Ever since the Great Depression, there have been housing assistance programs in the United States. One of the most popular assistance programs is known as Section 8. With this program, a tenant’s rent payment is subsidized by the government. For landlords willing to deal with extra paperwork, and willing to do a little extra at the behest of the government, it’s possible to find stable tenants — and receive a regular rent check as income for your rental property.
Becoming a Section 8 Landlord
If you want to be a section 8 landlord, you need need to jump through some hoops. First of all, you have to fill out an application to be considered a Section 8 landlord. You will provide personal information, as well as information about your rent rates. In order to be accepted as a Section 8 landlord, you will need to keep your rates around the median for your area. If your rates are too high, you might have to lower them in order to be accepted by the Section 8 program.
Your property also needs to be inspected. Your rental property has to be up to code, and everything needs to be in proper repair and working safely. Realize, too, that in some areas you might be required to provide air conditioning. The inspectors will let you know if you need to make changes in order to be accepted into the program, based on local building codes.
That’s pretty much it. Once you go through the application and inspection process, and you are approved, you can begin accepting Section 8 vouchers from tenants. You still have to create a separate lease with each tenant, and you do have to abide by certain rules associated with Section 8 tenants.
Screening Section 8 Tenants
The good news is that you won’t be forced to accept Section 8 tenants. You can still screen your tenants. You can’t deny anyone based solely on their Section 8 status, but you can deny Section 8 tenants based on other issues, such as a credit check, background check, or for some other reason that doesn’t violate the Fair Housing Act or state and local laws.
Evicting Section 8 tenants, though, can be a bit of an issue. In order to evict a Section 8 tenant after he or she has been accepted, you need a judicial action. This holds true even in states that offer other methods of eviction. You will need to initiate a judicial action in order to evict your Section 8 tenant, so make sure that you carefully screen your tenants — as you would screen any other tenant.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Accepting Section 8 Housing
The biggest advantage of accepting Section 8 tenants is the regular check you receive each month from the government. Once your lease agreement is in place, and all the paperwork completed (many tenants have a packet), you are pretty much guaranteed a check from the government for a portion of the rent. The government usually pays between 40% and 70% of the tenant’s rent (depends on tenant income). The tenant is responsible for the rest, but at least you know that you will get a substantial portion of the rent on time, as long as the government entity in charge of issuing the payment remains solvent.
Many Section 8 tenants tend to stay put for long periods of time, and you are provided a wider pool to choose from, since the program is very popular. Many Section 8 tenants have low incomes, but don’t have a lot of issues beyond that, so as long as you screen your tenants, you shouldn’t run into too many problems.
The main downsides are that you have to jump through some hoops and you are subject to inspections, and even to rent control if your rates are considered too high.
Readers: What do you think? Would you consider becoming a Section 8 landlord?