Norfolk, VA Section 8 Rental Property

21 Replies

Dear BP community - 

Does anyone have a Section 8 rental property in Norfolk, VA or know of the general Section 8 rental market there? I am looking into acquiring a property which promise (at least on paper) positive cash flow with cash-on-cash ROE of 17%. However, I live in DC suburbs and don't know the Norfolk, VA rental community. In particular, I don't know if the Section 8 community is large and vibrant enough to sustain continous occupancy. Any guidance and observations are much appreciated, friends.

I live in Norfolk.  BEWARE!  There are a lot of professional tenants here. I am in the process of evicting one now.

It is a crapshoot. Sometimes you win, sometimes you loose.

Use due diligence.

There are lots of people who could probably tell you a lot more than I can but I will still go ahead and add my 2 cents anyway. As far as I know it is a lot of section 8 people out here that you could rent to. In Norfolk alone you have enough people with low incomes that get it and I know plenty of people there personally that do. 

Thanks for your feedback, @Steve T.  .  May I ask some follow ups?

Is the rental property that you currently hold a Section 8?  If so, what makes a bad Section 8 tenanat?  I understand Norfolk is no Maliu beach, but if (a) there are a lot of low income people that qualify for Section 8 and (b) government is directly giving you 95% of the rent and (c) the tenant has little incentive to misbehave because they could lose the priviledge of Section 8, then what's the ultimate problem?  

@Gary Alford  : So you're saying it's not a bad idea to invest in a Section 8 property down there?  I understand it's low-income neighborhood, but if the government is paying your rent, and that rent is going to owner directly, then why wouldn't someone interested in positive cash flow invest there?

Sec 8 tenants sometimes don't care about the unit, they abuse it, and if they break something, you have to fix it. Case in point, a security screen door.  They NEVER assure that it closes all the way, or prop it open so it does not close all the way, and it invariably gets blown open in a windstorm, and broken or sprung.  I have had to fix one three times, which has torn off the porch railings, and he tenant never takes responsibility for their actions.  or, a smoke detector batteries run low and it chirps. Instead of calling me they knock it off the wall with a broom, and say it fell off and broke, and call the rental office.

I have found that when people do not have any interest in a place and have someone else paying for it,  they do not care about it, and abuse sets in.   Plus, they all compare notes, and most know more about the program than you do, having spent their entire life in it.

Hello Weis,

My name is Phillip Parker and I'm a REALTOR in the Hampton Roads area which include the city of Norfolk.  I think Section 8 rentals in the Norfolk area can be a good investment, but I do also think it is good to interview your potential tenants before renting your property.  I think the biggest concern that investors have with Section 8 tenants is how they maintain the condition of the property.

Yes I'm saying I think it would be a great Idea because you would not have a shortage of people to rent to. You should be able to come out positive as well depending where because properties are not to highly priced, Norfolk is one of the cheapest cities down here to buy. Just make sure to do your due diligence or that your manager actually vets the tenants very well like @Phillip Parker and @Steve T. said because you could definitely get burned. Are you planning on managing those yourself from 3 hours away or hiring a manager?

@Steve T.  

Can you not charge a security deposit or is it a limit on it or something for section 8? Because I would propbably charge higher deposits to weed out the ones who are bad tenants. section 8 or not if you want your deposit back your going to treat the property right!

Do you have any idea how much damage a bad tenant can do to a property?

In Va we can only charge 2x the rent as deposit.

Not many se8 people can even come up with the deposit required as it is.

Most want a payment plan!!

Ever hear about getting blood from a turnip?

I have a large pile of turnip mush behind my property...

@Gary Alford as a landlord and renting your property thru Section 8 you could ask for a security deposit, but from my experience in dealing with Section 8 rental it's harder for them to come up with a security deposit because of there financial position. So if you do decide to ask for a security deposit it may take more time to find a Section 8 tenant.

Well the debate on section 8 or not is very heated.  I have both excellent and down right awful experiences with section 8, but I have learned some tips and tricks that I will pass on to you guys.  

If someone wants to rent a property from me that is section 8 regardless of what city, I am blunt and straight to the point.  

