Learn About Section 8 Denials and Appeals

Even families who have been on a housing voucher waiting list for months or years can be disqualified. This is because the Housing Choice Voucher program is strict and highly sought after.

It is a federally funded program that helps low-income families afford rent. These households usually struggle to make monthly rent payments and may live in substandard housing.

However, before residents can receive Section 8 benefits, they must meet the program’s eligibility criteria. Once they are determined as eligible, the family is placed on a waiting list.

Families on these waiting lists may be required to wait for years before being given a housing voucher.

By the time they reach the top of the list, many families lose their eligibility.

Public housing authorities (PHA) verify applicants’ eligibility before they provide a housing voucher.

Eligibility is based on several factors. These include income in addition to successfully passing a background check.

These background checks that are performed by PHAs examine things such as applicants’ criminal history, sources of income, eviction history and spending habits.

If a housing agency determines that an applicant family is not qualified to receive a housing voucher, they will send them a denial letter that outline the reasons for the decision.

To discover more about the reasons behind Section 8 disqualifications and how to file a denial appeal, read the sections below:

  • What to do after your Section 8 application is denied
  • How to file an appeal

What to do After Your Section 8 Application is Denied

Applicants can lose Section 8 eligibility for several reasons. Most often, it is because they not meet certain criteria.

Moreover, applicants can be disqualified at various points of the process.

For example, residents can be denied while they are on a waiting list. They can also be denied a voucher, lose their voucher, be denied a rental unit contract and be denied portability of their housing voucher.

The following are reasons for which an applicant can be denied:

  • A family’s income is greater than the limit set by their PHA.
  • A family member is convicted of drug-related crime within a Section 8 rental.  
  • A member of the family that will be receiving Section 8 benefits refuses to important documents.

Public housing agencies are mandated by law to send applicants who are not accepted into program a Section 8 denial letter.

Local housing agencies are permitted to establish their own policies regarding Section 8 denials.

The following are the most common reasons that applicants are denied acceptance into the Section 8 program:

  • A member of the family has previously received an eviction notice at Section 8 rental unit.
  • A member of the family has committed a violent or drug-related crime.
  • A member of the family has committed other type of criminal activities while receiving housing assistance.

PHA are permitted to withdraw assistance from a household or family members if they are found to no longer be qualified.

Assistance can be withdrawn at any time during the program.

Public housing authorities consider several factors when determining whether an applicant will be denied or accepted.

However, decisions depend on the specific situation of the applicants. PHAs take into consideration the effects that termination of benefits will have on the family members.  

For instance, if one member of the household has committed a violent crime, the PHA will consider the effects of revoking the entire family’s eligibility.

It is important to know that PHAs are responsible for determining applicants’ eligibility and disbursing housing choice vouchers. On the other hand, landlords are responsible for screening potential tenants.

It is up to landlords to determine if prospective tenants are suitable for their property.

In addition, landlords must set their own management rules and practices. PHAs are not permitted to endorse families nor predict any potentially problematic behavior.

It is the discretion of the landlord or building manager to determine if a family meets the qualifications for tenancy in their building.

Once a family is accepted into a building, they are required to pay a certain portion of their rent while their PHA pays the rest.

How to File an Appeal

Applicants who received a Section 8 denial letter from their PHA can file an appeal.

The first step that residents who were denied assistance or had their benefits terminated is to request an informal hearing.

They must do this prior to the deadline specified by the PHA. After the request for an informal hearing is approved, the PHA is not permitted to cease making rental payments until after the hearing.

These informal hearings are conducted by third parties appointed by the public housing authority.

However, this individual will be someone was not involved in making the decision regarding an applicant’s eligibility.

Prior to the hearing, residents must prepare all of their denial-related documents. These documents include:

  • Their Section 8 housing contract.
  • The lease contract.
  • Any written complaints.
  • Statements from witnesses.
  • Agreement for repayment.
  • Official reports made by law enforcement.

The above documents will be presented during the hearing. Furthermore, residents have the right to be represented by a lawyer at their hearing.

Afterward, the PHA will make their decision and present a statement.

Another situation in which Section 8 recipients may have to appeal is when they receive an eviction notice from their landlord.

Residents must report their eviction notice to their PHA.

Fortunately, PHAs cannot cease making rental payments until the eviction notice is brought to a court.

Section 8 beneficiaries can contest the eviction if they believe the reasons behind it are invalid.

Sometimes, evictions are reinforced by a court order if a tenant commits a punishable violation.

Such violations include destruction of property. In these cases, a PHA may decide to revoke a recipient’s assistance.

Still, residents have the option to request an informal hearing to contest the PHAs decision.

However, it can be difficult to successfully appeal with these types of cases as the initial decision was ordered by the court.

Thus, tenants should maintain a good relationship with their landlord and follow the rules of the rental agreement in order to keep their home.