Recently, was contacted by a person who wanted to see an open property. Once there and seeing that they liked the property, they mentioned that they were disabled and had a voucher. I've tried to do some research on line to find out more about the program and requirements for landlords, but it looks like there could be a few different options for programs that said person qualified for. If it helps identify the program, the prospective tenant (PT) did mention that the program would have to inspect the property and would have a couple of follow up inspections on an annual basis. Also, PT did state that they didn't need any special modifications to the unit. Thoughts? Experiences? What have other Biggerpocketeers run into out there?
Thanks so much!
The prospective tenant is most likely referring to the Housing Choice Voucher Program (Section 8). It's a federal program of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and is administered locally by a public housing agency, such as a Housing Authority.
Go to the search bar at the top of the page, click on the magnifying glass, and type "Section 8" in the BP search box. You will find many discussions in the BP forums about Section 8. The experiences of landlords vary. Some really like working with Section 8 and others don't. The main factor seems to be how well the program is administered in any given area. The best case managers hold the tenants accountable and respond to the needs of landlords. But there are some poorly run programs that are difficult to work with.
For St Louis, Missouri, contact the St. Louis Housing Authority: http://www.slha.org/
It's worth looking into. Find out what it would take to get a contract with them that would enable you to participate in the program. We've been working with Section 8 tenants and their case managers for about 15 years. Rent is deposited by our housing authority directly into our bank account before the rent is even due! The Section 8 inspections occur every two years for us (in some cities it's done annually). As long as the property is habitable and kept in good shape, the inspections are easy to pass. It keeps the tenants on their toes too! We have tenants who go into spring cleaning mode during the month leading up to the inspection of their unit. Love it!
Note... you still need to qualify Section 8 tenants, just as you do others. Just count the value of their housing subsidies as an income equivalent. Same with other monetary and non-monetary benefits that help tenants meet their needs. Our section 8 tenants are less likely to move once they've settled in. They pay the same rent as our non-Section 8 tenants and abide by the same rental agreement. Most are elderly and/or have a disability. We have one tenant (with Section 8 paying most of her rent) who has rented the same apartment for 28 years and counting!
Thanks so much for your thoughtful answer and links! It is greatly appreciated!
@Charli Stevens The most common voucher in STL is the Section 8 voucher, though there are some other similar HUD programs that subsidize rent. They may have a Section 8 voucher, or, another that you'll hear, is through the MO Department of Mental Health, which is also HUD funded and similar but is based on different qualifications. With the applicant saying they're disabled they may simply have a Section 8 voucher and a monthly disability check (SSDI).
The inspections are more thorough than the run-of-the-mill city inspections, which are basically simply there to check against code violations and basic habitability (smoke detectors, no holes in the wall, etc). Section 8 inspections will cover extra things like usability and more extensive safety concerns, like ensure that appliances have anti-tipping devices installed (you can basically connect a chain from the back of the appliance to the wall), ensuring that the appliances present in the unit function, that the W/D hooks up accessible and usable, that the yard isn't overgrown with weeds, etc.
Like @Marcia Maynard said, screen them as you would anyone else. The application process typically takes 1-2 months from start to finish, in our experience. You may hear the applicant clarify they have a "city" or "county voucher, as both entities issue them. The city Housing Authority seems to be impossible to reach, and generally very unhelpful. The County HA has been very responsive, in our experience, and the building inspector we've worked with the most is an investor herself, and also a hoot to chat with. We've had Section 8 tenants at properties for 7+ years, so once the initial hurdles are over, they can be very stable placements.
As has been stated, one of the largest voucher programs is Section-8. I agree with all that has been stated above about the program. Especially, that you must screen those tenants just like anyone else. Some things good, some things bad! Weigh your options before taking the leap. They have monthly landlord meetings at the office (in STL City it's the first Tuesday at 11am)! It's a good time to get your questions and concerns addressed.
However, there are also some other local organizations that offer deposit or rent vouchers. You have to be sure to read through the entire landlord packet! I have found mistakes, legal typos, and some questionable rules and regulations in their contracts. Also, they may ask you to sign their contract instead of yours! There were so many problems with the last third-party contract that I read, that I asked them if any other landlords had refused to sign! They said, "No, they went ahead and signed." What were those landlords thinking? I'm all for receiving consistent rent from various organizations, but not at any cost!
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