Evicting a Section 8 Tenant

The Department of Housing & Urban Development’s Section 8 program helps low-income tenants afford housing by providing rent subsidies to the program participants. A Section 8 tenancy can go south for the same reasons as other tenancies, sometimes requiring the landlord to commence eviction proceedings against the tenant. This article summarizes the legal grounds for Section 8 evictions and the procedural requirements for a successful action.    

“Good Cause” is Required

HUD regulations include provisions governing the termination of a Section 8 tenancy. The Regulations provide that Section 8 landlords can terminate the tenancy of a tenant who receives Section 8 benefits only on the basis of “good cause.”  The regulations define what constitutes “good cause” during an initial lease term, and after the initial lease term expires.  During the initial lease term, “good cause” includes: 

  • serious or repeated violation of the terms and conditions of the lease (e.g., failure to pay rent); 
  • violation of federal, state, or local laws, including criminal activity
  • Disturbance of neighbors
  • Destruction of property,
  • Living or housekeeping habits that cause damage to the unit or premises.

After the initial lease term, good cause is defined to include:

(a) The tenant’s failure to accept the owner’s offer of a new lease or revision;

(b) The owner’s desire to use the unit for personal or family use or for a purpose other than use as a residential rental unit; or

(c) A business or economic reason for termination of the tenancy (such as sale of the property, renovation of the unit, or the owner’s desire to rent the unit for a higher rent).

Domestic Violence Exception

Where criminal activity relates to domestic abuse of the tenant, it does not qualify as serious or repeated violations of the lease or other “good cause” for termination of the assistance, tenancy, or occupancy rights of such a victim.

Compliance with State and Local Just Cause Eviction Control Ordinances

The contemplated eviction must also pass muster under “good cause” eviction control ordinances in effect in many cities and counties of California.  For example, in one published court decision, the court held that a landlord’s reason for terminating the tenancy based on “business and economic reasons” – while permissible under the federal regulations – did not fall within the just cause reasons for evictions under the Los Angeles rent ordinance.   The court decided that the federal regulations had a lower protection level against evictions, prompting the court to defer to local laws providing greater protection. Under the Los Angeles rent ordinance, the landlord’s reason for giving the tenant a 90-day notice was inadequate, resulting in dismissal of the unlawful detainer action. 

Housing Contract Termination

The Code of Federal Regulations allows local housing agencies to refuse or terminate assistance for Section 8 applicants and recipients on several grounds. For example, if a family fails to properly comply with Section 8 protocols, a housing agency can refuse or terminate benefits. Termination can also result from a family’s refusal to submit the required documents to verify citizenship or eligible immigration status as well as income and household size. If the HAP contract terminates for any reason, the lease terminates automatically as well.

Procedure for Eviction

The owner may only evict the tenant by a court action.  Before initiating a court action to evict the tenant, the owner must give the tenant a notice that specifies the grounds for termination of tenancy. The action then proceeds as a typical eviction action in California.  Specifically, a defendant will have 5 court days to answer the complaint.  If he does not answer, a default judgment may be taken against him.  If the tenant files a response to the complaint, the matter will then be set for trial upon the filing by one party of a request to set the matter for trial.

Notification of Housing Authority

In California landlords must notify the local housing authority of their intention to evict a Section 8 tenant and give the reason(s) for doing so. The housing authority may take no action, may approve of the eviction, or may object to it.  In the event of an objection, the housing authority should be named as a co-defendant in the eviction lawsuit.

Please contact Lynx Legal Service with any questions regarding a contemplated Section 8 eviction, or if you are ready to start a case.  We can be reached at 888-441-2355 or info@lynxlegal.com

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