How to Search for Section 8 Apartments

Searching for an apartment can be an exciting yet challenging endeavor. If you have been obtaining Section 8 funds, your housing choices will be limited to the homes that have been Section 8-approved. Understanding what Section 8 apartments are, your housing options and what your responsibilities are as a Section 8 tenant as well as learning to find the perfect Section 8 home are important. By understanding these topics, you can relocate smoothly to another area, reducing the stress that comes with moving and find for a place to live. Furthermore, it is important to understand your rights for housing to make sure that you are being treated fairly throughout the process.

What is a Section 8 Home?

The Housing Choice Voucher, abbreviated to HCV, program approves property for Section 8 homes. In order to qualify for the HCV program, the home needs to pass the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) housing quality regulations. Every unit needs to be inspected and the quality for these homes must be maintained. Section 8 homes can vary in types of properties such as apartments, townhouses and single-family houses.

Do you qualify for a Section 8 apartment?

The HCV program, also known as Section 8, is a government assistance program that is regulated by the HUD. The program provides help to eligible for low-income households so these households have access to safe and sanitary homes and help them out of poverty. To become eligible for Section 8 funds, your family and you need to meet the requirements set by the HUD. The requirements are citizenship status, household composition, income and rental history. For example, the HCV program is restricted to eligible U.S. citizens and residents with acceptable immigration status. The funds for Section 8 are only for the families who can meet HUD’s definition of a family and the family composition requirements. Benefits are only given to the households who have at least one child living in the home who is a minor. The household can also have a senior citizen or a disabled individual living the home to qualify. Since this is a government program with income-based eligibility, the household needs to meet the income requirements. The income limits change from county to county since the limit is based upon the average income level for each area. A household cannot have an income that surpasses 50 percent of the median income of an area. The public housing agency (PHA) is required by law to give at least 75 percent of the financial assistance that is available to low-income families whose income does not pass 30 percent of the average income level for the area. When you are applying for housing assistance, the rental history of your family, as well as personal history, will be reviewed. The PHA will examine if the household members have had any evictions recently. Applying for the HCV program before looking for Section 8 apartments is crucial to the process. You need to be accepted for the benefits before finding an apartment. It is possible to apply for the program with your local PHA. Additionally, you need to provide personal information on your household members and provide the documents that support the information that you have provided. This will help the PHA make its decision on whether your family is eligible or not. An example of proof of income is banking information. Your local PHA will verify the information provided to decide if you are eligible and the amount of benefits you will receive. If your application is accepted, you will either begin to receive aid immediately or your household will be placed on a waiting list. Once you start receiving the voucher funds, the HUD will give you 90 days to find a home that meets the HCV standards of living. The PHA will perform an inspection on the home to ensure that the home meets their standards before signing the lease.

How to Discover the Right Section 8 Apartment

Before you start searching for a Section 8 home, it is crucial to make a list of features that your household needs or wants and the location you want to live in. It is also important to think about how much your family can afford for rent after receiving the housing voucher funds. Keep these factors in mind while searching is important. These factors will help you narrow down the apartment you need easily. You can receive a list of apartments that are Section 8-approved by calling your PHA. They will provide lists to apartments in your area.

Responsibilities as a Section 8 Tenant

After choosing a home that is approved by HCV, you need to sign a lease that is for at least a year with the landlord or the property agency. You might have to place a security deposit. However, this can vary from property to property. You must abide by all regulations for the property as a Section 8 tenant. These rules will be detailed in your lease agreement. You must pay for your rent on time every month while complying to the HUD requirements for tenants. If there are any changes within your household, you need to notify your PHA of these changes if you want to continue receiving benefits.

Is it possible to move while getting Section 8 funds?

The HCV program allows beneficiaries to move without losing assistance. The family only need to notify their PHA of their move beforehand and terminate the lease. You must also find housing meets their standards as well. You must also stay within the PHA jurisdiction for at least a year to keep receiving benefits. Once the year has passed you can move anywhere within the U.S. if you follow the PHA’s process.

