Section 8 housing – officially entitled the housing choice voucher program – is a federal program offering assistance in securing safe and affordable housing for low-income families. Two criminal offenses will result in an immediate rejection from the scheme: sex offender registration and drug-related criminal activity. In order to keep Section 8 housing residents safe, the program also has a vetting process that helps prevent individuals prone to any criminal or violent activity from obtaining a federally subsidized housing voucher.
Companies and landlords that provide Section 8 housing can, and often do, perform full background checks on applicants, including searching criminal records. The background check extends to anybody over the age of 16 that will be living with the applicant, and the biological parents of any children currently living with the applicant, even if they are not residents.
There are only two criminal offenses that will result in an instant and irreversible rejection from Section 8 housing under current federal law. Any individual who has a lifetime registration as a sex offender, or has been convicted of producing methamphetamine within public housing grounds or elsewhere, is federally banned from applying for or living in Section 8 housing. If any of the individuals who undergo a background check during the application process have either of these two items on his record, the entire application will be denied.
Section 8 providers may deny an application for housing on many grounds. If screening shows that the applicant may not be a suitable resident, such as a history of criminal activity, the application may be denied. If criminal activity does show up in a background check, however, mitigating circumstances are considered. Each local public housing authority puts a different limit on the amount of time that must pass after certain criminal convictions before an applicant can be accepted into public housing.
Many types of past convictions can be overlooked if the applicants can demonstrate that they will not pose a health or safety risk to the other tenants. This can be done by showing that there aren’t any recent criminal convictions and that they have attended rehabilitation programs or acquired a certificate of good conduct, or equivalent. Any indicators that the criminal activity will not be repeated are taken in consideration during the application process.
Individuals currently living in Section 8 housing must maintain good standards of conduct and avoid criminal activity or face potential eviction. Grounds for eviction can include illegal drug use, alcohol abuse, probation violations and other acts by the tenants or their guests that demonstrate a potential threat to other resident’s health or safety.