This is a question we receive quite often.
Example: you qualify for a 2 bedroom and have 3 people living in the house with you. Your uncle needs a place to stay. You have an extra bed or maybe space in the den/living room. Is that a problem? Can he stay with you? Or will that put your Section 8 Voucher at risk?
Here are the facts:
What you need to know about Section 8 Rules for Visitors
Section 8 Rules are very strict! It is important that you realize this right away, before you start getting yourself into trouble. Breaking the rules may mean that you will loose your voucher forever.
The only people allowed to officially live in your home have to be reported on your HUD 50058 form. This is a form that is included in the application process (and the annual renewal) for Section 8 benefits. It’s called the “Family Report” and outlines each member of your family that will be living with you. This is how Section 8 determines the amount of bedrooms you qualify for.
Even a blood relative, who is NOT officially a part of your household, is considered a guest. This can be a parent, sibling, child, grandchild, etc. This means visitation rules will apply to this person, and he/she will not be able to simply live with you.
If you want someone to stay with you for a substantial period of time, you need to receive approval from your PHA.
How Long Can a Visitor Legally Stay In My Home?
According to Section 8 rules, a visitor CANNOT stay in your house for MORE than 14 consecutive nights without approval.
Some of you may be thinking “Great, I’ll just have him/her stay out of my place once every 2 weeks and it will be all good.” WRONG!! The 2nd part of the rule states that a person CANNOT stay with you more than 21 nights total in any one year (12 month period, not calendar year).
Also, keep in mind that the burden of proof is on you, the voucher holder, not the other way around. So if you are reported (by your landlord, friend, etc.) or are accused by your PHA of having an unauthorized individual living with you, it is your responsibility to prove otherwise.
Finally, you should know that it is possible to formally petition your HA and your landlord to extend the 14 night visitation period. You must have a strong reason for this request and explain it clearly in your letter. Also, it is best to submit this letter as soon as possible; don’t want for the 14 night period to pass! If HA approves your request, be sure to keep their letter for your records.
Proving that a “Visitor” is NOT living with you
It is important to know that if you are allowing an authorized visitor to stay with you longer than allowed by Section 8 rules, you are committing FRAUD. This is because in your annual household application, which is a LEGAL document, you sign that the number of people staying with you is true and correct.
However, there may be a scenario, that you have been wrongfully accused, and that person really is a guest.
In any case, once your landlord or Housing Authority suspects that someone has been living with you without authorization, you will need to prove that they actually reside somewhere else.
Here is a list of documents you may need to present. (note, this is a general list, and a particular Housing Authority may need some additional information):
- Mail to the visitor’s “real” address
- Current utility bill from the visitor’s real address
- A lease with a visitor’s name on it
- A signed/notarized statement from the persons you are residing with and a signed/notarized statement from the allegedly-unauthorized individual as well.
What happens if it is discovered that an authorized individual has been living with you?
Depending on state and federal laws in your location, a few things may happen:
- The Housing Authority will take away your Section 8 voucher for good. This means that you will not be able to reapply for Section 8 for a set period of time, or ever in this state.
- If Housing Authority discovers that the person living with you has income, they will request documentation and raise your rent accordingly, to capture the subsidy they have overpaid.
- If you request to include this person in your household, and they are approved, your rent will also go up (if they have official income).
Overall, it is very important to find out what the rules are where you live, before you allow someone to stay with you.
Why are Section 8 Rules So Strict?
You may be wondering what the big deal is if someone starts to live with you? What is the harm?
There are two reasons why the rules are so strict:
Housing Authorities try their best to protect residents and landlords, and to maintain drug and crime free housing. This is why, every member of your family has gone through a criminal background check, before HA approved them for Section 8. An unauthorized visitor has not gone through this criminal background check, so he/she may turn out to be a felon, sex offender, drug addict, etc. A HA would not consider this person safe and would not want them on premises.
HA calculates the reduced amount of rent you pay, based on the reported number of people in your household and your reported income. If someone is staying with you and helping you out with rent, this means you are actually stealing money from the government. This is because if this person would be officially included in your household, your rent would be higher!