Can I be forced to accept Section 8?

153 Replies

I am located in Oregon, first time landlord. Our open house is tomorrow and someone has already mentioned they have Section 8 vouchers. My understanding is that it is an opt-in program? But that conflicts with the fact that it is "discriminatory" to tell people that you do not accept Section 8, or to refuse to accept it. I'm so confused. I am not interested in jumping through hoops to get my home "qualified," it would likely delay the move in and therefore impact my income.

Can I still hold the applicants to the same income requirements or am I forced to make accommodations for Section 8? That almost seems discriminatory toward everyone else. Would their voucher count toward income requirements?

Here is a local story, I'm discouraged by it.

http://www.oregonlive.com/portland/index.ssf/2014/...

I don't accept section 8. I don't believe landlords are required to.  This is my understanding only and not advice for your or your situation. See what others have to say on the forums...lots of smart people here!

Im sure you did not advertise it "no section 8", also you are not "qualified", accept the offer, and let them know that you rented it to someone after 3rd day or a week. One thing you aren't able to do is directly tell them you don't rent to section 8. But if you say you will consider all offers, but you are not qualified but will look into it, you should be safe.

disclosure: I am not a landlord but a contractor which are bound to the same discriminatory lawsuit.

Colorado Specific Answer.  Not sure how it applies to Oregon....

In Colorado, Section 8 is an opt in program.  You do not have to accept it.  But if you do, your house does have to be inspected.  That part isn't hard if you rent out decent houses.   It's less rigorous than the inspection I had done when I bought the property, but still fairly complete as far as plumbing, appliances, electrical, cleanliness, etc.  

You are encouraged by the Housing Authority to run a background and income verification as normal, using the amount the tenant is paying, not the total amount of rent.  You are not required to accept a tenant whose background does not meet your minimum requirements. 

For example - the condo I have section 8 on - the tenant pays $600 and the county pays $500. I ran the tenant's income based on a $600 rent. I also ran her credit and it really wasn't that bad, considering. The small amount of credit she had was managed somewhat decently, but it still wasn't up to par.   I opted to approve her anyways and so far, there have been no problems.

You may also evict a Section 8 tenant for non payment and lease violations in the same manner as a regular tenant.  You have more leverage with a Section 8 tenant and lease violations because if you evict them they will not be able to qualify for the program ever again.  That's pretty big incentive to some.

When I googled the question one answer came up: no landlord is required to apply for approval to accept section 8. So, IMO, you can state you do not accept section 8. This is not legal advice...consult your attorney. What works in Florida might not work in other states. What happens in Florida...stays in Florida:)

@Amanda H. , Under the new law, you cannot refuse a Section 8 applicant, but you also do not have to change your criteria specifically for them. As long as you use the same criteria for all applicants, then you are good to go. One thing they do mention is that you cannot "opt-out" of the program just because you don't want to hassle with the paperwork. See the links below for more information.

Discrimination on Source of Funds FAQs

Section 8 Bill

Not at all. It's not discriminating the tenant since sect 8 pays for the rent you simply decline to do business with sect 8. Tenant is welcome to pay themselves for the rent.

@Randy Johnston

From the link you provided:

No landlord will be forced to accept Section 8 under this law, but no landlord will be able to refuse to rent to someone solely because their income is a Section 8 voucher.

This clearly states a landlord may not be forced to accept section 8 but cannot discriminate against someone who receives section 8 assistance. I personally am not registered to accept section 8 and don't believe I will do that anytime in the near future. I have enough government yoyos telling me what to do and what not to do!

Originally posted by @Amanda H. :

I am located in Oregon, first time landlord. Our open house is tomorrow and someone has already mentioned they have Section 8 vouchers. My understanding is that it is an opt-in program? But that conflicts with the fact that it is "discriminatory" to tell people that you do not accept Section 8, or to refuse to accept it. I'm so confused. I am not interested in jumping through hoops to get my home "qualified," it would likely delay the move in and therefore impact my income.

Can I still hold the applicants to the same income requirements or am I forced to make accommodations for Section 8? That almost seems discriminatory toward everyone else. Would their voucher count toward income requirements?

Here is a local story, I'm discouraged by it.

http://www.oregonlive.com/portland/index.ssf/2014/...

