One bedroom Section 8 Voucher/Restricting family size without breaking discrimination laws

18 Replies

I just completed my 2nd door (the top half of my duplex), it’s a one bedroom, with a stand up shower (no bathtub), carpeting only in bedroom, and what I would define as a total bachelor pad. It’s not a place designed for a family, kids, or even a couple. Obviously I can’t list it like that due to discrimination laws, but I figured with it being a 1 bedroom and only a shower with no tub that someone with kids wouldn’t even apply.

I had someone come and take a look at it today, she has a Section 8 voucher for a one bedroom. I do accept vouchers, my lower unit is subsidized. I didn’t expect her to have a child, wouldn’t expect someone with a kid to apply for a 1 bedroom with no bathtub. When she mentioned her daughter I asked her was she ok with this only being a 1 bed and no tub. She said she was. I then asked her how many bedrooms her voucher was for. She said one.

Don’t see why Sec 8 would give someone with a child a 1 bed voucher, anyone ever heard of that? Ultimately, if the housing commission doesn’t mind her renting a 1 bedroom with a child then neither do I. I just find it strange she’s willing to rent this place, kind of seems like she is desperate.

Also, without breaking any laws how can I restrict the family size allowed in a rental? Example, a couple with 4 kids applying for a 2 bedroom. Obviously that 2 bed is sufficient and I don’t want them pilling all their kids into one room or have kids sleeping in the living room.

All advice and comments are appreciated.

Although it is not law.  It is a generally accepted practice to limit rentals to two people per bedroom.

Originally posted by @Alan B. :

I just completed my 2nd door (the top half of my duplex), it’s a one bedroom, with a stand up shower (no bathtub), carpeting only in bedroom, and what I would define as a total bachelor pad. It’s not a place designed for a family, kids, or even a couple. Obviously I can’t list it like that due to discrimination laws, but I figured with it being a 1 bedroom and only a shower with no tub that someone with kids wouldn’t even apply.

I had someone come and take a look at it today, she has a Section 8 voucher for a one bedroom. I do accept vouchers, my lower unit is subsidized. I didn’t expect her to have a child, wouldn’t expect someone with a kid to apply for a 1 bedroom with no bathtub. When she mentioned her daughter I asked her was she ok with this only being a 1 bed and no tub. She said she was. I then asked her how many bedrooms her voucher was for. She said one.

Don’t see why Sec 8 would give someone with a child a 1 bed voucher, anyone ever heard of that? Ultimately, if the housing commission doesn’t mind her renting a 1 bedroom with a child then neither do I. I just find it strange she’s willing to rent this place, kind of seems like she is desperate.

Also, without breaking any laws how can I restrict the family size allowed in a rental? Example, a couple with 4 kids applying for a 2 bedroom. Obviously that 2 bed is sufficient and I don’t want them pilling all their kids into one room or have kids sleeping in the living room.

All advice and comments are appreciated.

What difference does it make if it doesn't have a tub so long as they can shower that should be great. Times are hard for many people and since you accept section 8 vouchers you should more than understand their plight. How much space can one kid utilize? Look up the guidelines on the HUD website under section 8 to see if you can get some assistance on how many people adults / children per # of bedrooms. 4 kids in a 2br isn't really sufficient either especially if there are boys and girls aspecting to share a bedroom.

Your situation isn't troubling at all to me with a mother and her one kid in a 1 br. That's what daybeds are for. My coin.

Kudos,

Mary 

The handles on the shower are too high for a small kid to reach which is a concern of mine, and how many kids really take showers? Also the place is technically two bedrooms. The second room has a closet that the furnace sits in. The city inspector said that I just cant list the house as 2 bedrooms due to this. So i didn't carpet that room and I list it as a storage room/office.

Being that the furnace is in that room I don't really want to rent to someone with a kid because I know they will just turn that room into a kids bedroom which they are not supposed to.

I told the potential tenant that it is not to be used as bedroom but i already know there is a chance it will be.

Also, being that the place is not really kid friendly I'm risking a bigger chance of a tenant with a child moving relatively soon once they are no longer in a desperate spot.

can you legally say you won't take them? 

