Tenant-based Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers, the Project-Based Section 8 program, and Public Housing are the largest and primary rental housing assistance programs for low-income families, this article focuses on the ending the lease in Section 8 and public housing, including evictions and lockouts.
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Termination by public housing agency (PHA) - A PHA may not terminate your tenancy (right to live there as a tenant) except for:
- serious or repeated violations of "material" (important) lease terms;
- being over the income limit of the program;
- other “good cause.”
Note that there are some exceptions. Your lease agreement must lay out the procedures to be followed by the PHA and by the tenant to terminate the tenancy.
NOTE: Your local PHA may have additional protections and restrictions than what is included in this article. Review your lease agreement carefully, and contact your local PHA for more information.
Serious or repeated violations of “material” terms of the lease can include:
- failure to pay rent or some other financial obligation; or
- failure to fulfill a tenant's obligation such as:
- not to sublet the unit (rent it to someone else)
- not to keep boarders or lodgers
- to use the unit only as a private dwelling
- to abide by all housing authority rules and regulations
- to maintain the unit in a clean and safe condition
- to not destroy or vandalize the unit
- to pay for unit damage caused by the tenant, a member of the household, or its guests (other than normal wear and tear)
- not to disturb the peaceful enjoyment of other residents
- not to engage in criminal activity or alcohol abuse
Other "good cause" includes:
- criminal activity, drug abuse, or alcohol abuse;
- after you are admitted, the housing authority discovers that the tenant is ineligible;
- you make false statements or commit fraud in your application for housing or recertification;
- failure of a family member to comply with the program’s community service or self-sufficiency work activity requirement; or
- failure to accept a modification of a lease.
Termination by Tenant - Generally, if the tenant wishes to terminate the tenancy, they can do so for any reason but must provide the required notice. Review your lease agreement carefully for information about the required notice and other procedures.
Notice of Termination – Landlords must provide tenants with written notice of any termination of the lease. The notice period may vary depending on the reason for termination.
- 14 days for failure to pay rent;
- a reasonable period of time considering the seriousness of the situation (but not to exceed 30 days) if the health or safety of other residents, PHA employees, or persons residing in the immediate vicinity of the premises is threatened; if any member of the household has engaged in any drug-related criminal activity or violent criminal activity; or if any member of the household has been convicted of a felony;
- 30 days in any other case, except if Maryland or local laws allows a shorter notice period, then the shorter notice period will apply.
The landlord’s written notice must include:
- the date of termination;
- the reason for the termination, with enough detail so that the tenant may prepare a defense;
- if termination is due to failure to pay rent, the dollar amount of the balance due and the date the computation was made;
- information about tenant’s right to review PHA documents; and
- Information about tenant’s right to request a grievance hearing (unless an exception applies).
The notice must be sent to tenant by first class mail, properly stamped and addressed to tenant at tenant’s address at the project, and with proper return address OR delivered in person to any adult member of the tenant’s household.
Pre-Eviction Grievance Process – In most situations, tenants are entitled to a pre-eviction grievance process, which includes an informal conference (and summary of that conference) as well as a grievance hearing (if the tenant makes the request in a timely manner). Be aware, however, that there are exceptions to a tenant’s right to the pre-eviction grievance process if the eviction is related to certain criminal activities. In addition, there may be an expedited procedure that may apply. The PHA must provide a copy to the grievance procedure to each tenant. Read this carefully.
Eviction - If a tenant remains past the termination date, the landlord must go to court before the tenant can be evicted. The landlord cannot change the locks, cut off the water or electricity, or move tenant’s belongings without going to court. If you fail to object to a termination notice, it does not mean you waive your right to contest the termination in court.
If you receive a court summons or eviction letter, contact an attorney as soon as possible. If your landlord agrees to let you stay but wants you to sign a written agreement, contact an attorney before signing it. Learn more about getting help from a legal professional in Maryland.
Read the law: U.S. Code, Title 42 §1437d
Read the regulations: Code of Federal Regulations, Title 24, Part 966
Section 8 Housing
Termination of Tenancy – The landlord may not terminate the tenancy except for:
- 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; or
- other “good cause.”
Other "good cause" can include a family history of disturbance of neighbors, destruction of property, or of living or housekeeping habits that damage the unit or premises.
After the initial lease term, other “good cause” can include:
- failure to accept the offer of a new lease or revision;
- landlord's desire to use the unit for personal or family use; or
- business or economic reason (e.g., sale of the property, unit renovation, leasing at a higher rental).
NOTE: Terminating the tenancy is not the same thing as terminating the Section 8 Housing Choice Program voucher. Learn more about terminating the voucher.
Termination by Tenant - Generally, if the tenant wishes to terminate the tenancy, they can do so for any reason but must provide the required notice and comply with any lease procedures. Review your lease agreement carefully for information about the required notice and other procedures.
Notice – Landlords must comply with the lease terms and state laws. In addition, both the landlord and tenant must also provide the PHA with a copy of the notice. Review your lease agreement carefully, and contact your local PHA for more information. Learn more.
Eviction – The landlord can only evict you after going through the court process. The landlord’s eviction notice is not the eviction order. It is the court that orders the eviction. The landlord cannot change the locks, cut off the water or electricity, or move tenant’s belongings without going to court. If you fail to object to a termination notice, it does not mean you waive your right to contest the termination in court.
Project-based Section 8 Housing – For Project-based Section 8 Housing, the procedures related to ending the lease, including required notice, can vary depending on the specific type of project. Review your lease agreement carefully, and contact your local PHA for more information.
Read the law: U.S. Code, Title 42 §1437f
State and Local Laws
In addition to the provisions provided by federal laws and the policies of local PHAs, landlord must also follow state and local laws related to eviction, except where the state or local law has been preempted by federal law. Learn more about evictions and ending the lease in Maryland.
There may be situations where a landlord can terminate a tenancy for reasons other what is listed in this article. For example, the information above may not apply where a tenant’s occupancy is terminated because HUD, or the landlord with HUD's consent, has decided to substantially rehabilitate or demolish the project, or sell the project to a purchaser for substantial rehabilitation or demolition.
In addition, sometimes a landlord is allowed to stop providing a specific kind of subsidized housing. If your landlord wants to do this, the landlord must send you a letter telling you about it. There are things you can do to fight your landlord’s decision to end this type of subsidized housing, to stay where you are, or to make sure that you can find other affordable housing. Even if the landlord changes the type of subsidized housing, you may have other options. For example, when owners do not renew their project-based Section 8, tenants provided with Section 8 tenant protection vouchers.
Read the Law: Code of Federal Regulations, Title 24, Part 247