Does anyone have experience with Section 8 tenants? Good or bad?

12 Replies

I'm considering purchasing several townhouses in Las Vegas with Section 8 tenants. I like the idea of having automatic payments every month, but worried about possible damage and/or issues they can bring.  Thoughts?

Thanks in advance!

Hi @Cambria Wengert

Section 8 tenants have been the bane of my existence. Yes, the checks will come each and every month reliably if:

1. The tenant recertifies on time

2. The tenant doesn’t break any laws

3. The tenant doesn’t get a job which disqualified him/her from Section 8

4. Your unit passes inspection(now I’ve had countless Section 8 inspections. I’ve failed every one. It’s always things that were just fine the year before, but suddenly it’s no longer good enough, or suddenly it’s broken. Well, who broke it? It wasn’t me! But it’s ALWAYS my responsibility😇)

A shorter way of stating the above list is to say that your checks will not come reliably each and every month, and you’ll have way more headaches, and GOD FORBID the tenant has to pay part of the rent- now you have to chase two entities for a single rent collection. 

I finally threw up my hands this year and stopped taking Section 8. And the one tenant I did take, in a moment of weakness, immediately reminded me why I don’t take those tenants anymore.

It is a fallacy to believe rent checks are guaranteed with S8 as @Michael Gansberg points out.

To decide if you want the added efforts associated with S8 you must research the local government office. How the handlers do their job is the key to deciding if S8 is worth your risk.

Section 8 is a welfare program which means it is rife with abuse and abusers. Yes, some of them are great and you can get "guaranteed" rent. Others are lazy, lying cheats and you'll regret it in the end.

I lived in Vegas for five years. Knowing what people are like there, I would avoid Section 8.

I like them and for the most part am happy with my 6 or so, but I am a tough screener.

Stay within HUD occupancy guidelines. Ask how many animals they have and how much they smoke. Do not under any circumstances rent to a smoker. Ask how much they smoke, not if they do or not. Ask how many animals they have, not whether they have pets or not.

When I did PM we had some Section 8 tenants. Most were terrible. Like @Michael Gansberg said, “things that passed inspection the first year, didn’t pass the following year.” And Section 8 forces the LL to fix the issues (or they withhold rent) even when it’s obvious the tenant broke it. Most (in my experience anyway) were terrible because as stated by @Nathan G. , a lot of them didn’t actually qualify for it and more or less committed fraud, so they didn’t care if they got kicked off the program. They’ll just go find another welfare program and ride that one out as long as they can. However, there were some great Section 8 tenants as well. It was usually older people who actually needed the assistance and kept their apartments spotless and didn’t break anything. They worked all their lives and just needed a “hand up” and not a “hand out.”

Granted, my experience is limited.  I've only had two.  Though soon to be one, because one of them has an eviction order for Sept. 30th, lol.  It's been good and bad, mostly good.  I will still consider a S8 applicant for some of my rentals.

The tenant I just evicted was always a PITA, but S8 paid all/most of her rent and it was well worth it to just deal with her on occasion.  Until last year.  Then she was responsible for 75% of the rent.  I suspected that would not go well and it didn't.  She did always pay it, but only after I nagged and chased her for it.  And, in a nutshell, had this outrageously entitled attitude that the rest of the world had to cater to all her needs.  Which usually meant...me.  I'd finally had it.  Between March-July of this year I'd posted a 5-Day Pay or Quit notice 3/5 times.  In mid-July, I let her know I would not be renewing her lease and gave her a Notice to Vacate, no later than 8/31. 

In retaliation, she made up repairs she wanted done...that she never notified me about...and told S8 I was refusing to do them.  And requested a "special inspection".  Of course, I had to post ANOTHER 5-Day Pay or Quit notice in August.  I was shocked she'd paid it, but she finally did.  However, didn't move out on 8/31.  So I had to take her to eviction court after all of that, anyway.  She actually paid Sept.'s rent.  It was actually the fastest she'd ever sent it, lol.  Very sly of her.  Our court date was already set when I received it.  I thought about returning it but, by the time we would have court, a good bit of the month would be over anyway.  So I kept it and that's why the judge gave her until the 30th.  But at least now I have a court order, because she would never have left without one.

My other S8 tenant?  Absolutely fantastic.  Single mom with a pre-teen and two little ones but, even with all of that on her plate, keeps the house immaculate.  Always pleasant to talk to.  I'm sure it also helps our relationship that S8 pays 100%!  So I never need to talk to her about rent.   

@Cambria Wengert

I'm all for it. I have 8 units total between Cleveland and California....half are on Section 8...half are not....guess who I have the LEAST amount of problems with.   

Let's just say I wish ALL my units had Section 8 tenants in them

I don't ever worry about the existing tenant if I like a rental enough to purchase it for the long term.  One tenant is temporary.  Personally I prefer SEC 8 to non-SEC 8 in low income neighborhoods.  People who work low hourly wage jobs are not dependable payers. SEC 8 tenants tend to stay in a property for 3-4 years, which makes up for the small hassle of the bureaucracy IMO.  I wrote a blog on the realities of SEC vs the perceptions people have.  You can check it out here.   https://www.biggerpockets.com/blogs/9232/55313-intro-to-section-8---your-perceptions-vs-my-realities

I had a Section 8 tenant for 5 years. At first she was ok and I should say that she always kept the place clean. However, when I told her that I had to raise the rent and she should start looking for a new place to live, she freaked out. I ended up having to take her to court and wasted a lot of money kicking her out. I should say that the NYC courts are extremely tenant friendly. She was not compliant with many basic issues like allowing access to the unit. NYCHA, the Section 8 administrator, was absolutely no help at all. They could have easily told her to comply and that if she gets evicted, she would be terminated from the program. 

I would also say that the Section 8 inspections brought up phantom issues. Even other Section 8 inspectors said the issues were bogus. While, NYC's Section 8 is a joke, you should be aware of what could happen. If you have no other choice, I would say move forward with a properly screened tenant, but if the market is better for a regular tenant, I would say go that route.