New Trends in Screening Section 8 Tenants

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I'm a retired apartment manager in California.  I'm a low income senior on disability now, and I live in subsidized senior housing.  I attained the holy grail of a Section 8 voucher last year, which was accepted at the subsidized apartment I was already in.  I'm applying to be put on waiting lists for subsidized senior housing in the SF Bay Area now.  I love it up here, but I'm bored LOL.  Too much quiet beauty is....boring!  I want to go back where I can take classes and go on bus trips, etc.  And I have friends and family there.

Anyway, one of the places I applied to asked for an application fee of $33 and signed releases to run my credit and criminal checks - just to get on the waiting list. This senior apartment building is in a very desirable neighborhood.  I contacted my housing authority and she said yes, this is legal and it's becoming more common.

I think this is a great idea for landlords who accept Section 8 tenants.  It's a great way to get tenants to just pre-screen themselves.  They aren't likely to pay for an application fee, if they know the reports will be bad.  So, less applicants to wade through, and you'll have a better batch to work with.  And if you keep a waiting list, I know from first hand experience, many applicants for waiting lists get on tons of them, playing a sort-of numbers game with the waiting lists.  If I had to pay a fee to get on each one, I wouldn't get on so many lists.

Plus, when an apartment becomes available, they will run the checks again, and probably charge me again - to be sure nothing weird happened in the meantime.

Another way to effectively screen tenants who will be financially iffy, is to require bigger deposits - from all tenants. Tenants have to pay the market rate for the deposit. Not just a portion of it based on their voucher. The screening criteria and deposits are not regulated by HUD (unless you're discriminating).

For instance, for me moving to a more expensive area, where they normally require one month's market rent (their highest subsidized rent amount for that project), the place I applied to would require $1250 for a deposit.  And, if my credit was bad, they would require twice that.  That's a LOT of money to come up with for low-income people.  

And from a Section 8 tenant's perspective, I feel better knowing that the place I'll be moving into is picky about their Section 8 tenants.  

If I were managing a Section 8 property right now, I'd start charging an application fee and running checks on applicants just to get on the waiting list, and I'd beef up my security deposits, to get more bad tenants to just screen themselves out.

I just thought I'd share this info with landlords on this forum who are Section 8 landlords, or considering it.  Because not all Section 8 tenants are as wonderful as me :-)