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Housing Problems?
 Call our Public Housing and Section 8 Renters Rights Hotline 354-6353

Important Terms:

Contract Rent:

This is the overall amount the landlord charges in total for the unit.

Housing Assistance Payment:

This is the amount that the Housing Authority pays towards your rent. It is calculated based on the "Payment Standard" minus the Tenant Portion.

Tenant Portion:

This is between 30% and 40% of your income. It may be higher if the Payment Standard is lower than the Contract Rent.

Payment Standard:

This is the legally authorized amount that the Housing Authority may give towards a unit. This is subject to changes annually.

Re-Certification:

This will take place on the anniversary date of your move-in. You will be required to report your income again at this time.


If You Have a Disability:

According to law, HUD must grant a waiver to local Housing Authorities allowing them to raise rent assistance amounts 10% higher than the Fair Market Rents (to 120% of FMR) in order to provide a "reasonable accommodation" for those with disabilities. You may be able to bring your rent down this way.

To request a waiver, you must present a case to the Housing Authority that explains why a forced relocation due to your rent increase would worsen your medical condition or that the housing you are now in provides a unique accommodation for your disability. You will also need to enclose as much supporting documentation from medical professionals, social workers and therapists as you can. The Housing Authority will then decide whether to forward your case to HUD, based on what you have provided to them.

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RENT INCREASES IN SECTION 8

Rents in Section 8 housing are NOT covered by rent control in San Francisco. The Housing Authority sets the rules that govern rent increases. 

Your rent can only be increased by the San Francisco Housing Authority (SFHA)'s Section 8 program. You should only pay more rent if you have been told to do so in writing by the SFHA. Your landlord does not have the right to raise your rent. 

If your landlord wants more money for rent, he/she must request it from the SFHA. If the SFHA approves, they will pay more towards your rent. it will not change the amount you pay for rent (called the "tenant portion"), except if the rent approved is over the "payment standard" (see below for more on these these type of rent increases). 

Landlords can not charge you more than what the Housing Authority has approved.  It is illegal for a Section 8 landlord to ask for or accept "side payments" from tenants. 

Why Can Rent Be Increased?

There are very few reasons why your rent can be increased in Section 8 housing.  It can be raised only if:
  • Your household income increases
  • You move and start a new tenancy
  • The SFHA approves a "contract" rent that is higher than the "payment standard"
  • The SFHA lowers their "payment standard" (the amount that the Housing Authority will pay overall for rent on a unit of a particular size)
When Can Rent Be Increased?

Your rent can only be increased once a year on your re-certification date.
You must be given 30 days notice in writing from the Housing Authority. 

The Big Exception: 
When contract rent is higher than the payment standard.


There are 2 situations where you can be required to pay over 40% of your income for rent:
when the SFHA approves a rent that is higher than the SFHA's payment standard and when HUD reduces the Fair Market Rents to less  your contract rent. 

1. If your landlord asks the Housing Authority for a rent increase that is higher than the "payment standard" and the SFHA approves, you can be required to pay the extra rent on top of what you already pay.  When this happens, however, your landlord will only be able to raise your rent by a small percentage in the future. 

2.  If the payment standard is reduced (which happens when HUD reduces the FMR), you can be required to pay the difference in rent between what the SFHA can pay and what you currently have been paying. 

This was mostly a problem in 2005, when HUD lowered its "Fair Market Rents".  Some Section 8 voucher holders received very large rent increases. Below are some articles that explain why this happened and what tenants and advocates can do to address an unaffordable rent increase.

FAQ for Tenants Article by SFHA Administrator Tony Uccifferri about the FMR rent increases
Letter sent by the Mayor to Section 8 landlords

Important things to know about this type of rent increase:

  • You must be given 90 days (3 months) written notice by the Housing Authority before the rent increase goes into effect.
  • The rent increase can only be given on the second anniversary date after your move-in.
  • your rent CAN be increased to over 40% of your income with this type of increase. 
  • If you are disabled, you can request more assistance from the SFHA towards your rent. 
If you get an "FMR" rent increase:

One of the most useful first steps in attempting to roll back a rent increase is simply to contact your landlord. Below is a sample letter you can send. We also suggest you include the letter that the Mayor wrote urging Section 8 Landlords to consider lowering their rents in these situations.

Sample letter to landlord

It also helps if you include information about "comparable rents." If you show your landlord that the rent for your unit is above other market rents in your neighborhood, he/she may be more inclined to lower it. Go to "Craigslist" or the "SFGate"classified ads and search for same size units in your neighborhood to include in your letter.