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How Fair Housing Impacts Section 8 Applications

Excited couple opening the door to their new rentalFair Housing law provides all renters an equal opportunity to apply to live in residence. Section 8 offers low-income renters the chance to live in a home at a reduced cost. So where do the two meet? Read on to understand how Fair Housing affects qualifying a Section 8 applicant.

What is the Fair Housing Act?

Fair Housing legislation protects tenants from discriminatory renting practices that would otherwise keep them from living in a residence. Such methods would include the rejection of a prospective tenant’s application due to their race, religion, sexuality, or gender.

What is Section 8?

Section 8 falls under the Fair Housing Act and provides financial assistance to landlords who offer fair market rates to low-income renters. For example, a property owner who keeps individual units available exclusively to low-income tenants and adjusts pricing for those tenants would receive a subsidy to help cover rent payments and utilities. This is assuming that their renters couldn’t otherwise afford those expenses.

How does the Fair Housing Act impact Section 8?

The Fair Housing Act helps to ensure that a tenant may apply for reduced income pricing for accommodation, unless they have previously demonstrated a failure to comply with their lease terms, or have previously falsified information on a housing application,

However, there is a combination of identifying factors that could imply the applicant does not need Section 8 housing and would result in their disqualification for a Section 8 housing voucher. For example, the tenant is a “non-disabled, non-veteran student under 24 years old at a place of higher education,” and they “do not have a dependent child.” Additional proof of eligibility, like immigration paperwork, may also be required.

In other words, while Fair Housing typically prevents landlords from using identity as a cause for refusing housing, Section 8 housing is a specific benefit and is screened separately.

What will disqualify a tenant from Section 8?

Under Fair Housing, disqualification for Section 8 would have to be based on an unbiased identification of a tenant’s propensity for dangerous behavior. If the tenant poses a public health and safety issue to other tenants, they can be disqualified.

For example, if the housing applicant is using illegal drugs or the Housing Authority suspects the renter’s previous usage of alcohol or drugs would threaten the experience of surrounding tenants, then you are legally required to refuse federal housing to that tenant. The tenant’s rehabilitation efforts would have to be factored in, but this is generally a closed case. Any usage of illegal drugs within the last three years that resulted in eviction would also occur because of a renter’s Section 8 disqualification.

Additional disqualifications would include if the applicant was a registered sex offender or they previously engaged in the manufacture of methamphetamine.

A tenant’s history of nonpayment of rent is also justifiable cause for refusing Section 8 housing. The tenant would have had to have paid at least half of their monthly rent consistently at a previous residence, or provide evidence of another person who will be covering their future rent, to claim status as a Section 8 housing applicant. They cannot owe rent for a previous Section 8 housing residency.

Can Section 8 be denied?

You can deny a tenant Section 8 housing in certain instances and may be required to do so. Many aspects of the tenant’s rent history are open to review by the Housing Authority. This might include any behavioral considerations, such as severe property damage, incidences of disturbing the peace, or any unsafe and unsanitary living habits that significantly affected surrounding tenants at another residence. The tenant’s record for full, timely rent payments will also be subject to review.

In Conclusion

The bottom line, you have the right to provide safe housing for all tenants and anyone that has a record indicating they would threaten that safety can legally be refused accommodation. A property manager like RPM Madison Metro can ensure that all of your leasing and eviction processes are compliant with Fair Housing Law.

We are pledged to the letter and spirit of U.S. policy for the achievement of equal housing opportunity throughout the Nation. See Equal Housing Opportunity Statement for more information.

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