Housing assistance for disabled

23 Replies

Good afternoon everyone Can any one shed some light on housing assistance for the disabled? Has it worked out well for you? Any input is appreciated Thanks B

There are many housing assistance programs available for people who qualify. 

We work with Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program and it's worked out very well for us. That's because our local Vancouver Housing Authority administers the program here and does a great job. Not all locations have good program administrators, so that's something to check out. We receive rent payments from the VHA (on behalf of the tenant) as a direct deposit into our bank account, in advance of when it's due. Sweet!  The VHA also sends an inspector every two years to check up on the condition of the unit to make sure it still meets their housing standards, which it always does since we take care of our properties and so do our tenants.

We also work with the Veteran's Administration program, who has their housing support paid through the Vancouver Housing Authority too. As with Section 8, the tenant doesn't touch the money. Instead it's paid directly to the housing provider (landlord). These programs may pay all or a portion of the tenant's rent, based on their financial situation. Some programs also assist with payment of utilities.

Some tenants receive monetary assistance from the Social Security Administration because of their disability. There are two key programs SSDI (supplemental security disability insurance) and SSI (supplemental security income). Both SSDI and SSI are administered by the Social Security Administration and only individuals who have a disability and meet medical criteria may qualify for benefits under either program. This income is received by the tenant as a direct deposit into their account. You receive rent payments from the tenant, not from either of these programs.

We consider rent subsidies, whether paid directly to us or to the tenant, as "income" during our tenant screening process when person applies to rent from us. We also count "income equivalents" such as food stamps and utility subsidies during the qualification process.   We don't discriminate on source of income.

Thank you @Marcia Maynard

I ask because I will be a new landlord this coming week. And my RE agent came to me with someone looking to rent in the area. They probably receive assistance through the social security administration. 

Although having guaranteed rent is great, how are the tenants and do they typically take care of the property? My plan is to BRRRR. Im still waiting on the rental application, but most likely they wont be leaving the house much.

@Brian Ellis   Whether a tenant has a disability or not, whether a tenant receives assistance from agencies or not, the key thing is to have good rental criteria that is in compliance with all non-discrimination laws. Welcome all applicants regardless of their circumstances and do not create a chilling effect. The applicant will either meet your rental criteria or not.

If they meet your rental criteria, extend an offer to rent. Then comes the contracting phase. You need a solid rental agreement. All parties need to understand and abide by the terms of the rental agreement. If not, then you will need to enforce the terms in a professional and timely manner.

There is no difference between those tenants of ours who happen to have disabilities and those who do not. All of us either have a disability or are temporarily able bodied, right? What's more important is your integrity as a landlord. Be respectful, open and honest. Act professionally and politely. Give people a chance to prove themselves worthy of being your tenant.

[from the SSA website] "Social Security is a federal government program that provides a source of income for you or your legal dependents (spouse, children, or parents) if you qualify for benefits. There are four main types of benefits the SSA offers:

@Marcia Maynard Thank you!! I know I have a lot to learn. 

What do you base your criteria around? Obviously rental history, credit, etc. Can you go much further than that? For example: having a bad feeling about the tenant. Sorry for all the questions!

Originally posted by @Brian Ellis :

@Marcia Maynard Thank you!! I know I have a lot to learn. 

What do you base your criteria around? Obviously rental history, credit, etc. Can you go much further than that? For example: having a bad feeling about the tenant. Sorry for all the questions!

 If you "have a bad feeling about the tenant" you'll have to provide another reason (non-discriminatory reason) to not rent to them. I don't think "a bad feeling" would be sufficient should they decide to press the issue and take you to court for discrimination. 

Thanks @Grant Rothenburger

In Massachusetts, the rules are real tenant heavy. If you have a few applications where they all meet your criteria, then what do you base your decision off of?

Ideally I want to provide good clean housing, be a good landlord, and make the best decision for my business without giving off that chilling effect @Marcia Maynard mentioned earlier. Because that would never be my intention.

@Brian Ellis Tread carefully.  People receiving public assistance of any kind are a protected class in MA.

If you say or do anything that suggests that you're even taking assistance into consideration in your decision, you've opened yourself up for a fair housing lawsuit.

"For example: having a bad feeling about the tenant"

A bad feeling is more than enough justification to reject any applicant. Good landlords do it all the time. When rejecting a applicant keep in mind you never tell any applicant why they are being rejected unless your state codes require you to do so.

