The Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program
The Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program is a federal assistance program to help low-income people pay their rent. It is commonly called "Section 8" or "Voucher". People with Section 8 Vouchers find their own housing and pay a percentage of their income for rent. The Department of Housing Services (DHS) pays the landlord the rest of the rent.
Please note that legal source of income is a protected class in the state of Oregon. As of July 1, 2014, Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers and other forms of rental subsidy may not be discriminated against in Oregon. This video gives a brief explanation of the new law.
The following describes the general steps involved in renting to a Section 8 tenant:
- A family with a current Section 8 voucher views your rental unit and wants to rent it. This video outlines the housing search process for families with Vouchers.
- You screen the tenants to make sure they are suitable.
- You agree to lease to the tenants and contact the Section 8 office for approval.
- The DHS checks to make sure the family can afford the rent, the rent is reasonable compared to other rents in the community, and the lease is acceptable.
- The DHS schedules a Housing Quality Standards (HQS) inspection to check the rental to make sure it meets program standards. The landlord is encouraged to review the inspection criteria listed in the landlord handbook, Window of Opportunity, prior to the inspection.
- After the unit passes inspection and the Department of Housing Services has received the rental agreement, the DHS sends you a contract to sign.
- You sign the contract with the DHS.
- The family pays its portion of the rent and the DHS pays the rest.
Screening Section 8 Renters
The DHS does not screen Section 8 tenants for their suitability as renters. You must do this yourself, just as you would screen non-Section 8 tenants. You should ask for Social Security number, references, current and previous landlords, credit history, employment history, criminal record, etc., and check the information carefully.
With a signed authorization, the DHS may confirm the number of people in the household, current and previous address, and current and previous landlord. However, the Department's main concern is checking that the applicant meets the income limits and other Section 8 eligibility requirements. Screening the potential renter is the landlord's responsibility.
The Security Deposit
If you want a security deposit, you must collect this from the tenant. The Section 8 program has no responsibility for damages, unpaid tenant rent, or other claims you might have against the tenant.
If you enter into a payment agreement for the security deposit (or any other amount), it is recommended that the agreement be made in writing, and that you provide receipts to the tenant for any payments received.
The Rental Agreement
You must sign a rental agreement with the tenant for a minimum of one year. The agreement should include:
- Names of the landlord and tenant
- Address of the rental unit
- Term of the lease and how it will be renewed
- Monthly rent amount
- Which utilities are paid by the tenant
- Which appliances must be provided by the tenant
The Department of Housing Services will provide a Tenancy Addendum that is attached to the rental agreement. The Tenancy Addendum may not be modified.
You may review a copy of the Tenancy Addendum on the HUD website.
The Housing Quality Standards (HQS) Inspection
The rental unit will be inspected to make sure that it meets the Housing Quality Standards of the Section 8 program. The inspector will examine the exterior of the building, the plumbing and heating systems, the exits and hallways, and each room in the unit to make sure the unit is safe, clean, and in good condition.
The unit must be either occupied by the voucher holder or vacant at the time of the first inspection, and all utilities must be turned on. The inspector must have access to the unit itself, the basement, and all common areas.
The Department of Housing Services may not pay any Housing Assistance Payments for a unit that has not passed the Housing Quality Standards inspection.
The unit will be re-inspected each year to ensure that it continues to meet Housing Quality Standards. If any deficiencies are found during an inspection, you will be notified in writing and given approximately 30 days to complete any necessary repairs.
A copy of the HQS inspection criteria can be found in the landlord handbook, Window of Opportunity. We encourage the landlord to review the inspection criteria prior to the scheduled inspection.
The rent you charge must be reasonable compared to other units of similar size in your community. The DHS will compare your rental to other, similar rentals in the community to ensure that the rent is reasonable. Additionally, you may not charge higher rent to Section 8 households just because they have a Section 8 Voucher.
If the gross rent (rent plus utilities) for the rental is less than or equal to the Voucher payment standard, the tenants pay 30% of their monthly income for rent and the DHS pays the rest. If the rent is higher, the tenants must make up the difference. However, they are not allowed to pay more than 40% of their income for rent when they first rent a unit.
The contract rent for the unit may not be increased during the first year of tenancy. However, it may be increased at any time after the first year with a 60-day notice to the tenant and the DHS. The rent must continue to be reasonable in comparison to similar rentals in the area.
Housing Assistance Payments
The DHS will mail you the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) on the first working day of each month. You may choose to be paid by paper check, or complete the EFT Application and email it back to us for electronic payments.
The landlord is responsible for collecting the tenant portion of the rent each month.
Electronic Funds Transfer Available!
Tired of dealing with Housing Assistance Payments (HAP) checks each month? The Department of Housing Services now offers two payment options: Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) payments.
Questions about EFT or Reliacard? Please send an email to our EFT Contact.
Terminating the Tenancy
During the first year, the tenancy may not be terminate for "no cause". However, you may terminate the rental agreement during the first year for "good cause". "Good cause" includes violations of the rental agreement and non-payment of rent, to name a few. Just like all renters, Section 8 Voucher tenants are obligated to abide by their rental agreements.
After the first year of tenancy, the landlord may terminate the rental agreement without cause at the end of any defined term. You may determine how the rental agreement renews after the first year by stating the renewal terms in the rental agreement when it is signed with the tenant.
Landlord Guarantee Fund
Oregon Housing and Community Services (OHCS) was directed by the 77th Oregon Legislative Assembly to both: develop and implement the Housing Choice Landlord Guarantee Program, and convene a Housing Choice Advisory Committee.
The Housing Choice Advisory Committee is made up of representatives of landlords, tenants, and public housing authorities. It advises the Department with respect to the Housing Choice Voucher Program;it discusses best practices for maximizing participation by landlords and tenants;it develops strategies and measures for gauging effectiveness of the program;and it monitors the Landlord Guarantee Fund.
The Housing Choice Landlord Guarantee Program is designed to provide financial assistance to landlords to mitigate damages caused by tenants as a result of their occupancy under the HUD Housing Choice Voucher Program, also known as Section 8. Tenants with Housing Choice vouchers for veterans, also known as Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing or VASH, are also eligible.
To download forms or for more information, visit the OHCS website.
More detailed information…
If you would like more detailed information, you may download our landlord handbook, Window of Opportunity. You may also call our main number at (503) 846-4794 and then select option 2 to access our phone menu for landlords. You may also contact our staff by e-mail.
Thank you for your interest in the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program!