 You don't have to change your criteria at all.  In fact, if you have units in an area where you can attract better-paid professionals, then just make your criteria high enough that it will be very rare for a Section 8 applicant to meet them.  

You can require a credit score of 700+, income 3 times the rent, no criminal history - at all, no evictions, no bankruptcies, excellent landlord references for the past 3 years, proof of steady income for the last year.  No pets, no smoking. No references by relatives.

I'm not sure if it's allowed in OR, but you might be able to require that all adults qualify on their own.

You can also have a written criteria (that you don't have to put in your ad) that says you do not rent to anyone who does not completely fill out the application, or does not put all previous addresses on it in the correct order with correct dates).  Part of my unadvertised criteria included that anyone who is 15 minutes late and does not call with an acceptable excuse (grid-locked traffic), I did not rent to them.  If they were rude, I did not rent to them.

As long as your criteria is legal (does not discriminate against any of the protected classes), and you implement it across the board, you'll be fine.

Most Section 8 applicants will not have good credit. Most will not fill out the application thoroughly, or will omit a previous landlord.  Most will smoke.  If you see them smoking in their car before they come to meet you, you can deny them because they are smokers (if that's in your criteria).

So, have tough criteria, and apply it evenly to everyone, and you will not likely have to ever rent to a Section 8 tenant.

Sue Kelly,

Thank you, most of that is in our criteria. Do we have to have this information posted for people to see upon viewing the home? Things like "rude behavior," references by non-related individuals, etc? I do have a list of criteria (mostly financial and criminal history related) I've posted on our refrigerator so that people will know prior to applying what we are looking for. 

I certainly don't know Oregon law but Section 8 is not a protected class and can be discriminated to the best of my knowledge. However, I have never had to discriminate Section 8 simply because I've always come up with another qualified tenant faster than Section 8 can get things done. And secondly, if you have an income criteria in your standard criteria list such as 3 times the rent in verifiable income... I have yet to see a section 8 tenant that could qualify.

I do know discrimination cases have come up over refusal to accept. And they have sided with the prospective tenant. The fine in Oregon is $11,000.

Congratulations @Amanda H. on your first rental!

The laws for section 8 can be different based on state, county and even city law so you really need to know what the rules are for your situation. Take a look at your local Sec 8 website and make sure that your city doesn't have any laws you should be aware of. How your local judges rule is, in the end, most important-great for you for paying attention to that!

Many landlords implement a first come first served policy. That means that everything has to be turned in to you including a complete application with every spot accounted for (I tell them to put N/A in any boxes that are not applicable so I know they didn't miss it) deposit, and naturally 3rd party approvals. I wonder who needs to drive the Sec 8 approval process - does the applicant make the calls to Sec 8 or do you HAVE TO. If it is up to them, or even you, then you are simply waiting for them to fully complete the application. By no means stand in the way, be available for all inspections at the earliest possible time requested. If someone else happens to get everything in before they do then so be it. Make sure the is all legal for your area.

I have done entire background checks in 24-48 hours - good luck getting a government agency or contractor to move that fast.

I have never heard of needing to post your criteria (check local law here to). Just have it written and ready to go if you ever get queried on it if there is a complaint.

Another thing is that if there is something you can legally discriminate on, you still can't advertise or mention it to anyone. This mostly comes into play in multi-family 1-4 units where the owner also lives there.

NO. Let me qualify: First of all, you would need to call the local affiliate of the federal government agency (HUD) that handles the Housing Choice Voucher Program in your area, then your property needs to be inspected and approved in order for your property to even qualify. If you don't want to, then don't--many landlords don't. Of course, you are never allowed to discriminate on race, creed, etc. However, you are not required to rent to anyone that you do not feel comfortable with as a tenant in your building. As a businessperson, you need to pick the best qualified tenant. In my direct experience, Section 8 tenants can be a bit harder on the properties, but tend to stay a lot longer than market-rate tenants. However, I have never had any significant issues with a section 8 tenant. Most are simply good folks down on their luck. The upside: since the gov't pays the rent-or a large portion thereof, rent is never late.