It's your property and your choice.

@Brian Ellis Brian it’s still your choice almost everywhere but I’m places like Seattle and San Francisco the government is trying to dictate who you can and can’t accept.  You can’t discriminate against a “protected class” but those are very limited cases you should get familiar with.  You are completely ok with discriminating against capricious and arbitrary criteria.  I’m perfectly allowed to not choose any tenant I want because “they smell”,  “they don’t like the Simpsons” or “I got a bad vibe from them”. The reason landlords, especially large multi family owners have stated , objective criteria is so if they get sued for discrimination against a protected class, they have a solid defense to tell a judge with their consistent, objective criteria. 

@Brian Ellis   Happy to help.  MA Fair Housing is serious business.  

There are 15 protected classes in MA.

The state actually employs "testers", who will pose as home renters or buyers and try to get you say or do something they can prosecute you for.  The courts have already held that "entrapment" is not allowed as a defense at trial.

For example, they'll send a couple of "Group A" (in a protected class) and another of "Group B" (not in a protected class).  If you don't treat Group B exactly as you did Group A, they'll hit you with crippling fines, often in the tens of thousands of dollars.

My E&O insurance carrier told me of a case where in passing, a Realtor helping a renter noticed the renter's accent and asked, "so where are you from?"

He got her the apartment she wanted, but she sued just because he asked the question as "national origin" is a protected class.  Between court costs, attorney fees and fines, the case settled just under $100,000.

Here's a good place to start:

http://www.mass.gov/ocabr/licensee/dpl-boards/re/r...

Be sure that you treat everybody exactly the same.


@Charlie MacPherson thank you. I think I was under the impression that disabled receiving housing assistance was under the same category as section 8, where I would have to apply. I’m assuming I’m completely wrong with this.. I’ll make sure to check out that link, I appreciate the help.

@Brian Ellis   My understanding is that in order to accept Section 8, your property has to pass inspection by the local housing administration, so yes, you do have to apply.

I think that the key to staying out of hot water is to NEVER say "I don't accept Section 8". This is more of an attorney question, but my *guess* is that if you state a true fact "my rental unit isn't eligible for Section 8", you might be OK.  You're stating that the issue is with your unit, not the renter who is in a protected class.

I think that the safest way to proceed is to accept all applications from all people and not comment on Section 8 at all.  BTW - there are many people here on BP who love Section 8.  Sure, some don't - but landlords seem to like getting paid on time!

As to disability, a landlord must make reasonable accommodations, but my memory is that the tenant is responsible for the cost of returning the unit to the original condition upon terminating residency.  

That would include things like installing a wheelchair ramp, grab bars and hand rails, lowering counters to wheelchair height, assigning a parking space closer to the entrance, allowing therapy pets in an otherwise "no-pets" rental, etc.

Good start here:

http://massfairhousing.org/housing-discrimination/...

And here:

https://www.masshousing.com/portal/server.pt/docum...

And here's what happens if you screw up:

http://www.mass.gov/ago/news-and-updates/press-rel...

@Charlie MacPherson it’s not actually illegal to ask “so where are you from?” Per se. However It’s a bad idea because it can be used as mIlItatIng evidence of discrimination based on national origin, which is a protected class, but not really In this case as you presented the facts. Can you provide a link to this story?

@Steve B. I don't have a link - it was given to me verbally by a phone agent at Pearl Insurance, who was my E&O carrier at the time. We were swapping horror stories.

My understanding is that even asking the question is presumptive evidence of discrimination.

Again, this is in the People's Republic of Massachusetts, where all landlord's are considered to be greedy, rotten capitalist, slumlords who make their living from the sweat on the backs of the working class.

Substitute a different protected class though and see how the question sounds.

Someone calls the landlord about a rental.  The landlord asks the potential renter "are you white?"  I don't see that going well for that landlord.

My E&O agent told me of another horror story on the same call.

He told me of a Realtor who put the Ichthys (Christian "fish") symbol on a corner of his business card.  He said that the agent was subsequently sued by the state of MA for discrimination because he obviously wouldn't help a Jew, Muslim, atheist, etc.  Not that there was the slightest bit of evidence to support the accusation.  It was a $40,000 fine.

Don't expect me to make sense of these rulings.  In the absence of actual discrimination I think they're infuriating and absurd.  

Just don't shoot the messenger.