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Are You a Real Estate Pioneer? How to Be a Section 8 Landlord

Ankit Duggal
4 min read

Do you consider your self a Real Estate pioneer? Pioneers  are usually among the first to explore a new  or unknown area. Real Estate pioneers are alive and well in Urban Landlord investing; I consider myself a real estate pioneer… do you?

Urban landlord investing is the wild west that combines elements of crime, drugs, boarded up assets, and low income tenants. Within all this uncertainty comes a unique risk adjusted opportunity. This post is going to look at one major aspect that most urban landlords (and others as well) are bound to face: The Section 8 Program.

Section 8 – What Is That?

Urban landlords know of and/or have heard of ‘Section 8’ tenants mentioned when they are thinking about investing in urban markets. The Section 8 program is shrouded with myths such as getting awful low life scum tenants to Housing Authority breathing down landlords’ necks. My goal is to help separate facts from myths.

Section 8 is a Government housing voucher program that is managed by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The goal of the Section 8 program is to help low-income, elderly, and disabled tenants afford decent and safe private rental housing.

Tenants have to apply and get approved by their local HUD, Housing Authority or Public Housing Agency office. Once approved, the tenants are provided a voucher that states that the municipal or state government will pay their rent in part or in full – depending on their income and household size. The voucher is a government guarantee that they will pay a portion of the tenants rental payment ranging from 80 to 100% of the monthly rental payment.

The tenant voucher is the “Gold In Them Thar Urban Hills” opportunity that will allow real estate pioneers to earn high yielding cash flow within urban markets. As an intelligent real estate investor, I always ask “where is the risk.”  The risk here is that government stops paying or honoring the voucher.

So, where does the money for Section 8 come from?

Following the Money

Section 8 “Housing Authority” (PHA) works under grants from the federal government to assist low income families, the elderly, and people with disabilities to afford clean, safe, and sanitary housing from owners of private property. Each year, every state receives a block grant from the federal government to cover housing assistance costs that gets divided throughout its municipalities or parishes. The Housing Authority uses this funding to cover the cost of the Section 8 program and to pay for a portion of the tenant’s rent and utility costs.

How to Become a Section 8 Landlord

Becoming a Section 8 landlord is accomplished by having rental units that tenant would want to live in. What you talking about Ankit?

Once a tenant has been approved for Section 8, it is their responsibility to find suitable housing. All participants in the program must search for a home to rent on their own. The rented unit can be a single family home, apartment, townhouse or mobile home. The participants can choose any location that meets both their needs and the requirements of the program. Hence it is important to have a vacant unit that appeals to the tenants as it is their decision as to which apartment they want to lease.

As a landlord, you can make potential Section 8 tenants aware of your unit by listing  your property with the PHA office(s) that serve the community closest to the property. Once the unit is listed, the information will be provided to any voucher or certificate holder looking for a property of that particular size. In addition, you can use websites such as GoSection8.com, or Craiglist to make tenants that your unit is “Section 8 friendly”.

Once you find a tenant that wants to lease your unit then follow the Section 8 rental steps below:

  1. Have the tenant complete your rental application.
  2. Underwrite the tenant to your standards and utilize the voucher as a proxy for income and credit standards.
  3. If the tenant works within the underwriting above then you need to sign a lease and send it into the tenants case worker at the housing authority.
  4. As a landlord, you will need to complete an application and provide personal information to the housing authority. The housing authority will also review your lease and rental rates to ensure that they fall in line with rates for comparable dwellings in your area.
  5. Once the housing authority approves you as a landlord, an inspector will visit your rental property to make sure it meets all local building and safety codes. At the very least, you must have working locks on every window and door, the structure must be sound, no chipping paint, peep hole, smoke & carbon monoxide detectors.
  6. Once the inspector approves your property then the voucher is approved and you must provide the case worker your deposit instructions
  7. Then, once a month, the housing authority will mail you a portion of the rent and the tenant will pay you the rest.

The above is a guide on what the typical Section 8 rental process should look like but it may vary from state to state.

Pros & Cons to Section 8 Tenants


  • Guaranteed Rent. With Section 8, you will always get the majority of the rent on time, every time. Typically, Section 8 tenants pay their portion on time as well. Since failure to live up to the lease can cost them their housing voucher, Section 8 tenants can be even more reliable than private tenants.
  • Pre-Screened Tenants. The housing authority reviews every case before approving a Section 8 housing voucher. Mostly, the housing authority is looking at income levels, but many housing authorities will turn down tenants with past criminal problems. This screening process may provide extra protection for your rental.


  • Routine Inspections. To get into the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program, your property will need to pass a safety inspection and annual routine inspections upon lease renewal.
  • Rent Control. You will need to keep your rent within the median for your area. If you have an extremely well done or a rental in an improving neighborhood, you may lose out on rent you could have otherwise charged outside of the Section 8 program.

Real Estate pionners seek out opportunity in the abyss of the unknown. Within the urban income investing, Section 8 tenant is that opportunity. I personally own a lot of my firm’s investment portfolio in urban markets of Newark and Jersey City, New Jersey so I consider myself a pionner.

What are your thoughts on Section 8? Have a good or bad experience with a Section 8? Share the good and bad in the comments below

For more information on the Section 8 Program, check out the BiggerPockets Section 8 Resource Page!
Photo: vonSchnauzer
Source for Pros & Cons: http://www.moneycrashers.com/become-section-8-housing-landlord-requirements/#ixzz2MZdaD1SF

Note By BiggerPockets: These are opinions written by the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions of BiggerPockets.