Landlording & Rental Properties

5 Reasons Why I Plan to Rent to Section 8 Tenants Indefinitely

Expertise: Landlording & Rental Properties, Real Estate Marketing, Real Estate Investing Basics
51 Articles Written
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Real estate investors have a love/hate relationship with Section 8 Housing, the largest rental assistance program for low-income renters. Section 8 housing consists mainly of housing choice vouchers that are administered to tenants and their immediate families. The Sec 8 program is managed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), as well as hundreds of regional Public Housing Authorities (PHAs) across the country. These public housing agencies administer the program at the local level.

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I’ve heard horror stories about Section 8 tenants completely wrecking properties, moving large numbers of adults and children into the home, and other flavors of major drama.

There are certainly some downfalls to renting under Section 8, but for my husband and I, the positives far outweigh the negatives. Particularly in tougher economic times, investors will enjoy the benefits and stability of Section 8 tenants. Voucher holders have their rental payments backed by an enormous government checkbook, and it’s easy to attain and maintain the eligibility of a housing unit for HUD’s affordable housing programs

Here are the top reasons why we will continue to leverage the Section 8 voucher program at our investment properties.

1. On-time and Convenient Payments From Public Housing Authorities

I receive my rents (either in full or a large percentage) from HUD or local Public Housing Authorities (PHA), on time every single month via direct deposit into my business checking account. I don’t get excuses from HUD about why the rent is late. The money is there.

HUD’s programs for housing assistance payments have been consistently funded in full for decades and hold billions of dollars in reserves.

There are important differences between housing choice vouchers and project-based vouchers, which are HUD’s two main fair housing programs.

Housing Choice Vouchers

Housing choice vouchers allow the tenant to choose their dwelling anywhere that accepts vouchers. This makes up the bulk of the Section 8 program. Only households that have a monthly income less than 50 percent of the median income for the area in which they reside can apply for the program.

HUD sets and maintains median income values for each region of the country, and the data can be accessed on HUD’s Office of Policy Development and Research website. Vouchers can be used for multiple-unit housing, single-family homes, or townhouses. The median family incomes for each region are used to calculate HUD’s 50 percent income limits for the Section 8 housing choice voucher program.

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Project-Based Vouchers

While an applicant for Section 8 affordable housing is on the waiting list for a housing choice voucher (which can take up to three to six years in some areas), they can utilize a project-based voucher (PBV). The PBV is only good for a specific rental unit. Landlords can apply with state or municipal governments to be eligible for the PBV program.

With a project-based voucher, the tenant will pay 30 percent of their household’s gross monthly income, and the public housing authority will cover the rest. (Do not confuse project-based vouchers with “housing projects,” and the stigma associated with the phrase. PBVs can be as simple as a duplex!)

2. Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) Program Protection from Tenants’ Financial Hardships

I’ve had a tenant go on an unpaid leave of absence from work for four months due to health issues. If this tenant hadn’t been on Section 8, she likely would’ve unfortunately been evicted due to non-payment of rent (and we’d be faced with a short-term vacancy).

Instead, HUD picked up 100 percent of the rental payment until the tenant could get back to her job. This not only protected our near-term cash flow on the unit itself, but the housing assistance payments helped the tenant through a tough time without disrupting their living arrangements.

Related: Should I Accept Section 8 Tenants—or Run the Other Way?

3. The Possibility of Higher Rents From Housing Choice Voucher Program

Not only are rent payments guaranteed and stable despite a tenant’s hardship, but HUD is sometimes the best in town when it comes to the rental rates. We’re able to get $1,200-$,1600/month in lower income neighborhoods (although we don’t do war zones) where the purchase prices are less than $75K.

In higher-end areas, we'd pay at least twice as much for the property but still only be able to get $1,400-$1,600/month in rent. There would likely be higher and faster appreciation in those nicer areas, but we always look at appreciation as icing on the cake anyway.

You see, while Section 8 is all about providing housing to low-income renters, the government stipends allow for these renters to choose housing that is affordable based on their household income—but also at the median rent level for the area.

HUD and local public housing authorities calculate a Fair Market Rent (FMR) for each geographic area of the United States to determine the maximum rent a landlord can charge to the Section 8 voucher recipient. FMRs include the cost of basic utilities like heating/air and electric, regardless of whether other tenants or the landlord pays those expenses within the same residential unit. FMRs also take into account family size and rental unit size.

You can look up the FMRs in your area through HUD’s documentation system.

4. Free Access to a Pool of Potential Tenants and Low-Cost Marketing

With GoSection8.com, I’m able to list our properties and review tenant profiles. For a small fee, property owners are able to do a premium listing to get more attention on their property when housing assistance tenants are searching.

I used to think that perhaps the low-income applicant pool was unlikely to have internet access to review profiles, but that doesn’t seem to be a problem, and I believe that HUD also provides paper listings in the local PHA offices for those without internet access.

