What You Should Know About California Section 8
- California Section 8 helps low-income families afford a safe, clean dwelling. Learn more about program requirements and discover your rights under the program.
California’s Housing Choice Voucher Program, also known as Section 8, helps low-income families afford a safe, clean place to live. Whether you're thinking about applying for benefits or wish to rent a residence to a Section 8 family, keep reading to learn more about the program's requirements and your rights under California Section 8 guidelines.
What Is California Section 8?
The Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program, which is funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and administered by local public housing agencies throughout California, helps low-income families obtain secure, sanitary private residences. For eligible state residents, these vouchers cover some of the cost of renting qualified housing, including:
- Single-family houses
In some cases, Section 8 funds may also be used toward the purchase of a modestly priced home.
How Does Section 8 Work?
California residents who qualify for Section 8 typically must find their own housing. Program participants can search for a suitable residence through California's database of eligible properties or find a home on their own. For a house or apartment to qualify for Section 8, the residence must be in good condition, and the property owner or landlord must agree to rent to the family under the terms of the program. A family’s current residence may qualify if it meets program guidelines and the landlord agrees to Section 8 terms, and under certain circumstances, PHA may permit a family to use its vouchers toward the purchase of a modest home.
After the family has found a residence, their local housing agency conducts an inspection to make sure the unit meets Section 8 guidelines for safety and cleanliness and determines whether the rent being charged is reasonable. If the residence passes inspection, the tenant may sign a lease for one or more years, and the landlord must sign a contract agreeing to the program’s terms.
California Section 8 then pays a subsidy directly to the landlord or property owner on behalf of the participant. The family is responsible for paying the remaining balance on the monthly rent and must comply with any additional program guidelines, as set by HUD and the local housing agency administering the program in that area. Failure to comply with Section 8 guidelines can result in removal from the program.
Because of high demand, approved applicants may be placed on a waiting list until funds become available. At that time, if they still qualify for funding, a voucher will be issued.
Who Is Eligible for California Section 8?
To qualify for Section 8 assistance in California, applicants must be U.S. citizens or have an eligible immigration status and meet the program’s income requirements. Approval is typically on a case-by-case basis, and families that include young children or elderly, pregnant or disabled individuals may be granted preferential consideration. Having a criminal record does not exclude an applicant from consideration.
What Is the Income Limit for California Section 8?
Because Section 8 income limits are based on median family incomes for California’s metropolitan areas, they often change from year to year. Typically, to be eligible for vouchers, a family’s income may not exceed 50% of the MFI for the county or metropolitan area in which they reside. However, under program guidelines, a PHA must distribute 75% of Section 8 funds to applicants making less than 30% of the MFI for the area.
Because HUD defines the average family as having four members, adjustments to specific income eligibility limits differ depending on the size of the family. Additional adjustments may be made in geographic areas where housing costs are disproportionately high or low when compared with median family incomes.
How Much Assistance Can I Get Through Section 8?
Your local public housing agency determines the standard used to establish the typical cost of renting a modest residence based on market conditions. This figure is then used to calculate how much assistance a family receives through the program. Families approved for vouchers are typically expected to pay up to 30% of their adjusted gross income toward rent and utilities each month. However, if the chosen dwelling exceeds the fair market standard, as determined by the PHA, the family must make up the additional amount.
How Can You Apply for a Section 8 Voucher?
To apply for a Section 8 voucher, you should contact your local public housing agency, which can provide application assistance and information on eligibility requirements.
What Are the Section 8 Rules for Tenants?
Tenants using Section 8 vouchers to obtain housing must adhere to program guidelines. To remain in compliance, program participants typically must:
- Live in the rental unit
- Pay the security deposit
- Pay the balance of the rent on time
- Report changes in income or family status
- Keep their home crime- and drug-free
- Comply with the terms of the lease
- Grant access to the PHA for an annual inspection
- Avoid having guests for longer than 14 consecutive days or 21 days total each year
- Get approval for housemates outside the immediate family
All approved family members must agree to adhere to these rules.
What Rights Do You Have as a Tenant?
As outlined in the Fair Housing Act, every tenant has the right to equal treatment. Under this law, a landlord may not charge different rental rates, limit services or prohibit facility access to renters based on:
- Sexual identity
- Sexual orientation
- Familial status
Section 8 tenants also have the right to safe, sanitary housing. If a landlord doesn't comply with these standards, fails to maintain the property or violates other terms of the lease, complaints may be reported by calling the Multifamily Housing Complaint Line at (800) 685-8470 or filing an online report.
What Should Landlords and Property Owners Know About California Section 8?
Landlords and property owners who rent to California Section 8 families must follow both the state’s landlord-tenant law and the rules and regulations defined by HUD. They must permit an initial PHA inspection and subsequent annual inspections of the rental unit, after which, they may be given time to make improvements if the dwelling doesn’t pass. The landlord must also comply with the signed lease agreement, which includes addressing maintenance concerns and tenant complaints promptly. Prior to a rent increase, the landlord or property owner must notify the local public housing authority. Increases may take place no more than once per year.
If a Section 8 tenant violates their lease, engages in illegal activities or neglects their responsibilities under the program terms, the landlord is entitled to file a complaint with the local PHA. Landlords who suspect Section 8 fraud should fill out a HUD complaint intake form.
Can You Appeal the Decision if You’re Denied Section 8 Benefits?
If you’re denied benefits through California Section 8, you can appeal the decision. A representative from your local housing authority can help you gather any relevant information and file a formal appeal.