Originally posted by @Randy Johnston :

@Amanda H. , Under the new law, you cannot refuse a Section 8 applicant, but you also do not have to change your criteria specifically for them. As long as you use the same criteria for all applicants, then you are good to go. One thing they do mention is that you cannot "opt-out" of the program just because you don't want to hassle with the paperwork. See the links below for more information.

Discrimination on Source of Funds FAQs

Section 8 Bill

Originally posted by @Amanda H. :

Sue Kelly,

Thank you, most of that is in our criteria. Do we have to have this information posted for people to see upon viewing the home? Things like "rude behavior," references by non-related individuals, etc? I do have a list of criteria (mostly financial and criminal history related) I've posted on our refrigerator so that people will know prior to applying what we are looking for. 

 No.  You don't have to list all criteria in your ad.  You may need proof of when you implemented your criteria.  I suggest you email it to yourself.  There is no need to let people know how to lie to you.  

It does help to pre-screen people by putting some of your criteria in your ad, but you are not required to put any of it in your ad - or all of it in your ad.

Oh, add "no co-signers" to your criteria.  

I used to put in my ads "All applicants will undergo credit/eviction/employment/background/landlord/criminal checks.  Sorry no co-signers, smoking or pets."  Something like that. You could also put in your ad they must make three times the rent and have a minimum 700 credit score, etc. 

Then you have your complete criteria written up and you can email it to yourself, so if anyone cries foul regarding fair housing, you're covered.  You can include for example: no relatives for references, anyone 15 minutes late without an acceptable courtesy call not accepted, must have 700 credit score, anyone who does not completely fill out the application (and I will tell everyone they must fill it out completely) will be rejected. Anyone who brings someone to the showing who is argumentative or rude will also be rejected, Etc.

As long as your criteria (whether it's in your ad or your "secret" criteria does not include race, religion, and whatever is disallowed where you live, you'll be fine.

The truth is, there are only a few classes of people that you cannot discriminate against.  Otherwise, it's your job to discriminate.  You are free to discriminate against people who can't prove they can afford the place or have a history that they may trash the place, or who will likely smoke in it, or who don't have references, or who will be difficult to deal with or who won't respect your time....on and on.  

So, if someone ever said to me "That's discrimination!" I'd say, yes you're right.  I can legally discriminate against you because you are a felon or have been evicted, etc.  It's perfectly legal to discriminate.  As long as it's not someone on a very short list.

It's easy to drive people away

Use the bathroom and don't flush

Make yourself a Limburger cheese sandwich in the oven.

Show up late

Show the abrasive side of your personality

we have to be careful not to make the section 8 voucher holders some sort of "Bogeyman"

Do your due diligence but use the same standards for all your applicants and keep an open mind. There is nothing to opt out from, no one will force you to rent to any one that do not meet your requirements as long as your decision is not based only on the fact that they are voucher holders.  In fact, the voucher itself is a source of income. A 700 Fico score will not help a landlord when the tenant lose their jobs and stop paying.

I have had Section 8 tenants who have turned out to be three times better than regular tenants.  

Originally posted by @Remy Balogun :

we have to be careful not to make the section 8 voucher holders some sort of "Bogeyman"

Do your due diligence but use the same standards for all your applicants and keep an open mind. There is nothing to opt out from, no one will force you to rent to any one that do not meet your requirements as long as your decision is not based only on the fact that they are voucher holders.  In fact, the voucher itself is a source of income. A 700 Fico score will not help a landlord when the tenant lose their jobs and stop paying.

I have had Section 8 tenants who have turned out to be three times better than regular tenants.  

We are very careful with S8. We have 3 at the moment, really good relationships, although one might get a 3 day notice over the summer for never paying their portion of the rent ($80 or so).

The problem with our housing authority (I can't speak for others) is that it's actually very difficult to evict someone, it seems you sign away certain rights as a landlord when you sign the housing authority contract. Which in our opinion gives the tenant a little too much power over us - especially in multi-unit situations where one bad tenant affects the others. I have a responsibility to my other tenants that they are not housed next to a nightmare.

The 3 we have are very good, and all but one (we inherited that one), were good tenants before getting their voucher. 

I think more than the Section 8 Tenants being the boogyman it is the Government people worry about.  Especially since it is localish government controlled.  I have found local government types are worse than the feds or state because in the give a person a little power category.