Related: 8 Myths About Section 8, Corrected: Here’s the Profitable Truth

5. Long Waiting Lists = Short Vacancies

Perhaps not every city has a list a mile long of Section 8 participants with vouchers who are seeking housing, but ours certainly does. There are also famously long waiting lists of low-income families seeking to become eligible for a housing voucher.

Filling a vacancy is a pretty quick process once your property has already been inspected and approved for the program by HUD Real Estate Assessment Center (REAC) employees.

These are just a few reasons why I believe investors and private landlords should take a very good look at housing choice voucher programs offered by public housing authorities in their respective areas. The horror stories that you may have heard can and will happen even with non-Section 8 tenants!

I’ve found that with careful screening, landlord references, and a general attitude of respect for your housing program tenants, as well as pride in the condition of your property, you will vastly reduce the probability of experiencing your own horror story.

Keep in mind that public housing authority social workers also conduct thorough screening of all candidates while they are on the waiting list. And it doesn't stop there—if you have an issue with a tenant or family member, you also have an extra step of recourse outside of just evictions. In addition, you can contact the social workers directly to mediate any issues with a tenant who's stepping outside of the lease agreement.

Would you consider renting to Section 8 tenants? Why or why not?

Weigh in with a comment!

Shae Bynes is a real estate investor in sunny South Florida. On her blog, GoodFaithInvesting.com, she provides helpful tips and an inside look at her...
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    Klynn
    Replied over 5 years ago
    I’ve been looking at buying a house to eventually move into, and one of the possible properties is a Section 8 duplex. The realtor tells me both units are currently occupied (even though the pictures I’ve seen of the property suggest it wouldn’t be up to par with the inspection requirements for Section 8). I’m wondering what would be required to purchase this property, since I’ve never been a landlord before and it seems like there’s quite a bit of paperwork required to get income from Section 8 tenants. Would the government payments just shift into my account instead of the current landlord’s? Additionally, when the time comes that I’m ready to move in, are there added steps I’d need to take in order to get the tenant to move out, or do they still follow usual leasing guidelines (1 year, 6 month, month-to-month, etc)?
    Timothy oliver
    Replied over 4 years ago
    I own a house in Gorham Maine 04038 Need to get started in the application process and lease this property under HUD/section eight housing. please contact me on how to get started. Thanks Timothy Oliver
    Timothy oliver
    Replied over 4 years ago
    I own a house in Gorham Maine 04038 Need to get started in the application process and lease this property under HUD/section eight housing. please contact me on how to get started. Thanks Timothy Oliver
    singh
    Replied about 4 years ago
    I would rather let my unit sit empty then renting out to section 8 in Santa Clara County.
    Tay
    Replied almost 4 years ago
    Everyone is not the same that’s on section 8. But it seem majority of the landlord are slumlord who would Geririg the house. Then make statement you get what you pay for.. Wow are you serious if you don’t want to live in something like that especially if that taking care of there business. Like paying their rent keep the house up and paying theirs bills.. Then section 8 give you a bunch of crap or want you to live in a unsafe area where the crime is high and the school are way below on the standards. Very disappointed I would rather struggle then to keep putting up with The slumlord who wouldn’t live a in the house that they rent to section 8 people.. Struggling to make in working mother of 4.. :'(
    John
    Replied over 3 years ago
    As a Housing Choice Voucher Recipient, I am sad that Stratford Connecticut , and other surrounding rental properties raise the rents to keep individuals from being able to qualify for affordable, and safe housing. Being that my voucher allows me 1300.00 for a two bedroom in Stratford Connecticut, I am very limited to finding a unit in that range. Two bedroom apartments range from 1400.00 – 2595.00. Growing up in Stratford, I never had to worry about the crime level that I am experiencing here in Bridgeport Connecticut. I have been forced to live in Bridgeport Connecticut due to the fact that Stratford Connecticut rents are very high. The fact that I have been seeing this issue for quite some time in many towns and cities within Connecticut, and believe that this issue needs to be addressed. I am in disgust, and frustrated because I believe that many individuals have felt this way, and feel that there is nothing that they can do, but I would like to address this ongoing issue. I believe that this issue is a form of discrimination because they (landlords) assume that individuals on the Housing Choice Voucher Program will possibly destroy their properties by not keeping up on the units, Housing Choice Voucher Recipients don’t want to work, and are not educated. This is false. I have been on the program since 2003, and have set goals to become self sufficient, and buy my own home. I have a Bachelors in Criminal Justice Administration, I am working on a Masters in Psychology, and I work part-time. During my time on the Housing Choice Voucher Program, I have left the state to find safe and affordable housing. I have lived in The State of New Hampshire, The State of North Carolina, and recently came back to reside in The State of Connecticut. I believe that this issue should be addressed because all people , no matter what their race, gender, family status, nationality, income, and so forth, deserve to live in safe, clean , and suitable units. This ongoing issue bothers me to know that segregation still exist in a country that stand for freedom for all.
