Section 8 Fact Sheet

What is Section 8? Section 8 is a housing assistance program that allows eligible, low-income families to rent units in the private market. The Housing Authority provides rental subsidies directly to the owner on behalf of the assisted family.

Please note: THE JURISDICTION OF THE CULLMAN HOUSING AUTHORITY IS 10 MILES FROM THE CENTRAL OFFICE LOCATED AT 408 CLEVELAND AVENUE SW, CULLMAN, AL. We can only provide assistance to families who choose units in this area.

The program has been designed to achieve these major objectives:

  • To provide safe, decent, and sanitary housing for very low income families while maintaining the tenant’s portion of the rent at an affordable level.
  • To promote freedom of housing choice and de-concentration of very low income families.
  • To provide an incentive to property owners to rent to very low income families by offering timely housing assistance payments.
  • To assist the local economy by increasing the occupancy rate and the amount of money entering the community.
  • To encourage self-sufficiency of participant families.

Who is eligible for Section 8 housing assistance? Elderly (62 years of age or older), handicapped, disabled, single persons or families that are “very low income” according to the HUD definition.

How do families apply for assistance? They must complete must complete an application to determine eligibility and be placed on the Section 8 Waiting List. Applications are available at the CHA Central Office, located at 408 Cleveland Avenue SW, Cullman, AL 35055.

Applications are only accepted the third week of the month.

How much of the rent does the tenant pay? How much does the Housing Authority pay? In general, the tenant pays 30% of their “adjusted family income” for rent and utilities. The Housing Authority pays the difference between the unit’s contract rent and the family’s portion of rent directly to the property owner.

The Cullman Housing Authority determines the amount a family pays for rent. No additional payments may be made to the landlord by the family. Such “side payments” are expressly forbidden and will lead to an owner’s disbarment from the program and possible criminal or civil penalties.

How much can I ask for my unit? In order for a requested contract rent to be approved, it must be “rent reasonable” which means that we must find three other similar units in the same neighborhood or area which support your requested contract rent. Based on the family’s particular income, they will be given a maximum contract rent to use when shopping for a unit to lease.

Who selects the tenant for my unit? The Housing Authority is not responsible for finding a suitable unit for the assisted family. Section 8 is known as the “finder’s keepers” program, where the family has the responsibility to find a unit.

Tenant selection is the owner’s responsibility. The Housing Authority does not screen Section 8 families for their “suitability” as a tenant. Such screening is the landlord’s responsibility.

Can I rent to a relative? The landlord cannot occupy the rental unit, nor be related to any member of the tenant’s family. Relatives include parents, children, grandparents, grandchildren, and siblings. An exception may be granted to provide reasonable accommodation for a family member who is a person with disabilities.

When a tenant is selected, what happens next? An “Inspection Request Form” is provided to the owner by the prospective tenant. This form requests information regarding the desired amount of contract rent, security deposit, any furnished utilities and appliances, and also information regarding the unit’s type of construction, year built, and bedroom size. This form is signed by the prospective tenant and owner and returned to the Cullman Housing Authority by the prospective tenant.

It is an indication to the Housing Authority that the prospective tenant and owner desire to enter into a lease agreement and initiates the inspection process.

A housing inspector then inspects the unit to determine: compliance with Housing Quality Standards (HQS) whether or not the requested contract rent is “reasonable”. After inspection, the Housing Authority issues an inspection report to the owner and re-inspects the unit to ensure that the required repairs (if any) have been completed. Owners will also be notified if the requested contract rent has been approved. Contract rents cannot be more than un-assisted, private market rents for comparable units in that particular neighborhood.

Does the Housing Authority sign a lease with the family? What is a HAP Contract? The lease will be provided by the owner and signed between the owner and the tenant. The Housing Authority does not sign the lease since it is not the Housing Authority’s unit. The Housing Authority and the owner sign a “Housing Assistance Payments” contract. This “HAP contract” is a HUD document which sets forth both parties’ rights and obligations under the program.

What happens if there are problems with the unit after the family moves in? Each year the Housing Authority must re-inspect each unit on the program and issue an Inspection Report to the owner, just as it did at the initial inspection. During the year, the tenant is responsible for contacting the owner if repairs need to be made. If the repairs are not done, the tenant may notify the Housing Authority and request a “special inspection”. The owner would be notified of any needed repairs. A time limit is imposed for completion of the repairs—normally 30 days—but in situations where health or safety is at risk, repairs may need to be completed within 24 hours.

What happens if the family is not abiding by the terms of the lease? The owner is expected to enforce the lease. The owner has the right, under the lease to terminate the lease and/or evict the family. During the first twelve months of the lease, the right to do this is somewhat restricted. Termination of the lease does not necessarily mean termination of continued assistance by the Housing Authority. In some cases, an evicted family has the right to seek another unit. That determination is made by the Housing Authority.