Originally posted by @John Thedford :
When I googled the question one answer came up: no landlord is required to apply for approval to accept section 8. So, IMO, you can state you do not accept section 8. This is not legal advice...consult your attorney. What works in Florida might not work in other states. What happens in Florida...stays in Florida:)

It's not legal advice, just bad advice..  You can't advertise "no section 8" in Oregon.  Landlords on this thread may benefit from reading their own state laws regarding "source of income" discrimination.  

Originally posted by @Marcia Maynard :
Originally posted by @Randy Johnston:

@Amanda H. , Under the new law, you cannot refuse a Section 8 applicant, but you also do not have to change your criteria specifically for them. As long as you use the same criteria for all applicants, then you are good to go. One thing they do mention is that you cannot "opt-out" of the program just because you don't want to hassle with the paperwork. See the links below for more information.

Discrimination on Source of Funds FAQs

Section 8 Bill

Originally posted by @Dick Rosen :

I certainly don't know Oregon law but Section 8 is not a protected class and can be discriminated to the best of my knowledge. However, I have never had to discriminate Section 8 simply because I've always come up with another qualified tenant faster than Section 8 can get things done. And secondly, if you have an income criteria in your standard criteria list such as 3 times the rent in verifiable income... I have yet to see a section 8 tenant that could qualify.

There has been case law where tenants prevailed on the rent multiplier requirement by Sec 8 landlords.  The courts found that a Sec 8 tenant's rent used for such a requirement could be only that portion for which they were responsible.  So if the total rent was $1200, and the voucher was for $900, the tenant portion was $300.   If the requirement was 3 times rent, the tenant was considered qualified if they had $900 in income.

The source of income issue is real, especially here in the West.  Get informed everyone.

Section 8 varies.

Some areas the local authority is excellent and others it is a nightmare where the tenants continuously violate the lease and their section 8 requirements. The case workers are overloaded and do not want to deal with anything so the landlord gets screwed in an unwinnable situation.

I have seen whole apartment buildings that are designated section 8. I do agree that if you have an apartment building and some section 8 and regular rentals among the units it can cause issues. The section 8 tenants are getting most or all of the rent paid for them so they tend to treat your units like dirt in some cases. They have no skin in the game. Some will say they waited years to get on the program and do not want to be kicked off for causing trouble. I have seen case workers that are lazy where the tenants go from place to place knowing the case worker will not kick them off.

So again this all goes back to how section 8 works in your area. This is why you get positive and negative postings from various investors on here. The rates section 8 pays vary as well. In some markets they are at average, other markets the rent for less than what a normal tenant would be, and others above. So market research is needed to see if it makes sense to rent to them from an economic standpoint. I have found also that section 8 tenants DO NOT pay their portion of the rent and you have to hound them for it. So if you are getting above market rents with section 8 and the tenants portion is 50 after section 8 pays then they might pay it monthly and even if they do not maybe you just eat that amount.

If the amount is 200 a month etc. where they call you and say they want to rent this 600 a month space but voucher is for 400 then that can be a problem. Also during renting to section 8 you will have multiple inspections and they get ticky ,tacky on items being replaced that normal renters would not care about. The case workers also periodically re- assess the tenants financial situation and might start to require them to pay more of the rent and reduce the voucher if their financial situation improves. When that happens get ready for a mess and a bunch of BS from the tenant that the system is against them blah, blah, blah but they have that 80 inch TV in there with a bunch of video games for the kiddies and a monster stereo system.

Section 8 just wasn't for me. You just find something to deny the tenant on based on other factors like Sue mentioned etc.

No legal advice given. 

Originally posted by Kristine Marie Poe:
Originally posted by @John Thedford:
When I googled the question one answer came up: no landlord is required to apply for approval to accept section 8. So, IMO, you can state you do not accept section 8. This is not legal advice...consult your attorney. What works in Florida might not work in other states. What happens in Florida...stays in Florida:)

It's not legal advice, just bad advice..  You can't advertise "no section 8" in Oregon.  Landlords on this thread may benefit from reading their own state laws regarding "source of income" discrimination.  

 Nowhere did I state to "advertise" not accepting section 8. A landlord may elect not to set up their property for section 8 tenants. A landlord may not discriminate on someone on the basis of the source of funds. 

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