Can I Refuse Section 8 Renters in California?

by Jane Amar; Updated September 26, 2017
The Section 8 waiting list in California can sometimes exceed one year.

The state of California does not administer Section 8 rental programs. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) program provides funding to county and city public housing agencies who administer this program which enables low-income individuals and families to afford decent housing. The federal rules govern which individuals are entitled to rental assistance under Section 8 and the obligations of landlords who rent to them.

Section 8 Housing Vouchers

Under Section 8 housing assistance, eligible recipients receive vouchers representing the dollar amount the government will pay toward suitable rental costs. Federal guidelines determine the amount of the vouchers based on the recipient’s income and family size. The voucher recipient then can go shopping for housing based on his preferred location, housing size and price range. The housing can be a home, condominium, mobile home or apartment that meets the housing standards set by HUD. The public housing agency pays the value of the voucher directly to a landlord willing and qualified to provide Section 8 housing. If the amount of rent exceeds the value of the voucher, the renter is responsible for the difference.

Landlord Involvement with Section 8

Landlords are not obligated to accept Section 8 vouchers. The landlord evaluates the acceptability of the voucher holder as a tenant using the same criteria she would apply to any other prospective renter. If a prospective tenant wishes to use his voucher to pay part of the rent, an interested property owner must apply to the local public housing agency for approval; she cannot agree to accept the voucher dealing directly with the renter. The agency will inspect the landlord’s rental property to ensure it complies with HUD standards for safety, cleanliness and furnishings. The housing agency and the landlord sign a contract covering the landlord’s obligations under the lease. The agency must approve the total amount of rent charged. The landlord is not obligated to accept the agency’s decision, but if unwilling to accept the amount approved, will not be able to rent the property as Section 8 housing.

Housing Discrimination Law in California

Landlords who agree to rent under Section 8 cannot treat housing applicants differently from other prospective tenants. Under California law, tenants are protected from discrimination based on characteristics such as race, religion, color, sex, national origin, sexual orientation or conditions such as pregnancy or any disability. Application of arbitrary standards (renting or refusing to rent based on perceived physical attractiveness or lack of) is also forbidden. Landlords can decline renting to a Section 8 applicant for reasons that would apply to all prospective tenants, provided the reasons do not violate federal and state laws prohibiting discrimination.

Termination of Rental Agreements

A Section 8 tenant can lose his lease if he violates the terms. Good cause for terminating a lease for other tenants also applies to Section 8 renters. Owners must notify the public housing agency if planning to sell the property, since the contract with the agency and the rental lease terminate upon completion of the sale. The agency will attempt to transfer the lease to the new owner without interrupting the help being provided the renter. Effective May 20, 2009, tenants received additional rights under federal law when the property where they rent is foreclosed upon. The law forbids new owners from immediately terminating Section 8 leases in effect at the time of foreclosure and evicting tenants, unless the new owners intend to use the rental property as their primary place of residence.

About the Author

Jane Amar received a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish language and literature from the University of California in Riverside in 1970. After more than 37 years in government service in management and technical positions, she retired and began her writing career. Since 2007 she has written online content in English and Spanish for profit and nonprofit services and individual entrepreneurs.

Photo Credits

  • apartment lease sign image by Aaron Kohr from Fotolia.com