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Protect Yourself | Five questions Section 8 renters need to answer right now

Affordable housing is difficult to find as many property owners are looking to cash in on a hot housing market. Here is what Section 8 renters need to know.

TEMPLE, Texas — Schenika Burleson has lived in the same Temple location for 11 years. She had a consistent landlord, she was eligible for Section 8 housing, and she thought she had signed a new lease not too long ago. Now, she has three weeks to find a place to live after her landlord suddenly changed. 

Here are five questions Section 8 tenants need to answer right now to find out if this could happen to them:

1. Do I have a copy of my latest lease agreement? 

It can be easy to lose track of your lease agreement or leave the latest version siting in your inbox during a pandemic. Still, renters need to know exactly when their lease begins and when it ends. You could be less than two months away from having the lease expire and need to start looking at renewal options. 

2. Does the agency handling my Section 8 voucher have the latest lease on file?

The agency handling a tenant's Section 8 voucher is required by law to have a lease on file. If neither you or your landlord didn't provide it, the agency will work off of the last one they had available. If the dates or terms of your latest lease changed, the agency handling your voucher may not honor the latest changes. 

3. Did my Section 8 provider approve any lease changes? 

If a landlord offers to, or decides to, change the terms or dates of your newest lease, the agency that handles your Section 8 voucher needs to be notified right away so they can decide whether to approve the changes, especially if it would impact the amount of the payment agreement. Central Texas Council of Governments Executive Director Jim Reed told 6 News making unapproved changes could, at best, create a headache and at worst cancel a tenant's Section 8 eligibility. 

"It is not a rarity for us to find, at recertification, someone has signed an amendment to their agreement or added a pet or changed units and didn't tell us. Then we have to correct all the paperwork and do an amendment with the agreement," Reed said. "Technically it's a violation of their tenant agreement with us and we have to decide if they can stay on program." 

4. Can my landlord provide a new lease right now if my current lease is about to end?

If a landlord told you they want to keep your lease going for another year, try to get the paperwork signed right away. Reed said the housing market in Central Texas is extremely volatile right now and there are many people looking for options. A word or mouth promise, or even a promise in an email, can be reversed in another week. Get the lease signed as soon as possible.

5. How much notice does my landlord have to provide if he or she is not renewing my lease? 

If you haven't heard back from your landlord, you need to know how much notice the landlord must give you if they do not intend to renew your lease. In some cases it's 60 days. In other agreements, it can be just 30 days. 

If you will need to find another place, you will need to start looking right away