ Falsifying the number of members in your household.
❌ Getting assistance on top of Section 8 without notifying the appropriate parties.
❌ Renting out or subletting all or part of the unit.
❌ Charging rent from any tenants who may be living with you.