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Frequently Asked Questions

How does the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) Program work?

The Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program is a federal assistance program to help very low-income families, the elderly, and individuals with disabilities afford safe, sanitary and decent housing. Families and individuals with HCV vouchers find their own housing and pay a percentage of their income for rent. MDOC pays the landlord the balance of the rent.

Steps involved in renting to a Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher tenant

• A family presents a current HCV voucher to rent an available unit from you.
• You screen the tenant(s) to make sure they are suitable.
• You agree to lease to the tenants and contact the field agency for approval.
• The field agency 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 Local Field Agency inspects units for housing quality standards.
• After the apartment passes inspection, a field agent sends you a contract to sign.
• You sign the contract with MDOC and sign the lease with your tenants, and the family moves in.
• The family pays its portion of the rent and MDOC pays the rest.

Do the tenants get screened before they get put on the wait list?
Listing a family (tenant) on the MDOC wait list, or selecting a family for participation in the Section 8 Program, is not a representation by MDOC to the owner about the family’s expected behavior, or the family’s suitability for tenancy. At or before MDOC approval of a tenancy, the MDOC must inform the owner that the local field agent has not screened the family’s behavior or suitability for tenancy. Owners are encouraged to screen families on the basis of their tenancy histories.

Must I sign a lease with my tenant?
Yes, a one year lease is required.

What can I do if my tenant has not paid the rent on time?
Technically, your tenant is in breach of contract. Refer to the breach clause of your lease and state law.

What types of units are accepted on the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program?
Single family houses, Apartments, Duplexes, Row Houses, Condominiums, Townhouses, Mobile homes and Manufactured homes.

How much rent can I charge?
All participants who receive a voucher on the Section 8 program are made aware of the allowable rent amounts. Typically, the landlord can ask for the market rent. Before the rent amount can be approved, the Section 8 Housing Specialist will determine if the rent is reasonable, which involves checking the rental amount for at least two comparable unassisted units in the same geographic area.
Note: SET-ASIDE AGREEMENTS ARE A VIOLATION

Can I rent to a relative?
A landlord cannot rent to a relative (parent, child, grandparent, sister or brother of any member of the family) unless the MDOC has determined that approving lease of the unit would provide reasonable accommodation for a family member with disabilities.

How do I get my unit (s) listed on the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Rental List?
A landlord can call a field agency, and ask to have a unit placed on the rental list, or go to MTHousingSearch.com to list your property.

Does my unit have to be inspected?
Yes, all units must pass a Housing Quality Standards inspection in order to participate in the program.
The housing Assistance contract cannot be initiated until the unit passes inspection.

What are the inspectors looking for when they inspect the unit?
The goal of the Housing Quality Standards inspections is to ensure the unit is safe, sanitary, and decent.

How do I schedule an inspection?
The prospective tenant will provide the landlord with a Request for Tenancy Approval (RFTA) form, which is to be completed by the tenant and landlord. The tenant will submit the completed form to the field agency, which will forward the form to the Inspector who will contact the landlord to schedule an inspection date.

How long will it take to get my unit inspected?
Once the RTA package has been received by the local field agency, generally, an inspection will be scheduled and conducted within 15 business days.

Who is responsible for the utilities prior to the unit inspection?
All utilities must be on at the time of the inspection or the unit will fail. The landlord is responsible if the unit is vacant. If the tenant plans to "lease in place" and already resides in the unit and is currently responsible for the utilities, they should continue to be responsible prior to inspection.

How much time do I have to make repairs if my unit fails inspection?
If the unit fails inspection, the landlord will receive a letter listing the failed items and the timeline for re-inspection. For Initial/New lease up inspections, the landlord is given 30 days to make the needed repairs, and must call within the 30 days to request a re-inspection. For Annual/Special inspections that are non-emergency, the landlord is given 30 days to make the needed repairs. For Emergency items, the landlord or tenant has 24 hours to make the repairs and a re-inspection will be scheduled.

How much does the tenant pay for rent?
Participants pay approximately 30 percent of their adjusted income directly to the landlord. Prior to the execution of the Housing Assistance Payment contract with the landlord, MDOC will notify the landlord of the tenant’s rental obligation. MDOC subsidizes the balance of the rent.

Who pays the security deposit?
The tenant is responsible for the entire security deposit. You must collect the security deposit from the tenant.  The Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program has no responsibility for damages, unpaid tenant rent, or other claims you might have against the tenant. The security deposit you may collect should not exceed what you charge on the open market. You may not collect the last month’s rent.

How much may landlords charge for a security deposit?
A landlord is allowed to charge a security deposit of up to one month’s rent.

Who pays if the tenant causes damages to the unit?
The tenant is responsible for all tenant caused damages to the unit; this includes damages caused by the tenant’s visitors and/or guests.

Is there a minimum length of time for the lease?
The tenant’s initial lease must be for a minimum and maximum of 12 months during the initial lease. After the initial 12 month lease, the tenant may remain on a month-to-month lease basis or a new 12 month lease (with a 60 day notice to tenant).

If the tenant violates the lease agreement, is it possible to evict a Section 8 tenant?
If a tenant violates a lease agreement, the landlord must treat that tenant as they would any non-subsidized tenant. The only difference in the eviction process is that the landlord must simultaneously send copies of all legal notices to the local field agency.

Once a landlord is a Section 8 landlord, so they always have to be a Section 8 landlord?
No, the landlord can choose a Section 8 tenant case-by-case.

Who do landlords contact with questions?
Local Field Agency