Revised October 2018
Usually known by its nickname, Section 8, this low-income housing assistance program is actually Section 8 of the Housing Act of 1937 and is officially known as the Housing Choice Voucher Program.
It’s a rental assistance program managed by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) that provides the difference between a tenant’s contribution toward rent and the full rental price. Owners contract the government to provide a certain number of units dedicated to low-income housing. Section 8 inspections are a key part of the program.
Now that you know what the program is, you might be wondering why and how it affects you. After all, it is the tenant receiving the voucher, right?
While that is correct, the inspection puts a burden on you as a landlord to ensure that your property is in the right shape for renting. If it is not approved by HUD, your tenant may not be able to continue living there because they will not be able to get the assistance that they need.
For that reason (and for a few more beneficial ones we will outline below), it is important that you take time to ensure that your property is in line with the Section 8 inspection guidelines.
A Table of Contents For Section 8 Guidelines
- The Benefits of Section 8
- FAQs: Section 8 Inspections & Section 8 Inspection Guidelines
- Most Common Section 8 Inspection Violations
- Section 8 Inspection Guidelines Shouldn’t Mean Anxiety
The benefits of participating in the Section 8 program are numerous, but the best part is that the government directly subsidizes the landlord for its portion of the rent, on time and in full.
This means that even when renting to tenants who may be at a difficult point in life and need some assistance, you will be sure that you are getting at least part of the rent on-time and monthly.
Landlords gain a certain buffer from any hardships the tenant may face because the program adjusts to the tenant’s financial circumstances.
Additionally, once your property is HUD-approved for Section 8, you will find that it is easier to fill vacancies when the time comes. Since you have already shown that you are willing to work with tenants who use these vouchers, you’ll be able to fill the property quickly since there is usually a high demand for properties like yours.
There are always plenty of potential tenants on the waiting list, which means minimal vacancy time and lower marketing costs.
Part of the requirements for owners to qualify to participate in the program is an inspection by a housing official. The properties must meet certain standards in order to qualify and stay eligible.
Section 8 inspections allow officials to confirm that landlords are complying with the standards of the program in providing rental units for low-income citizens. Many landlords get nervous about the inspection process, but there’s no need to worry.
Here are some FAQs that landlords who are thinking about participating in the program may have about Section 8 inspections:
Why is my property being inspected?
Section 8 inspections were implemented to ensure that all rental units meet the minimum standards of safety and decency. Any unit being considered for participation in the program must be checked out to make sure there are no health issues. It’s also for the property owner’s benefit to assess any areas that may need maintenance or repair.
Do I have to participate in the Section 8 voucher program?
If you are a new landlord or simply overwhelmed by the thought of needing to go through Section 8 inspections, you might not want to accept tenants who are coming through Section 8.
But are you allowed to refuse to accept the housing vouchers?
The answer to this question depends on where you live. In protected Section 8 areas, you are not allowed to refuse tenants who will be paying rent with a housing voucher. Outside of these areas, however, it may be within your right to refuse this type of situation.
To find out whether or not you must participate in Section 8, you will want to reach out to your local housing authority. They will be able to give you a clear answer about this, and you will find out what your local requirements are in the process.
How often are inspections done?
Initial Section 8 inspections are the ones that take place before the contract is executed. After that, the unit will be inspected annually. There may be an additional inspection if there is an audit or if there are complaints about the unit.
Will I be notified about an inspection?
Typically, you will be notified by the Public Housing Authority in charge of your local Section 8 voucher program about the time and date of your property’s inspection in advance. When there are serious or immediate health concerns, you may not get as much prior notice as you would receive otherwise.
How can I prepare for an inspection?
Property owners should check out the rental unit prior to the inspection and take care of any maintenance issues beforehand. Broken or worn out features should be repaired or replaced before the inspection. While cosmetic fixes should be taken care of, inspectors are specifically looking for violations that affect the health and safety of tenants.
What areas are inspected & what is checked in each area?
Thoroughly preparing for an inspection is about more than just making sure that you’ll pass the inspection itself, though that is also important.
Beyond wanting to pass so that you can continue to rent it, you should want your property to pass so that you can be sure that your tenants and property are in the safest place they can be.
For that reason, you may want to know exactly what areas of the home and what about them needs to be properly maintained. In short, you need to know more about Section 8 inspection requirements.
Be warned that the forthcoming list of inspection areas may seem overwhelming at first, but you will quickly notice that each room has many similar aspects that will be inspected.