Learn About Housing Rights

The HUD requires that their tenants receive equal and fair treatment and rights as other tenants. Their rights are explained with the Fair Housing Act, which details actions that are forbidden. Some of these actions are:
  • Landlords advertising for specific groups of individuals.
  • Denying you property insurance.
  • Telling there is no housing available when there is.
  • Apply different terms, privileges or conditions for the sale or rental of a Section 8 home.
  • Refuse to make reasonable accommodations in services, policies or rules to make sure you have equal housing like other non-disabled individuals.

Taking Advantage of Apartment Listings

If you have ever been in the market for finding a new condo or apartment, you are already aware of how overwhelming the process can be. There is a wide range of different factors that you need to consider when shopping around, and choosing the right apartment for your lifestyle can be a tough decision. Fortunately, there are many tools and resources that are available to help you with your apartment search. 

There are a variety of apps, rental search engines and apartment listings online that can help you to find your next rental home. Most of these important resources for finding the right apartment can be found online. If you can take advantage of the helpful apartment searching filters, then you will be able to find apartments that meet your criteria much more easily. Keep reading below to learn more tips and techniques to simplify your search for a new apartment so that you can find the best rental possible.

Come Up With a Reasonable Budget

One major advantage of renting a condo or an apartment instead of becoming a homeowner is that it tends to be more affordable overall. Typically, rental units are smaller than houses, so the costs of heating and cooling are usually cheaper. 

Moreover, if you are renting, then you don’t have to deal with the cost of maintenance and other repairs that homeowners have to pay for themselves. In some cases, the cost of your monthly rent in an apartment will include other services such as garbage disposal, water and sewage. 

In most cases, choosing to live in an apartment may be a more affordable option than purchasing a home. However, it is still an essential step to prepare a budget before starting your apartment search. Generally, you will not want to exceed more than 35 percent of your net monthly income on the cost of rent. Some landlords have policies where they will deny your application if the rental unit exceeds a certain percentage of your monthly income. 

Compile a List of Must-Have Items

No matter how hard you search, it is going to be nearly impossible to find an apartment that perfectly matches your preferences. Typically, you will need to make some compromises on your apartment hunt. 

In order to simplify this process, you should make a list of items that are “must-haves” and others that you would simply prefer to have. Some priority items can include:

  • The ideal area or neighborhood for the unit.
  • The minimum amount of bathrooms and bedrooms.
  • Amenities such as on-site gym, swimming pool, playground or in-unit washing machines and dryers. 
  • Whether the unit is pet-friendly or not. 

Most landlords will advertise any added special amenities to attract potential tenants. If there is a feature that you would like that is not listed, it is likely that the unit does not offer that amenity. 

Narrow Down Your Search Results With Filters 

After you have compiled a list of must-have features and amenities, you can find apartments more easily with filtered search results. You can narrow down your results by adding filters such as your preferred neighborhoods, the ideal amount of bedrooms and bathrooms and whether or not a unit is pet-friendly. Keep in mind that you want to keep your search limited to apartments in your budget.

Be Cautious About Potential Rental Scams

Unfortunately, you may come across some malicious rental scams during your apartment hunt. These scam listings can even be found on reputable apartment search engines. If you notice anything suspicious about a listing or if any aspect of it seems too good to believe, you would be safer looking for other units. 

There are a lot of bad situations where renters have gotten scammed looking for apartments. There are also some cases of complaints of scamming against legitimate and rule-following landlords or rental complexes. You should take the time to check the Google reviews for a landlord or complex to quickly identify any red flags about the property.

Prepare Your Application Materials in Advance

In many rental markets, apartment listings do not stay open for long. If you are interested in a unit, it may get leased quickly after the listing was posted. If you want to ensure that you are getting the best chance of landing the right unit, you should submit your rental application as soon as possible. 

To avoid missing out on ideal apartments, gather all of the required application materials beforehand. In general, most landlords and rental agencies will expect the same materials for their application process. Get a jump-start on your rental application by gathering the following items:

  • Pay stubs from the last two months or other verifications for your income
  • A current bank statement or your tax return from the prior year
  • Documents showing your personal identification such as a photo ID or your Social Security Number
  • A list of your prior landlords and other credible references and their contact information