Originally posted by @Alan B. :

The handles on the shower are too high for a small kid to reach which is a concern of mine, and how many kids really take showers? Also the place is technically two bedrooms. The second room has a closet that the furnace sits in. The city inspector said that I just cant list the house as 2 bedrooms due to this. So i didn't carpet that room and I list it as a storage room/office.

Being that the furnace is in that room I don't really want to rent to someone with a kid because I know they will just turn that room into a kids bedroom which they are not supposed to.

I told the potential tenant that it is not to be used as bedroom but i already know there is a chance it will be.

Also, being that the place is not really kid friendly I'm risking a bigger chance of a tenant with a child moving relatively soon once they are no longer in a desperate spot.

If its a small kid they will have the assistance of their parent whenever they bathe including taking a bath. I get it that the apartment is somewhat functionally obsolete. The only thing that you can do is make sure that you don't discriminate in your advertisements and not to suggest that in a personal tenant interview but try to hold out for a childless tenant. 

Now the additional discrepancy is how long can you hold out having that unit vacant waiting around for a childless tenant that otherwise qualify per rental policy? 

Will you not rent to young women or young couples for fear that they might have a kid? You know once the tenant moves in it can be hellified to get them out. Not trying to be funny but your pickings are superslim. You are looking for someone from the 55+ community but can't really advertise to them and have to do phantom marketing to them, imo.

Kudos,

Mary  

I don't mind renting to her and being that she does seem desperate I do want to help her. Her voucher expires on the 16th & she just met with me on the 14th, its the holiday season and it's cold,  so if she is in a desperate spot I'll let her move in. I'm turning in her voucher packet tomorrow. 

Although the city inspector is OK with where the furnace is placed not really sure how Section 8 will feel. If they approve it I'll will let her move in but I'll have to stress to her not to make that room a bedroom.

And Mary you're right, my ideal tenant for this particular place was really a student or a senior.

@Alan B.  

You are in a tough spot. Just to be safe you should rent to her. My concern is the child playing with the furnace but age would be a factor there and if really little then easily restricted.

The biggest problem you have is having a carbon monoxide detector in that room since there is a furnace in there. If the furnace fails you could have a death there if it is not detected. The thing that I recently learned is a gas furnace will emit fumes when starting and can set off the alarm. I know this because I put a detector over a furnace in a garage and it went off but everything is fine.

Where someone sleeps is none of the landlord's business, they can sleep in a recliner in the living room , the could toss a sleeping bag on the kitchen floor!

Section 8 inspections are more to condition and safety, if it meets code it will most likely pass inspection.

A small child, under 4 I believe, may sleep in the same room as mom or dad or mom and dad, not an issue.

The reason she qualifies for a 1 bdr is the age of the child and the voucher amount will cover more rents for a 1bdr than a larger unit, that is based on market rents in that area.

The shower is no issue, mom can turn it on and off.

The closet? Jeff has a good point, get a detector and you'll likely need them for the Section 8 inspection.

Should a tenant even have access to the furnace? Is it electric? Gas? I'd want the tenant to be able to cut the gas off, other than that, why do the need access to the furnace? Lock the door, keep the key.

Then you wouldn't have a legal bedroom, it must have a closet and regulation window to be a bedroom. But even so, the place is still sufficient for a mom and child.

You don't have discrimination issues concerning family matters when the unit is not large enough by HUD regulation to accommodate the family size. Family relationships at different ages are on the HUD site. So long as the unit accommodates the family size at the age requirements and minimum rooms, then you need to rent or you can then have issues.

Not only do you need to accept kids, so do your tenants! You nor they can assume improper conduct or noise until it occurs and then, a baby or child crying is something people on the face of the earth tolerate, even in a 55 and older community as they may have a guest! Kids play too, that's part of life, neighbors must be reasonably accommodating as well.

I'd say that with more LL experience, you'll see you don't need to be half as concerned as you think you need to be. LL carry things too far too often, thinking they need to control the aspects of a tenant's life, need to keep their concerns confined to the property, not so much to the people, that becomes discrimination and/or harassment. :)

One thing to be sure of if it is a small child is to have the water heater temp set to 120F or so to reduce scalding chances especially in a shower situation like you describe where a small child may barely be able to hit the controls.  I make sure all mine are set that way before any tenant moves in so if they are raised it was on them.

