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Section 8 Tenants: Legal Aspects you Need to Know

At Bay Property Management Group, we have quite a few clients who participate in the Section 8 housing program, but also many that have never heard about it.

If you are a landlord in the state of Maryland, you have to be familiar with the Section 8 to make sure you comply with all the federal and state laws.

Our Baltimore property managers are happy to explain Section 8 and help you understand your rights and responsibilities when it comes to accepting or rejecting Section 8 applicants.

What is Section 8?

Section 8 of the Housing Act of 1937 (also known as Section 8 and Housing Choice Voucher Program) is a federal assistance program that aims to help low-income families and individuals pay their rent. Section 8 is regulated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) that picks up a portion of tenant’s monthly rent.

In Maryland, section 8 tenants may choose to allocate up to 30% of their monthly household income toward the rent payments. So if the income is $1,500 a month, and the rent is $900, your Section 8 tenants will pay 50% of the rent and HUD will cover the other 50%. In certain cases, such as tenant’s temporary unemployment, HUD may be paying 100% of the rent.

If you wish to rent your property to Section 8 tenants, here is how it works:

–    You register with the local public housing office and list your property.

–    Your property will need to pass inspection to determine whether it meets Section 8 housing requirements. Take a look at the inspection checklist if you would like to know what exactly the inspectors will be looking for.

–    If you pass the inspection, your property will be added to the local Section 8 housing listings. If you don’t pass, you can either modify your property to meet the requirements or you could use the reason for rejection to deter any future inquiries from Section 8 tenants.

–    Once you find a tenant, you sign Section 8 contract.

If you don’t want to rent to Section 8 tenants:

Typically, you are not legally obliged to rent to Section 8 tenants, unless there is a lack of housing for low-income families in your area.  However, in Maryland, you can’t reject an applicant just because he or she is applying under the Section 8 – this is considered income-based discrimination and might lead to a law suit.

You can reject your Section 8 applicants based on the same criteria you use for other applicants – incomplete tenant application, bad references from previous landlords, criminal record or other non-discriminative reasons.

If you specifically want to limit the number of Section 8 applicants contacting you:

First of all, you can’t put “No Section 8” in the rental ad or property listing description. However, you can specify the reason why you can’t accept Section 8 tenants, such as:

–    You are not authorized to rent to Section 8 tenants – you didn’t go through registration and inspection.

–    Your property doesn’t meet the Section 8 requirements and failed to pass the annual inspection.

–    Your lease has closures contradicting the Section 8 contract (for example, by accepting a Section 8 tenant, you have to offer a lease for a minimum of 12 months).

–    You occupy a room or a unit in the dwelling you are renting out, which makes you exempt from certain regulations.

Get familiar with the Maryland Fair Housing Law to make sure none of your actions and the words you use are discriminating in nature. As a Baltimore property management company, we consider it one of our duties to stay up to date on state and federal laws and regulations pertaining to landlord/tenant relationships. Contact us if you have any questions!