If you apply for the Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program in any state, it is important to know that you may be disqualified for a variety of reasons at any point during the application process. If you are ineligible, you will receive a Section 8 denial notice. Additionally, Public Housing Agencies (PHAs) have the right to stop providing vouchers to a participant who does not follow the rules of the program, as established by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Section 8 assistance is in very high demand. Thus, you may lose your eligibility simply by taking a new job or earning more money. If you earn a higher income, you and your family may no longer meet the income limits set in your county and state.
Losing eligibility for housing choice vouchers is more common than you may think, because you most likely will not receive vouchers immediately. If you are approved for the program, you will be placed on a waitlist. It may take months or even years for you to reach the top of the list, as PHAs receive a limited amount of funding each year from HUD.
If you receive a notification that you are at the top of the list, you must undergo a second eligibility check. This allows a PHA to check whether your level of need has changed since you first applied. To learn more about Section 8 disqualifications and what to do if you are denied assistance, continue reading below.
Reasons for a Section 8 Application Denial
One of the most important aspects of Section 8 eligibility is your annual income. According to HUD, you may qualify for vouchers if your gross annual income does not exceed a portion of the median income in your area, town or county. To calculate your gross income, combine the incomes of every working person in your immediate family, and do not account for tax deductions.
Since your income will always be compared to the median income in your area, you may qualify in one location but not another. Thus, it is always a good idea to check the median income levels established by HUD. You may be able to apply for vouchers through a different PHA, but only if your local PHA has closed its waitlist and you meet additional requirements.
You must also factor in forms of unearned income into your calculation. For instance, your income may be bumped up and cause you to lose your eligibility if you have investments, bonds, savings accounts, alimony and more. Note that income from adoption assistance or foster care payments will not be counted.
It is also a good idea to check the incomes of any family members who are full-time students and 18 years of age or older. While full-time students normally do not have to factor in their incomes, they may be required to do so if their incomes go over a certain monthly amount.
You may also lose your eligibility for vouchers if you do not pass a background check. Your PHA is within its rights to send you a Section 8 denial notice if you:
- Are registered as a lifetime sex offender in any state.
- Have been convicted of producing methamphetamine while receiving federal housing assistance.
- Have engaged in illegal drug use.
- Have been evicted in the last three years from a housing unit where you received federal housing assistance.
If you have been evicted from a federal housing assistance unit in the past, you may still qualify for vouchers if you have completed a rehabilitation program.
A PHA may also deny your Section 8 application if you have a history of alcohol abuse or violent crime, which may threaten the safety of other tenants in a building, or other members of your community.
Your citizenship status in the U.S. will factor into your eligibility as well. If you are a U.S. citizen, you must be able to prove your citizenship with a birth certificate, or another government-issued form that is listed as an acceptable form of proof by HUD.
If you are a legal resident, you must present visa documents or other government-issued documents that are not expired and prove your legal residency in the country. If your visa card or green card expires while you are applying, you may lose your eligibility.
Finally, your landlord is allowed to perform a screening on you and your family. He or she may conduct a background check and ask you to provide references from employers and current or previous landlords. If he or she finds a justifiable reason to deny you a lease, it may affect your overall eligibility.
Reasons for Denial After Receiving Section 8 Assistance
If you reach the top of the waitlist in your area and begin receiving housing choice vouchers, you must be aware of your responsibilities in your new home. First, you must pay the remainder of your rent each month, after your voucher is applied. This is crucial, as not paying your rent may cause your landlord to begin eviction proceedings.
Second, you must be a respectful tenant. If you are caught breaking appliances or threatening the safety of other tenants, you may immediately lose assistance.
You also have a responsibility to report any changes in your family or your job to your local PHA. This may include increases in pay, job promotions, loss of a job, pregnancy or the death of a family member. If you do not file a report, you threaten your Section 8 eligibility.
What to Do If Your Section 8 Application Is Denied
If your local PHA denies your application, you will receive a denial notification by phone, mail or email. You may then file a Section 8 appeal if you still wish to pursue eligibility. You may want to contact your local PHA for more information on appeals and the reasons behind your denial of assistance. In general, the quickest ways to contact an agency is by phone or email.
To make an appeal, many states will allow you to request an informal hearing. At the hearing, be sure to bring verification documents and all documents that may help your case. This includes any contracts you signed with your PHA, your lease, and more. If you do not resolve the issue in an informal hearing, you may need to go through the Office of Hearings and Appeals (OHA), which is regulated by HUD and not by your local agency.