    Jim
    Replied over 3 years ago
    I am curious if there are any section 8 landlords in Connecticut that can provide me feedback regarding their experiences. I own a home in East Hartford that I have been renting for 3 years (Conventional, not section 8). I have had 2 tenants that were both terrible. I am considering the section 8 program but have major concerns about the support (or lack of) by the housing authority. I have heard horror stories and wonder if there are as many good stories. Any input would be greatly appreciated. Jim
    Darrell
    Replied about 3 years ago
    Just wanted to say. I just got approved for a section 8 voucher. I live in Ohio and have paid over $1400 a month for the past 10 years. Ive been a loan officer and a small business owner. I have 4 kids, wife, cat dog, and fish. I found this site because i was looking into if there were any grants available for my landlord to do improvements to his house since he is accepting Section 8 for the first time. My personal payments are down from $1400 to $691 and it makes a world of difference with 4 kids. Ive lived in this house for 3 years already. My landlord and I have a good relationship and he gave me the green light to pursue this. I personally know folks who raised awesome, successful families. They couldn’t have provided as much support if not for Section 8. Even i think i sound bias as i write this. I just wanted to say I’m a good father who is grateful to have this opportunity. Times are changing. Smart folks are getting in while the getting is good. Any one of you landlords would be blessed to have my family as tenants. I know you don’t want to deal with the horrible ungrateful tenant who might do you wrong. But please keep in mind that good tenants are there. Once you find a good one you will be happy I’m sure.
    Trudy
    Replied 11 months ago
    Please let me know if you’re looking for a writer for your site. You have some really great articles and I think I would be a good asset. If you ever want to take some of the load off, I’d love to write some material for your blog in exchange for a link back to mine. Please blast me an e-mail if interested. Cheers!
    Dan White Investor from Fox Island, Washington
    Replied 9 months ago
    I have been a landlord for over 25 years and had as many as 26 Section 8 tenants at a time and serve on the Advisory board of the local housing authority, that said there are many local differences in how Section 8 is administrated. I started filling my units with Section 8 when the market for quality tenants was soft, I took Section 8 to stay full and get reliable rents. Fast forward many years.... housing authorities nationwide are starved for funding, to balance their budgets they shift more and more of the financial burdens to the hapless tenants who then shift the problem to the Landlord. Here are some of the maneuvers they use, First get established as a "Moving to Work Authority, MTW in Housing Authority lexicon. Second change the occupancy standards retroactively, whereby tenants no longer qualify for the size of units they occupy upon renewal, consequence is having to move or paying more rent, they can't afford to move so they get a bigger bill they struggle to pay. Third change the percentage of "FMR" they pay for rent, remember FMR is set at the 40th percentile for the area, the percentage they will pay ranges between 90-110% of FMR depending on their funding,this has nothing to do with the economics of the local market. Fourth set time limits for vouchers (all new vouchers in my area have a 5 year time limit), they will not do this in their public housing units, have you ever known anyone to "work them selves off Section 8". Fifth as children age out of the household the tenant's subsidy is reduced based on the lack of need of the current housing size, I have seen tenant's share of rent increase from $300 to $1,000+ in a single month. These are some of the problems that occur when you are the social service arm of a government agency. This does not even address the comparative nature of Section 8 tenants to the rest of the population, my section 8 tenants represent about 25% of my business, however they are as much management and maintenance expense as the other 75%.
    Andrew Syrios Residential Real Estate Investor from Kansas City, MO
    Replied 2 months ago
    As long as you vet them well, Section 8 tenants can be just fine.
    Jerome Charles Investor from Kernersville, North Carolina
    Replied 2 months ago
    Andrew, You’re exactly right! Most of the problems that have been mentioned in this reply thread could've been handled by doing normal client screening: credit & background checks.
    Yolanda Brown from West Palm Beach, FL
    Replied 2 months ago
    I'm in the process of renting to a section 8 tenant. I have my inspection tomorrow and I pray I pass. I've been stressing about it for weeks now. :-/
    Pete Smith
    Replied 2 months ago
    How is it that some of the comments are 9 years old? Is there trouble finding new writers or more timely posts?
    Shari Tewa
    Replied 2 months ago
    You are absolutely right. Section 8 if definitely money in the bank, especially in times like these with the coronavirus pandemic. My current tenant who lives on the second unit of my house where I also live is not Sect 8 but she does get some assistance from a neighborhood housing program. They are far from ideal and I am not renewing their lease for their numerous violations. But Section 8 with proper screening of tenants does give peace of mind.