What’s the situation if you’re a felon looking to move in with a partner or relative who receives public housing assistance? Can a felon live with someone on Section 8? Or, perhaps, you’re already on Section 8 and want to know if your family member with a felony record can move in with you.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a straightforward answer to these questions because each Public Housing Authority (PHA) sets its own housing policy and criminal background acceptance criteria.
What we can say with certainty is that the PHA must give their approval before a felon or any other adult moves in with a family in receipt of Section 8.
Section 8 requires all members of a household to be named on the Section 8 agreement, and all adults must pass a background check.
If you violate the terms of the Section 8 agreement, the household may be evicted from public housing or have their rent voucher withdrawn.
Can A Felon Live With Someone On Section 8 in 2023?
Finding affordable housing is one of the biggest obstacles felons face. This is true upon initial release from prison, and securing housing often remains a challenge for many years to come thanks to the widespread use of rental background checks.
If you’re an ex-offender, it’s ideal if you can simply move in with family while you get back on your feet. And it’s entirely natural and sensible to want to rejoin your spouse or partner in the family home.
But when a home is a project-based Section 8 rental, or rent is paid with a Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher, you can’t move in unless you have permission from the housing authority.
The head of the household in receipt of Section 8 must apply to add you to their household before you move in. Failing to make the application violates the Section 8 agreement.
If the PHA does not give their permission, you can’t move in without putting the entire household at risk of eviction.
Having a felony does not result in an automatic denial, but you could be rejected based on the type of felony and the age of your offense.
As part of the Section 8 application, you’ll undergo eligibility background screening, which will look at your criminal, financial, and past rental background.
If you’re employed, your income will also be assessed, so you’ll need to check that moving in won’t put the household over the Section 8 income limit.
If you’re not employed or are on a low income, then the amount of assistance the household receives could be increased.
How Does Section 8 Find Out If A Felon Is Living With You?
You may be tempted to move your family member into your home without applying for permission from Section 8, especially if you suspect they won’t be approved because of their felony conviction.
If you do that, you’re putting your own housing security at risk. There are many ways for Section 8 to find out about unauthorized residents. You could be reported by:
- Neighbors (particularly ones that don’t like you)
- The landlord of the home or apartment building
- The building superintendent
- Maintenance workers
- Employees carrying out the annual housing authority inspection
Once a PHA is notified about a potential breach of your Section 8 agreement, they’ll work to gather evidence, and by the time you’re made aware of their suspicions, they’ll have the evidence they need to begin the eviction process.
Section 8 rules state that a guest may stay with you without prior approval for no longer than 14 consecutive days. After that period, they must be added to your Section 8 agreement and undergo a background check and income assessment.
Section 8 also places a 21-day limit on the total period a guest may stay with you in a given year.
Section 8 Will Not Approve Applicants With These Felonies
While housing authorities are free to set their own policies, federal law prohibits PHAs from providing Section 8 assistance to individuals convicted of the following offenses:
- Any offense which requires lifetime registration as a sex offender.
- Manufacture of methamphetamine in federally funded housing.
What Does A Section 8 Criminal Background Check Look For?
A Section 8 background check will look at arrest records, charges, misdemeanors, and felonies.
The PHA must then evaluate your record to decide whether you pose a threat to the safety of residents or PHA employees.
For some types of offenses, the PHA policy may state that a certain number of years must have passed since you committed the offense or were released from prison.
This period is established so the PHA can assess your most recent behavior and determine how likely you are to continue to engage in criminal conduct or other nuisance behavior.
Felony offenses that may result in your Section 8 application being denied include (but aren’t limited to):
- Drug-related offenses
- Violent crimes
- Fraud or bribery in connection with a federal program
- Crimes that could threaten the safety or the right to peaceful enjoyment of other residents.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) issues guidance to PHAs based on Fair Housing Act Standards. HUD guidelines require PHAs to assess applicants on an individual basis. They can’t simply refuse to approve you because you have a felony.
Unlike private landlords who can say no to an applicant because they have a felony on their record, PHAs must meet a higher standard before they issue a rejection.
When the background check takes place, you’ll be able to supply mitigating evidence to support your application that the housing authority must take into account.
Mitigating evidence is information that shows how you’ve changed since you committed the felony and confirms that you’re a reformed character who will be a responsible tenant.
Examples of mitigating evidence you may be able to supply include:
- Character references from employers.
- References from your parole officer, faith or community leader, tutor, volunteer coordinator, and social worker.
- References from current or former landlords and neighbors.
- Documents showing you’ve completed drug or alcohol abuse programs.
- Proof of education or training you’ve completed since your offense.
- Your employment record.
- Proof you’ve completed an offender rehabilitation program.
A felon can live with someone on Section 8 as long as they qualify during the approval process and is named in the Section 8 agreement. PHAs screen all applicants for Section 8 assistance. They must evaluate criminal backgrounds on a case-by-case basis and consider any mitigating evidence showing the applicant will be a responsible tenant.
Having a felony on your record won’t always result in a rejection, but it’s possible depending on the acceptance criteria used by the housing authority.
Moving into a Section 8 household without PHA approval puts the family at risk of eviction and the loss of their housing choice voucher.
Robert Eric (a lover of Cats and Dogs) is the co-founder of HireFelonsJobs. In our search for a better life, after… A platform was created for the purpose of easing the search for ex-convicts.