Section 8 Evictions
Section 8 evictions, compared to other residential evictions in Massachusetts, follow a slightly different set of rules and restrictions. This week, the Appeals Court issued a decision, Scott Realty Group Trust v. Charland, clarifying the required notice to quit for Section 8 evictions.
Ironically, I had been working on this exact issue the day before the Appeals Court issued this decision. I wish the courts would consult me before issuing their decisions!
What is Section 8?
Section 8 is a federal program that provides housing vouchers to those with low income. Section 8 caps the amount that participants must pay in housing (usually 30% of gross income) and subsidizes the rest.
Section 8, importantly, pays this voucher directly to the landlord and does not provide rental housing directly. Section 8 requires landlords and tenants to enter into a specific type of lease and rental paperwork.
Notices to Quit for Section 8 Evictions
Notices to quit are required for nearly every eviction in Massachusetts. For Section 8 evictions, however, the required paperwork for these tenancies have detailed requirements about what must be included in these notices, and include limitations on the potential grounds for eviction.
One of the central issues in this case was whether a Section 8 tenant, who had become a tenant at will (a “month-to-month” tenant) could be evicted for no-fault. Such a scenario occurs when a tenant has stayed pass the lease term, but continues to stay in the rental apartment and pay rent.
Typically, a tenancy at will can be ended by either the landlord or tenant, with no reason needed from either side. However, because the Section 8 paperwork seemed to suggest that a reason is needed for a Section 8 eviction, it remained unclear whether a no-fault eviction was ever allowed for Section 8 tenancies.
The court concluded that a no-fault eviction could be brought against a Section 8 tenant. However, unlike other no-fault evictions, the notice to quit for a Section 8 tenant is required to include an explanation for eviction. Even though no reason was required for the eviction, the landlord needed to expressly state that to the tenant in the notice.
A paragraph at the end of this decision summarizes these points about evicting a Section 8 tenant:
This case demonstrates that landlords of Section 8 tenants
must be careful to comply with the notice provisions contained
in paragraph 8(g) of the HAP contract tenancy addendum even where the tenancy is at will. Those notice provisions do not
displace the landlord’s ability to terminate an at-will Section
8 tenancy, but they do require that the tenant receive notice of
the reason for the termination. That reason must be contained
either in the notice to quit or the summary process complaint.
Where there is cause for the termination, either the notice to
quit or the summary process complaint must so state; and the
same is true where there is no cause for the termination.
I would add that, in addition to specific requirements on notices to quit, Section 8 often requires that the housing administrator be notified of any eviction proceeding. For this reason, landlords need to review Section 8 paperwork carefully before starting the eviction process (or get the assistance of a qualified landlord-tenant attorney).
If you need assistance with a landlord-tenant matter, contact me for a consultation.