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Landlord Rights Regarding Section 8 Voucher Holders

May 5, 2021

Many landlords have historically declined to accept prospective tenants holding vouchers issued pursuant to the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program (“Section 8”). Changes in the law may or may not impact landlords’ rights regarding acceptance of Section 8 participants. 

Section 8 is the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (“HUD’s”) major program for assisting eligible low-income families, the elderly, and the disabled to afford housing in the private market. Because HUD’s housing assistance voucher program provides assistance directly for the benefit of a family or an individual, participants are able to identify their own rental housing, including single-family houses, townhouses and apartments. Participants may select any housing that meets the requirements of Section 8 and are not limited to units located in subsidized housing projects.

While federal law does not currently obligate a landlord to accept Section 8 voucher holders, some state or local fair housing laws and ordinances prohibit landlords from discriminating based on a family or an individual holding a Section 8 voucher. These laws are typically part of a broader ban on housing discrimination based on a prospective tenant’s “source of income.” As of April 2021, nineteen states and the District of Columbia have enacted housing laws prohibiting discrimination in the housing market based on a prospective tenant’s source of income. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Indiana and Texas have implemented preemptive legislation, which prohibits any local unit of government from enacting an ordinance proscribing source of income discrimination. 

At the state level, Michigan does not currently prohibit housing discrimination based on a prospective tenant’s source of income. However, various Michigan municipalities, including Ann Arbor, Jackson, East Lansing, Lansing, Kalamazoo, Holland, Kentwood, Wyoming, and Grand Rapids have ordinances in effect prohibiting source of income discrimination. Penalties for fair housing violations are significant and may include, among other things, civil fines and other sanctions, attorney’s fees and costs, and/or injunctive relief. 

State and local regulation of source of income discrimination is a rapidly changing environment. For instance, as recently as March 17, 2021, Senate Bill No. 255 was introduced in Michigan, which, if passed, would prohibit source of income housing discrimination at the state level.   

Further information regarding a landlord’s rights regarding acceptance of prospective tenants holding Section 8 vouchers can be obtained by contacting an attorney in Honigman’s Real Estate Department’s Affordable Housing Practice Group.

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