What if the family wants to move? The family’s opportunity to move with continued assistance is limited to the time of their annual recertification (the anniversary of their lease). The family must provide a minimum 30 day written notice to the owner.

What happens if the family has a change in income? All changes in tenant income or family composition must be reported to the Housing Authority since this determines the tenant’s portion of the rent. A family’s failure to do so, or a misrepresentation of their circumstances, could lead to their termination from the Section 8 program. The owner and tenant will be notified in writing by the Housing Authority of any changes in the rent portions and the effective date.

What is a “voucher”? A “voucher” is the family’s document that verifies their “good standing” with the Housing Authority. An owner who wants to rent to an assisted family needs to ask to see the family’s voucher. It also indicates the number of bedrooms for which the family is eligible. A voucher is normally good for sixty days but can be extended under certain circumstances.

What is “annual recertification”? “Annual recertification” is the yearly re-verification of a family’s income and composition. This is required by HUD regulations to ensure that each family is paying their appropriate share of the rent and is occupying the proper sized unit. Annual inspection of their unit also occurs during this process.

Where does the Housing Authority get the money to pay rental assistance? The Cullman Housing Authority receives funds form the Department of Housing and Urban Development, through an ACC (Annual Contributions Contract). These contracts are for five or fifteen year periods.

How many families are assisted with Section 8 by the Housing Authority? Approximately 160 families are currently assisted through the Section 8 assistance program.

What are the Obligations of a Family to continue participating in the program? The family must:

  • Not damage the unit (other than normal wear and tear). The family is responsible for repairs that are the result of tenant or guest damages to the unit.
  • Not commit any serious or repeated lease violations. Failure to abide by the terms of the lease is a cause for termination. Request approval from the Housing Authority to add new family members or occupants to the unit. All persons living in the unit must be approved by the Housing Authority.
  • Not engage in drug-related criminal activity or other violent criminal activity.
  • Pay utility bills and supply all appliances which are required under the lease.
  • Fulfill obligations of any repayment agreement regarding monies owed to the Cullman Housing Authority.
  • Supply any information that the Housing Authority determines necessary for use in annual or interim re-examinations of family income and composition.
  • Disclose and verify social security numbers and sign consent forms for obtaining information.
  • Promptly notify the Housing Authority of any absence from the unit or if any family member no longer lives in the unit.

What are the responsibilities of the Landlord? The role of the owner is the same as in the private market, except that the owner must adhere to HUD regulations and the required contracts:

  • Housing Assistance Payments (HAP) Contract
  • Lease and HUD Lease Addendum

The Landlord/Owner has the following responsibilities:

  • Tenant selection
  • Compliance with the HAP Contract
  • Normal landlord functions during lease term (ex. rent collection)
  • Maintaining the unit and premises to Housing Quality Standards. If the owner fails to do so, the Housing Authority may abate payment or terminate the HAP contract.
  • Owner is not responsible for a breach of the HQS for which the family is responsible. (Ex. the family fails to provide or maintain any appliances or utilities required under the lease or any member of the household or a guest damages the unit or premises beyond normal wear and tear)
  • Must provide CHA with a copy of any notice to vacate or eviction notice at the same time given to family
  • Notify CHA when unit has been vacated
  • Must give tenant a written list of all items (if any) charged against the security deposit and the amount of each item.

Fair Housing Landlord Obligations

The Fair Housing Act declares that it is national policy to provide fair housing throughout the United States and prohibits eight specific kinds of discriminatory acts regarding housing, if the discrimination is based on race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status (including children under the age of 18 living with parents or legal custodians, pregnant women, and people security custody of children under 18) or national origin.

These actions are against the law:

  1. Refusal to sell or rent or otherwise deal with a person
  2. Discrimination in the conditions of terms of sale, rental, or occupancy.
  3. Falsely denying housing is available
  4. Discriminatory advertising
  5. Blockbusting – causing persons to sell or rent by telling them that members of a minority group are moving into the area
  6. Discrimination in financing housing by a bank, savings and loan association, or other business
  7. Denial of membership or participation in brokerage, multiple listing, or other real estate services
  8. Interference, coercion, threats, or intimidation to keep a person from obtaining the full benefits of the Federal Fair Housing Law and/or filing a complaint

Fair Housing is a right afforded to all prospective tenants, both Housing Choice Voucher participants and private market families. It is your obligation as a landlord to comply with the laws that guarantee this right.

Who should I contact for more information about Section 8? Contact our Section 8 Coordinator at (256) 734-7753.