Question: How does a landlord in California enforce a Section 8 contract?

Answer: Landlords accepting Section 8 housing vouchers generally follow the same procedures as with non-housing voucher tenants, with a few extra steps.

First some background:

What is Section 8 housing?

Public housing exists to house low-income households, and these are operated by government housing agencies. But there simply aren’t enough public housing units to meet the needs of our state’s residents. That’s where tenant-based Section 8 housing — and the question around enforcing Section 8 contracts — come in.

Individuals who meet local income requirements are eligible to receive Section 8 housing vouchers, named such as they are regulated by Section 8 of the Housing Act of 1937. These vouchers mean the government will pay a certain portion of the tenant’s rent. [42 United States Code §1437f]

The government typically pays the difference between market rent and 30% of the tenant’s household income. This system allows low-income households to pay the recommended 30% of their income on housing, and for landlords to collect fair market rents.

What do landlords need to know about Section 8 housing?

When a landlord accepts Section 8 vouchers, they receive a portion of the rent from their tenant, and the remainder of the rent from the public housing authority (PHA).

But does a landlord need to accept Section 8 housing vouchers?

In California, it is unlawful for a landlord to discriminate based on a tenant’s source of income. In other words, they may not refuse to rent to a tenant just because a certain amount of their income comes from, say, Social Security payments. [Calif. Government Code §12955(a)]

But Section 8 vouchers are an exception to this law, so a landlord does not need to accept housing vouchers as an acceptable form of payment. [Gov C §12955(p)]

However, a few California cities have local laws in place that require landlords to accept Section 8 vouchers. Also, landlords of most federally-financed affordable housing developments are required to accept Section 8 vouchers.

When a landlord chooses not to continue accepting Section 8 vouchers, they need to provide any tenants using Section 8 vouchers, along with the PHA, at least 12 months’ notice, and an additional notice six months before the 12 months are up. [Gov C §65863.10]

How does a landlord evict a Section 8 tenant when they break their lease agreement?

There are certain procedures a landlord needs to follow when considering terminating the tenancy of a Section 8 tenant.

While the tenant is within their lease term, the landlord may not evict the tenant unless they have good cause. This includes:

  • significant or multiple violations of the lease terms, including failing to pay rent within the lease’s agreed-to timeframe;
  • when the tenant or their guest engages in criminal activity in the leased unit or property, provided the lease agreement states this activity is grounds for termination; or
  • when the tenant’s or their guest’s actions endanger the health, safety and right to peaceful enjoyment of other tenants on the property. [42 USC §1437f(d)(B)(ii)-(iii); see RPI Form 550]

When the PHA does not pay their share of the rent — which may occur, for example, when the landlord is not maintaining habitable living conditions — this does not constitute a violation of the lease. Thus, the landlord cannot terminate the lease and evict the tenant due to the PHA’s failure to pay. [Scott v. Kaiuum (2017) 8 CA5th Supp. 1 213 CR3d 757]

When the landlord has good cause for evicting the tenant, they need to first provide written notice that the tenant’s conduct is a basis for eviction. This may be provided to the tenant along with the notice to vacate. [24 Code of Federal Regulations §982.310(e)]

The landlord also provides the local PHA with a copy of the notice to vacate. [24 CFR §982.310(e)(2)(ii)]

What forms do I use to evict a Section 8 tenant?

If the violation prompting the notice involves a failure to pay amounts due under a lease, the three-day notice to pay or quit is used. [See RPI Form 575]

If the violation prompting the notice involves a correctable nonmonetary breach of a lease agreement, the three-day notice to perform or quit is used. [See RPI Form 576]

If the violation prompting the notice involves an uncorrectable nonmonetary breach of a lease agreement, the three-day notice to quit is used. [See RPI Form 577]

If the tenancy shifts to a month-to-month tenancy after the initial lease period, and the tenant has occupied the property for more than one year, a 60-day notice to vacate is used. [See RPI Form 569-1]

Alternatively, if the tenancy shifts to a month-to-month tenancy after the initial lease period, and the tenant has occupied the property for less than one year, a 30-day notice to vacate is used. [See RPI Form 569]

Related article:

After expiration of Section 8 contract, landlord must continue accepting vouchers from tenants who remain