  • I tell them I have had a very bad experience with section 8 tenants destroying my properties, and let them know right away there will be monthly inspections.  I also ask for personal references.  
  • I am looking for a personal reference that is not related to them, typically a minister, pastor, someone like that that usually wouldn't lie about their character.  
  • When the drive up to my office I look to see what kind of vehicle they are driving (are the living within their means, or they trying to scam the section 8 program),  look to see if they have kids are they buckled in, and do they seem to have control of their kids. 
  •  I also call the former landlords, and also request any tenancy reference from past landlords.  As part of my actually screening process, I look for any evictions, and if there was outstanding balances. 

After your tenant is already in the property I do the following.  

  •  Inspect the property the first month they have lived there.  Make sure you remind them that you will be back every month ( you don't have to you just need them to think you are going to do an inspection so they keep the property neat and clean). I usually taper off to every 3 months after the 1st month....
  • Before your annual section 8 inspection (typically  3 months in advance), do your own inspection.  Make sure if you see anything that is a tenant repair (light bulbs, holes in back of door knobs, light or outlet covers missing, missing shelving in refrigerators, etc,) you send a written letter to the tenant and also the section 8 case manager detailing what the tenant is responsible to do within 30 days of compliance. 
  •  Also if you see water leaks, or any kind of major safety issues not reported to you by the tenant, you need to give notice for the tenant to vacate at the end of the lease.  This tenant will end up causing you more damage in the long run.  
  • If you have any sort of catastrophic event in the property and you get a notice that the you have x amount of days to correct the deficiency prior to the HAP payment (section 8 payment) being stopped for non compliance, make sure you as the owner/agent are the one that is there to meet the inspector for the inspection, do not rely on the tenant because they will ALWAYS LET YOU DOWN... THEY HAVE NO INTEREST IN THE PROPERTY and if the property  is non compliant yo can't event for non payment.....
  • Also if you have a re-inspection scheduled do not under any circumstances let a tenant move out thinking you will get back pay. Section 8 believes if the tenant moves out(even after their lease has expired) you are not entitled to the back rent because the property was in habitable.

Even through my little process, I still find the nicest "professional tenant" that knows how to play the game and I still get burned....  

All I am saying that section 8 is not the greatest, if you can avoid section 8 I would do it.  Right now I am currently managing 6 section 8 units out of 200.  

In NJ, you can only require 1.5 months rent for a security deposit, and S8/rental assistance tenants often get it from a social service agency or church. If they have no stake in it, they likely won't care if they get it back or not. 

@Lisa Doud - Thank you very much for a detailed and comprehensive answer!  I really appreciate it.  

@Lisa Doud Thanks for that list.  While I'm not really looking for section 8 housing, having to deal with all that makes me want to avoid it altogether.

@Weis Sherdel  I know that @Lisa Arlt Escoto  has some dealings with that area, you may want to try messaging her. 

@Zachary Martin  Thank you, Zack!  Yes, Lisa is the one that introduced me to Norfolk.  Now I am just doing my due diligence :-)

Read through the Virginia Landlord and Tenant Act.  Most of your answers IRT deposits and what you can and cant do are there.  Becoming familiar w/ the laws and customs are step 1 of your due diligence.  I have not owned section 8, but I wouldn't look at it as an easy fill, bc I can just as easily fill my place no problem just placing anyone in.  The key is screening.  Although there are a lot of people are successful w/ Section 8 and there are many benefits, it is much easier in other neighborhoods dealing w a more responsible tenant with more to lose.

I have a couple properties in Norfolk and finding decent tenants hasn't been too hard.  Lots of decent properties around 30k as well.

Properties nearby would probably be easier to manage though and job prospects up there are better.  Looks like there's some under 50k near you:

http://www.realtor.com/realestateandhomes-search/S...

@Steve T.   and @Phillip Parker I see what you guys are saying! I always thought it not such a bad idea to rent to section 8 because I know some guys that only rent to section 8 and they seem to like it but you made some great points. It sucks to rent to someone and not really have a little of a safety net by keeping the deposit. So you will have a lot of potential tenants but you really will not be able to get a deposit and they are mostly crappy. I already was not for being a landlord now if I do it definitely will not be for section 8. 

@Lisa Doud That list is great! I never really looked at the fact that tenants not only hurt you by messing things up themselves but also by not reporting simple problems that really cost you later on because they just sat and got worst.

