Section 8 discrimination laws in King County, WA

6 Replies

We are getting ready to rent out our first home in the Seattle area, and we just learned that there is an anti-discrimination law in King County regarding Section 8.  I have been telling people that we are not accepting Section 8 (oops!?).  The article my husband read indicated that landlords cannot disqualify on the basis of Section 8 alone.  Rather, there has to be other disqualifying factors in addition to, say, the 3x rent monthly income.  We have a specific set of criteria spelled out for renters.  Just wondering how others have gotten around this legally if you have not wanted to accept the vouchers. 

Thank you!

Tamar, you must follow the law. There is no getting around following the law. You must set your rental criteria up in a legal non discriminatory fashion. If your rental criteria is a rent to income ratio of 30% with a minimum credit score or 600. Then that applies across the board. This might disqualify most folks on section 8 but you must follow the law across theboard.

Have you looked to see how much Section 8 will pay for rentals in King County? I have rentals in both Snohomish County and Pierce County and in neither case will Section 8 pay for what I ask for and get without any problem. I don't think the law would require you to lower your rent just to accomodate a Section 8 tenant. Having said that I don't think you should eliminate Section 8 tenants accross the board. I have known several people who were getting housing assistance who I would have been proud to have as tenants.

@Tamar Mar  If you have no interest in participating in the program, there are legal ways to reduce/eliminate the likelihood that you'll have an applicant that qualifies with a voucher. 

1. Raise your rent above the FMR value for your area: This will eliminate any chance your rental will have a Section 8 applicant.

2. Impose stringent credit or/and past rental reference requirements: This will eliminate much of the Section 8 pool, but not all. Frankly, if someone has these requirements but has a voucher, you should strongly consider renting to them anyway. 

3. Charge a high (legal) security deposit: Much of the low income community can't afford high deposits. A high deposit will allow you greater security in terms of protecting yourself, as well as screening out a large portion of the Section 8 pool. 

The downsides to avoiding Section 8 in an area where you can't legally discriminate against it are you're shrinking your pool of possible non-Section 8 renters as well. Remember, the program exists to ensure folks with low income can afford rent. That doesn't mean that those folks are bad renters (or people), or that the local Housing Authority is poor to work with. If you screen well for legal factors (no evictions, good references, good credit, etc.) you should run about the same chance of finding a good tenant in the program as you would one that isn't. Hopefully someone local to you can comment on your local Housing Authority's ease (or not) to work with. 

Section 8 has requirements for rental houses and performs an annual inspection to make sure the rental meets the standards. I would read through their requirements and see if you fall short in anyway. Then check to make sure there are not local requirements forcing you to provide that service (weatherization?) , and if there are not local requirements then you can honestly tell people that your home does not me section 8 standards.

It's my understanding that the Seattle law is proposed but has not yet been passed.  Washington Landlord Association is fighting it and providing members quarterly updates on their progress.  I'd dig a little deeper.

When it comes to Section 8, for the most part the only thing I am concerned with is what I term "the net to the landlord", which means that the Section 8 voucher amount can be reduced due to the tenant having to pay utilities (and if they have to bring their own stove or certain other appliances).  I have units with built-in AC where a lot of Section 8 tenants come to look when they are vacant.  But AC comes into play with those utilities; the Housing Authority has an extra deduction from the net to the landlord for the electricity consumed by the AC, so I would get paid less by Section 8 in those units with AC.  Yet when I rent to non-Section 8 they are willing to pay MORE because of AC; so no Section 8 in units with AC, because I won't get paid as much as when I have somebody not on Section 8.

So, figure out if you will net the same with Section 8 as without Section 8 - that could be your way out (or you could make more money by accepting Section 8).

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