Rights and Responsibilities of Tenants Living in Federal Housing
As a federal housing renter, you have rights and responsibilities. You may enjoy rent payment vouchers that provide rental assistance in low-income public housing. But you also have responsibilities under the federal Fair Housing Act (42 U.S.C. § 3604). Your civil rights may fall under the terms of your subsidy assistance under federal law.
This article will discuss making the most of your housing assistance. Learning landlord and tenant laws can help you get the greatest eviction protections possible.
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) field offices aim to keep the best possible tenancy environment for all residents in housing programs. They encourage:
- Interactions between residents, management agents, and property owners
- Timely consideration and resolution of valid complaints by renters and managers
- Organization and participation of residents in decisions about apartment buildings
Many of these federal government protections overlap with state laws. This is especially true in more populous states like New York and California.
Rights Involving Your Rental Unit
Under landlord-tenant laws, you have the right to live in habitable, safe, and sanitary housing. This occupancy format includes the rights to:
- Necessary repairs performed on time upon your request
- Reasonable accommodations or reasonable modifications for certain disabilities and protected classes, if possible under the circumstances
- A quality maintenance program run by the personnel managing your building
The rental property manager should also give you a written notice of any non-emergency inspection or other entry into your apartment within a reasonable time (e.g., seven-day notice). They cannot enter your apartment without proper notice unless there is an emergency that poses a threat of:
- Damage to the property
- Loss of human life
Rights Involving Resident Organization
As a resident, you also have the right to:
- Be free from obstruction, harassment, or retaliation from property owners.
- Post helpful materials in common areas. (Such as information about resident rights and opportunities to take part in projects around those rights.)
- Use appropriate common spaces or other meeting spaces to organize
- Group with other residents to discuss issues affecting the condition of the property. (This may be subject to a reasonable, HUD-approved fee.)
Housing providers, property owners, and managers must recognize your right to have a voice in residential community affairs.
Rights Involving Nondiscrimination
Under federal fair housing law, you have the right to equal and fair treatment in using your building's services and facilities. This means you can use the real estate's facilities without fearing discrimination for:
- Sexual orientation
- Familial status, around children under 18
- National origin, which can mean ethnicity or language
If you believe someone has discriminated against you or would like information on what makes up housing discrimination, call 1-800-669-9777. You can also call your local HUD Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity.
As a new tenant of a HUD-assisted project, you also have certain duties. You must ensure your building remains a suitable home for you and your neighbors. By signing your lease agreement, you and the homeowner/management company have entered into a legal, enforceable contract.
You and the owner are responsible for complying with your written lease, federal laws, state laws, and local laws governing your property. Contact your management agent or local HUD field office if you have any questions about your lease terms.
Your Responsibilities to Your Property Owner or Management Agent
You must follow the rules in your lease. This means:
- Paying the correct amount of rent on a timely basis each month
- Providing accurate information to the owner at the certification interview to decide your eligibility for assistance
- Consenting to the release of information by a third party to allow for verification
Responsibilities to the Housing Facility and Your Fellow Residents
You also must live in a way that won't disturb your neighbors. Living in such a way includes the following:
- You cannot engage in criminal activity in the unit, common area, or grounds.
- You must keep your unit clean so you can't litter the grounds or common areas.
- You can't dispose of garbage and waste in a way that is non-compliant or negatively affects the health or safety of others.
- You must also maintain your apartment and common areas in the same general physical condition as when you moved in.
- You should report any defects in building systems to management. That includes fixtures, appliances, or other parts of the unit.
Residents in HUD-assisted multifamily housing play an important role. They can help shape decisions that affect their project. Different HUD programs have specific resident rights. You have the right to know under what HUD program your building falls. Contact your management agent to learn more about your building.
If you need help or more information, contact one of the following:
- Your property manager
- Your local program center or the project manager in the multifamily hub
- The HUD Housing Counseling Service Locator. Call 1-800-569-4287 for the housing counseling agency in your community.
- HUD's National Multifamily Clearinghouse at 1-800-685-8470 to report maintenance or management concerns.
Need Legal Services Related to Your Federal Housing? An Attorney Can Help
If you would like legal help, you can contact an experienced landlord-tenant lawyer. You can also visit FindLaw's Tenant Rights section for more general information on this topic or review state-specific HUD information.
You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help
Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.