That's great Advice Lisa! Thanks for posting it. 

Originally posted by @Lisa Doud:

Well the debate on section 8 or not is very heated.  I have both excellent and down right awful experiences with section 8, but I have learned some tips and tricks that I will pass on to you guys.  

If someone wants to rent a property from me that is section 8 regardless of what city, I am blunt and straight to the point.  

  • I tell them I have had a very bad experience with section 8 tenants destroying my properties, and let them know right away there will be monthly inspections.  I also ask for personal references.  
  • I am looking for a personal reference that is not related to them, typically a minister, pastor, someone like that that usually wouldn't lie about their character.  
  • When the drive up to my office I look to see what kind of vehicle they are driving (are the living within their means, or they trying to scam the section 8 program),  look to see if they have kids are they buckled in, and do they seem to have control of their kids. 
  •  I also call the former landlords, and also request any tenancy reference from past landlords.  As part of my actually screening process, I look for any evictions, and if there was outstanding balances. 

After your tenant is already in the property I do the following.  

  •  Inspect the property the first month they have lived there.  Make sure you remind them that you will be back every month ( you don't have to you just need them to think you are going to do an inspection so they keep the property neat and clean). I usually taper off to every 3 months after the 1st month....
  • Before your annual section 8 inspection (typically  3 months in advance), do your own inspection.  Make sure if you see anything that is a tenant repair (light bulbs, holes in back of door knobs, light or outlet covers missing, missing shelving in refrigerators, etc,) you send a written letter to the tenant and also the section 8 case manager detailing what the tenant is responsible to do within 30 days of compliance. 
  •  Also if you see water leaks, or any kind of major safety issues not reported to you by the tenant, you need to give notice for the tenant to vacate at the end of the lease.  This tenant will end up causing you more damage in the long run.  
  • If you have any sort of catastrophic event in the property and you get a notice that the you have x amount of days to correct the deficiency prior to the HAP payment (section 8 payment) being stopped for non compliance, make sure you as the owner/agent are the one that is there to meet the inspector for the inspection, do not rely on the tenant because they will ALWAYS LET YOU DOWN... THEY HAVE NO INTEREST IN THE PROPERTY and if the property  is non compliant yo can't event for non payment.....
  • Also if you have a re-inspection scheduled do not under any circumstances let a tenant move out thinking you will get back pay. Section 8 believes if the tenant moves out(even after their lease has expired) you are not entitled to the back rent because the property was in habitable.

Even through my little process, I still find the nicest "professional tenant" that knows how to play the game and I still get burned....  

All I am saying that section 8 is not the greatest, if you can avoid section 8 I would do it.  Right now I am currently managing 6 section 8 units out of 200.  

I just got ride of a lady (april 30) in That had lived in a 2br duplex for 10 years, we had to go in and do 6K worth of work to the property, I made a joke with the owner, that it looks like our tenant took all her crawling friends with her, because I don't see any more sign of roaches in the place. I went over Tuesday put our Rently  lock box (this is so anyone can register on my website and go and look at the property on their own) on the door, and was very pleased to see the condition of the property.  I just had a tenant look at at 6:30 pm last night and fill out their application.  I Sent off the lease for digital signature, and now have a signed contract all within 3 days on the market.

I wish the landlord let me vacate that tenant a long time ago...  No more section 8 inspection headache...

I highly HIGHLY recommend reading the Section 8 bible by Michael McLean if you're interested in section 8.  I've recently started to look into section 8 in that are as well.  That book will give you the complete low down on how to manage those kinds of properties.  Good luck!

Free eBook from BiggerPockets!

Ultimate Beginner's Guide Book Cover

Join BiggerPockets and get The Ultimate Beginner's Guide to Real Estate Investing for FREE - read by more than 100,000 people - AND get exclusive real estate investing tips, tricks and techniques delivered straight to your inbox twice weekly!

  • Actionable advice for getting started,
  • Discover the 10 Most Lucrative Real Estate Niches,
  • Learn how to get started with or without money,
  • Explore Real-Life Strategies for Building Wealth,
  • And a LOT more.

Lock We hate spam just as much as you

Join the Largest Real Estate Investing Community

Basic membership is free, forever.