Here is the Section 8 inspection list for your Section 8 inspection:
- All Rooms
- Electricity & electricity hazards
- Window, ceiling, floor, and wall conditions
- Lead-based paint check
- Check for anything potentially hazardous
- Check for presence of stove or range with oven, refrigerator, and sink
- Confirm that there is space for safe food storage & preparation
- Flush toilet exists in a closed room
- Fixed wash basin exists
- Tub or shower exists
- Proper ventilation
- General Home Checks
- Proper number and placement of smoke detectors
- Foundation condition
- Stair, rail, and porch condition
- Roof/gutter condition
- Exterior surface condition
- Access to unit
- Fire exits
- Bug and pest infestation check
- Garbage and debris
- Elevator safety and maintenance
- Interior air quality
- Site condition
- Interior stair condition
- Heating & Plumbing
- Safety and adequacy of heating equipment
- Proper ventilation and cooling for equipment
- Functioning water heater
- Approved water supply
- Sewer connection
While this list is a great starting point for figuring out what areas you should improve, it might not be all-inclusive of what will be looked at.
Beyond this list, the inspector can reasonably write down information about anything that could be hazardous. This means that your house needs to be in a condition that is safe for anyone to live in.
How are these areas evaluated?
Now that you know which the areas of your property are evaluated, you may be wondering what it means when the inspector says that you pass or fail on a certain area.
There are three different responses that the inspector can give for each individual item that they are inspecting:
It’s good; you don’t need to do anything else.
The item does not currently comply with the HUD standards. You must fix it before you can rent to a Section 8 tenant.
In some cases, the inspector might not be able to tell during the initial inspection whether or not something is to standard. The inspector would talk to you, the landlord, about the specifics that they need more information on before making a decision about whether that items passes or fails.
For example, the inspector might mark the air conditioning unit as inconclusive if it is located on a roof or somewhere that they could not access it during the inspection. Once they have access to it, they can give an official ruling.
What happens if you fail a Section 8 inspection?
If a section 8 inspection failed, you as the landlord have time to make the fix before a re-inspection date. If the repairs aren’t finished by the next inspection date, the subsidy payments for rent will be suspended. This applies only if the tenant is already living on the property.
If the inspection fails before they move in, you will have a chance to fix the issues but the tenant’s contract cannot be signed or moved forward until they are remedied.
If the violation is significant, such as something that can affect the health and safety of the tenant, the inspector will issue a 24-hour deadline for the repair or replacement.
Can I get an extension to complete any repairs?
Extensions for fixing any non-serious violations can be granted on a case-by-case basis and depend on the nature of the problem, why the extension is needed, the owner’s current efforts to make the fix and any other outstanding circumstances.
Again, if the violation is serious, no extensions will be granted.
What can I do to help the rent amount be approved?
You may have heard of cases in which a Section 8 inspection led to a landlord needing to lower their rent because the case did not find that the property was worth the price that was being asked of the tenant.
This stipulation may cause fear in some landlords, but there are ways that you can ensure that your home is able to be rented at your planned amount.
Specifically, there is a section of the inspection report which asks for what are called Special Amenities. This information on this optional section of the report is used to make final matches for renting the apartment and also to be sure that the rent is reasonable.
This section gathers up information about special faucets, high-quality materials, energy-efficient appliances, and other upgrades that you may have made to your properties. When this information is included in the report done on your property, your rent rate is more likely to be acceptable to HUD.
The inspectors have a checklist of items that they are looking for when they look at a rental unit. No matter the number and severity of any violations found, owners are responsible for making repairs and doing that in a timely manner.
The most common violations for housing inspections are:
- Chipped or flaking paint with children in the home.
- Any doors that lead outside must have locks and deadbolts.
- Lack of window locks on first-floor windows.
- No window screens in place.
- Exposed asbestos
- Improper pressure release valves on hot water heaters and boilers.
- No handrails on stairs, both interior and exterior.
- Non-working smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors.
- No smoke detectors on each level.
- No fan or other ventilation in the bathroom.
- Poor tub caulking.
- No weathertight windows or doors.
If you are aware that your property has any of these problems right now, you should do your best to fix it ASAP. If inspection time rolls around before you do the repairs, you can be almost certain that the property will not be approved or re-approved.
While Section 8 inspections may cause some property owners to get nervous, the bottom line is that if you are doing a good job in keeping your property up to date and your tenant happy, the inspector won’t find much wrong. If your property is run down and you aren’t doing a good job in keeping it up, the inspector may find violations that you need to fix right away.
In addition to knowing what to expect from the HUD inspection list, you only really need to care about being a good landlord. What do we mean by that?
While it is useful to know the HUD guidelines for landlords, you should just focus on being a good landlord and manage your property as if you were having an inspection just around the corner. That way, you’ll be ready for a real inspection and pass with flying colors.
Do you have experience with Section 8 inspections on your rental property? How did you do? Please share this article and let us know in the comments below.