Section 8 housing refers to federally assisted housing provided by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) under Title 42, Chapter 8. This is a voucher-based program which allows for Section 8 recipients to reside anywhere a Section 8 program operates. To assure that individuals are not defrauding HUD and that landlords are in compliance with fair housing standards, HUD investigates landlords as well as tenants under the program.
As part of the program, rental units must meet stringent HUD housing requirements (referred to as Housing Quality Standards) in the form of initial and annual inspection of a premises by investigators. If the property does not meet inspection standards, the unit cannot be offered under the program. One of the reasons why there are long waiting lists for HUD housing is that many landlords are unwilling to improve properties to make them suitable for Section 8 rental status.
Section 8 fraud investigations are handled at the state and federal level. While Section 8 is a federal program, it is usually administered by a state housing authority. For example, Oakland, California's housing aAuthority operates a fraud iInvestigation unit solely focused on public housing fraud.
Generally a complaint taken in either through an ongoing investigation or via meeting with a fraud coordinator is memorialized and then submitted to the state housing authority investigation unit for review. If the complaint is deemed valid, it is referred to an investigator. The investigator will undertake an investigation, and if violations are found, the case is prepared and referred for prosecution to state or federal prosecutors. HUD and state housing authorities also welcome voluntary reporting of suspected fraud to hotlines to assist in fraud investigations, which remain anonymous.
Violations of Section 8 can be charged criminally. For instance, an individual who defrauds the program of funds may be charged with theft of government funds, which carries a prison sentence of up to 10 years. The most common type of fraud occurs when an individual hides income or does not report income which otherwise would deny Section 8 eligibility. State programs may seek reimbursement of overpayments, as well as levy fines.