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Working With Section 8 Housing Vouchers – What Landlords Should Know

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Landlords often have concern over having a good tenant with rent being paid on time. One of the benefits of having a section 8 tenant is knowing that a portion, if not all, of the rent will be paid on time (often early!) since it is a federally funded program.

The Section 8 housing voucher program was founded in 1937.  It is managed by Housing and Urban Development at the federal level and administered by housing authorities in cities and towns across the country.  Its objective is to move individuals and families, who cannot always afford it, into good housing.  A landlord, or a landlord’s agent, works with the local housing authority (as well as the prospective tenant) in a process that is a little more complex and time consuming than a regular rental, but often is worth the time and effort.

To even be eligible to receive housing assistant applicants have to meet requirements across 4 categories:

  1. Family Status
  2. Income Level
  3. Citizenship
  4. Eviction history (Anyone evicted from public housing or any Section 8 program for drug-related criminal activity are ineligible for assistance for at least 3 years from the date of the eviction)

While it is unlawful for both a landlord or Real Estate Agent to discriminate, landlords can sometimes be hesitant to accept these applications as there are some additional qualifications that must be met.

Voucher recipients should be treated like any other prospective tenant; it’s not wrong to interview potential tenants, no matter how they pay the rent, to see if you think they’ll be compatible. “Perfect tenants” are few and far between. Factors to consider when you’re interviewing prospective tenants are:

  1. What is the applicant’s income?
  2. What is their credit score (FICO)?
  3. Do they have pets?
  4. Why are they leaving their current residence?
  5. References (previous and current landlord)

There are some things a landlord could consider a “drawback” to working with Section 8 voucher recipients. Primarily among them is that a landlord sometimes has to wait for the first month’s rent until after the tenant has moved in. Section 8 also does not pay security deposits, but in many cases a tenant has other resources for those funds. There is an inspection process to ensure the unit is safe, decent, and the systems are operating properly. Some improvements or repairs may be necessary to pass inspection. The inspections do continue on a yearly basis but if it’s kept up they can be pro-forma. There are also forms to fill out – not difficult or extensive, mostly basic questions about the subject property, but they take a little time, maybe an extra hour or two. If a property is built before 1978 a Letter of Lead Paint Compliance must be provided.