Housing Problems?

 Call our Public Housing
Section 8 Renters Rights Hotline 354-6353

Important Terms:

Contract Rent:

This is the overall amount the landlord charges in total for the unit.

Housing Assistance Payment:

This is the amount that the Housing Authority pays towards your rent. It is calculated based on the "Payment Standard" minus the Tenant Portion.

Tenant Portion:

This is between 30% and 40% of your income. It may be higher if the Payment Standard is lower than the Contract Rent.

Payment Standard:

This is the legally authorized amount that the Housing Authority may give towards a unit. This is subject to changes annually.

Utility Allowance:

If you pay your own utilities, the Housing Authority, when they determine your rent amount, will deduct a certain limited amount from your rent. This is also subject to changes each year, and in some cases will not apply (when allowances are reduced to zero).


This will take place on the anniversary date of your move-in. You will be required to report your income again at this time.



How Your Rent is Calculated:

The laws which govern the Section 8 housing program are meant to ensure that the rent you pay is affordable to you. That is why the rent you are charged is set according to your income.

When you move in and at once every year after that, the Housing Authority will determine your rent based on a combination of how much you earn, how much the landlord charges and how much you pay for extra costs, such as utilities and medical expenses.

With a few exceptions, your rent will be set between 30% and 40% of your household income. This will include the income of all earning household members.

New rules require that if you are moving into to Section 8 housing for the first time or you are moving to a new unit with your Section 8 voucher, you will be charged 40% of your income. If you have been living in Section 8 for a while, your rent was probably calculated originally at 30% of your income.

Reasons Your Rent Can Be Increased:

Your rent can only be increased upon the anniversary date of your move-in and after you have been re-certified and re-inspected; and you must be given proper notice (in most cases, 30 days). There are only a few specific reasons why your rent can be raised in Section 8 housing:

  • Your income has increased
  • There have been changes in utility allowances
  • There has been a reduction in the Housing Authority's payment standard: Each year the amount that the Housing Authority pays for each unit changes. When the amount is lowered, you will be asked to pay more in order to make up the difference between what the housing Authority pays and what the landlord charges. You must be given 90 days notice when you are given this type of rent increase.

Can I Be Made to Pay More than 40% of My Income?

The only time you can be legally required to pay more than 40% of your income for rent in Section 8 housing is when the Payment Standard is reduced while you are renting with a voucher.

What this means is that the Housing Authority gives less towards your rent. Since the "contract rent" or what your landlord charges overall stays the same, you are required to pay more in order to make up the difference. This can only happen at your anniversary date and you must be given 90 days notice for this type of increase. 

Only the Housing Authority Can Increase Your Rent

If your landlord decides to charge more rent, he/she can not simply give you a rent increase.

Any changes in rent must be done through the Housing Authority and they must notify you in writing and provide you with 30 days for the increase takes effect. When a landlord raises the Contract Rent, this should not have any impact on you since, you will still be charged according to your income.

2008 Payment Standards

This is the maximum amount the Housing Authority will give towards your rent. Remember that your "tenant portion" will be deducted from this amount.

The SFHA's payment standards are 110% of HUD's Fair Market Rents. See this year's payment standards here.

Utility Allowances

This is the maximum amount that will be deducted from your rent costs based on your out of pocket utility costs. Included in the allowance are heating, cooking, water heating, water and trash costs. Allowances range between $6-14 monthly for gas costs and $14-$30 for Oil or Electric heat; $3-7 for gas cooking and $6-10 for Oil or Electric cooking; $12-15 for gas water heating and $30-37 for electric water heating. Click here for a full list of allowable utility allowances.

What Can I Do When My Rent Increase is More Than I Can Afford?

The only reason your rent can become unaffordable to you is if the Housing Authority's portion is lowered at your re-certification. If this happens there may some things you can do to lower your rent:

  • Request in writing to your landlord that they reduce you rent. If you can show them that other rents in the area are generally lower, this can help. This has resulted in lowering of rents.
  • If you can show that your landlord is charging more than most rents for similar units in the neighborhood, you can ask the Housing Authority to ask the landlord to lower the Contract Rent.
By law, the landlord must bring their rent in line with the local market. However, if the landlord does not cooperate, the Housing Authority must terminate the contract and you will have to move. Decide carefully if you want to use this strategy.
  • If you are disabled, you can ask for a "reasonable accommodation" from the Housing Authority in the form of a lower rent amount. You must prove a medical need and have documentation from medical or service professionals; and show that being forced to move would endanger your health or your housing provides amenities more conditions that are critically important to your health.