I bet it wont pass inspection. HQS. Health and Safety. Not just building code.

You can choose whether or not to take the voucher. There is no law that says you have to accept payment from a third party- even if you already accept it at another unit. If you decide to go with the Section 8 applicant, You will have to remove the property from the market if you decide to lease to her and wait until the inspection passes BEFORE she can move in.  (could take 30 days or longer) If it doesn't pass then you have wasted a lot of time for nothing.

If it does pass then you will have to WAIT for rent to be paid by the Housing Authority according to their local schedule.

If the tenant turns out to be a bad apple, it is extremely difficult to evict. They will claim Fair Housing Discrimination, You will lose a LOT of money.

In my opinion its better to avoid that whole scenario from the beginning. Section 8 seems like a good idea until you get burned.

@Account Closed  , obviously tough to say based solely on what I've read so far, but it sounds like the PHA might not rate your second bedroom as a second bedroom for the voucher, which would essentially disqualify your prospective tenant. Take a few pictures and your questions to your local PHA office and ask for an opinion if you want to check ahead of time, if you want to stick with this applicant. 

UPDATE:

I had the city inspection last week which is a piece of cake to pass. The city inspector told me that the tenant can use that room as a bedroom if they so choose but that I just cant list or market the place as a two bedroom.

Today was the Section 8 inspection. Housing Commission & city rules are totally different. The section 8 inspector had no problem with the room and said according to section 8 standards it is a bedroom. To be considered a bedroom it only needs a light fixture, outlet, and window. 

@Alan B.  

You can't discriminate against children.  While the apt may not be suitable in your opinion, if the applicant doesn't have your same reservations, you can't eliminate them on that grounds.

HUD "suggests" 2 people per bedroom, but that is not a law or regulation. HUD does require that children of different gender and a certain age must not share a bedroom.

A family that I knew in Brooklyn had a 1 bedroom apt. with 2 kids and 2 parents. (this was not section 8).  The kids a boy and a girl slept in the bedroom and the parents slept in a fold out sofa in the living room.  they lived there for about 20 years with that arrangement.

Now that your one bedroom turned into a two bedroom, not only does the price go up, the voucher may not apply, being that its only for a one bedroom.

Originally posted by @Tim Holmes :

Now that your one bedroom turned into a two bedroom, not only does the price go up, the voucher may not apply, being that its only for a one bedroom.

The voucher still applies. In my city no matter how many or little bedrooms the voucher says the section 8 applicant can still get what they want. For instance my other tenants voucher is for 2 beds but she is in a 3. She just pays the difference which is $84.

@Alan B.  

Section 8 won't allow the tenant to go down in # of bedrooms is it means different gener kids of a certain age sharing a bedroom.

I've rented 3 bedroom places to a single parent with a boy and a girl, which is the fewest number of people that would qualify for a 3 bedroom voucher from section 8.

Originally posted by @Alan B. :
Originally posted by @Tim Holmes:

Now that your one bedroom turned into a two bedroom, not only does the price go up, the voucher may not apply, being that its only for a one bedroom.

The voucher still applies. In my city no matter how many or little bedrooms the voucher says the section 8 applicant can still get what they want. For instance my other tenants voucher is for 2 beds but she is in a 3. She just pays the difference which is $84.

 What do you mean by "pays the difference"? If your tenant has a 2 bedroom voucher, they can only rent a unit that falls into the 2 bedroom price range (even if its larger). If they've made a side arrangement with you to pay the difference, that's not allowed and isn't enforceable on your part, the idea being the PHA determines what is affordable for a tenant to pay based on their income. Side arrangements to pay extra for a more expensive place are strictly prohibited, as it potentially places the tenant in a vulnerable situation, as well as puts them above what's considered affordable. 

No, a tenant can pay the difference for any bedroom count if they want to, but the difference must be less than a third of their qualifying income including the voucher amount. They can't go lower due to family makeup.

As to kids in a room, HUD does have a sq ft requirement for each occupant in a room, if you had an attic converted to a bedroom that was 460 sq ft, you could pack a heard in there, but the age and gender rules apply. :)

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