Section 8 vouchers? Is it illegal to say no?

14 Replies

The outcome of the lawsuit alleging discrimination may have wide reaching effect on landlords and property managers. If the courts rule in favor of the plaintiff's in this case, then landlords rights would be infringed upon. Just curious to hear the opinion of others.



https://www.inquirer.com/news/section-8-vouchers-affordable-housing-philly-tenants-landlords-public-interest-law-center-20190815.html

Hello Joseph!  You can say no as long as they are not discriminating.  Keep good written notes that you can refer to later.  I hope that it is an entity which protects your personal assets.  The law is sometimes made by the city or state besides not just Federal.  Know your activity may be challenged, especially on Section 8 tenants.  If it resulted from your screening it should not be discriminating in any part of it.  Good luck to you.

Originally posted by @Joseph ODonovan :

The outcome of the lawsuit alleging discrimination may have wide reaching effect on landlords and property managers. If the courts rule in favor of the plaintiff's in this case, then landlords rights would be infringed upon. Just curious to hear the opinion of others.

These landlords are screwing up by denying based on source of income, which is illegal. They just need to make it clear that they do not participate in the S8 program.  I won't deny you because you have a S8 voucher, but I will not participate in the S8 program, I will not allow inspection by S8, and I will not fix any things in the unit that S8 would want fixed. However, if S8 wants to give you a voucher for my place knowing all that, I'll gladly accept it as payment. 

As for landlord rights, what is that? We're scum. We have no rights. Haven't had any since the 1960's. 

@Greg M. - Source of income is not a protected class in all states. It may be illegal in CA, but it is legal in VA. That said, I do take SEC 8 in any property they will give me market rent or better in. We accept the first qualified tenant who submits a complete application, regardless of the source of their rent.

@Patti Robertson you're correct and in Philly source of income is a protected class.  It has been for well over a decade.  I'm shocked that a PM company would actually say that they don't take the vouchers.  It's pretty standard knowledge to do as @Greg M. mentions.  You find another reason to deny.  Actually, simply stating that the home has not been inspected for inclusion in the section 8 program is enough to let the potential tenant know that there's no chance to get into the property.  Section 8 here requires that the landlord attend a briefing and then a training class before being permitted to be part of the program.  After that's done they then can get the property inspected .  That process takes way too long.  If the tenant presses you simply add that you would be happy to look into what it takes to get into the program and getting the property inspected however you will rent to the first qualified applicant that can move in the soonest.  They understand that with that requirement, being in the program means they won't get accepted.  Couple that with a requirement that you don't process applications until the application fee is received and no one on the program is going to waste your time or their money.   

You can only say no if they do not meet the criteria elsewhere. Be careful with this. You need to make sure there are very clear outlined qualifications that each tenant must meet and that you follow it every single time. If you slip up on this you can be in a position no landlord wants to be in!

Hi @Joseph ODonovan - as long as your reason for declining does not violate FHA as a protected class, then yes (but please proceed with caution; as Catherine has carefully noted above you have to be super careful that they do or do not meet clearly outlined qualifications that you've set for your rental - and if what others have said is true about income being added as a protected class in Philly, then you have to keep it open to those with Sec. 8 vouchers; the sec. 8 process is lengthy too). I'll defer to others as far as other advice, but best of luck.

I'm curious as to what the solution would be.  If this lawsuit is won, would every landlord have to enroll in the section 8 program?  

If vouchers could be accepted without further involvement from the government (as long as other rental criteria are also met), would you rent to to voucher recipients?  I'm just curious about everyone else's thoughts.  

I hear so many landlords say this, but it makes no sense.  Landlords do not submit properties for inclusion into the SEC 8 program.  Rather, SEC 8 is called the Housing CHOICE Voucher because the tenant chooses the property. The inspection almost never happens until the landlord accepts the tenant, the landlord and tenant complete their portions of the required paperwork, and the Housing Authority and landlord agree on a rent amount.  Only when all that is done will the inspection be scheduled, and then it doesn't mean much. The inspection is just a snapshot in time for that one period that says on that day, when the inspector was there, the house passed inspection.

Some Housing Authorities are doing some pre-inspections, but they aren't common. One of our HAs is testing the program right now and they are hand selecting landlords and PMs who they know are experienced to test the system.  It could be a waste of time, because we may end up with a non-SEC 8 applicant first.  The benefit is that they will have two lists, one of properties already inspected, and one that haven't been.  The move in time should be within 2 weeks if the house has been pre-inspected.  


All of my SEC 8 applicants pay an application fee, just like everyone else.

Originally posted by @PJ M. :

 Actually, simply stating that the home has not been inspected for inclusion in the section 8 program is enough to let the potential tenant know that there's no chance to get into the property.  

Originally posted by @Patti Robertson :

I hear so many landlords say this, but it makes no sense.  Landlords do not submit properties for inclusion into the SEC 8 program.  Rather, SEC 8 is called the Housing CHOICE Voucher because the tenant chooses the property. The inspection almost never happens until the landlord accepts the tenant, the landlord and tenant complete their portions of the required paperwork, and the Housing Authority and landlord agree on a rent amount.  Only when all that is done will the inspection be scheduled, and then it doesn't mean much. The inspection is just a snapshot in time for that one period that says on that day, when the inspector was there, the house passed inspection.

Some Housing Authorities are doing some pre-inspections, but they aren't common. One of our HAs is testing the program right now and they are hand selecting landlords and PMs who they know are experienced to test the system.  It could be a waste of time, because we may end up with a non-SEC 8 applicant first.  The benefit is that they will have two lists, one of properties already inspected, and one that haven't been.  The move in time should be within 2 weeks if the house has been pre-inspected.  


All of my SEC 8 applicants pay an application fee, just like everyone else.

Originally posted by @PJ M.:

 Actually, simply stating that the home has not been inspected for inclusion in the section 8 program is enough to let the potential tenant know that there's no chance to get into the property.  

With every area managing their requirement individually it makes sense here in Philly.  Your area may be different.  Let's lay out how it works in Philly.  

A tenant applies to my property.  Source is income is a protected class so I can not ask about that as part of my screening process.  So they fill out an application and they pass.  I give them my holding form to sign, request a 1 month holding fee which then turns into the security deposit for the unit, and my holding agreement requires that the lease be signed within 10 days of approval.  

Right there we usually hit the first roadblock.  The reason is that in Philly, if the landlord is not currently part of the Section 8 program, there is no way to meet those deadlines.  Before being permitted to rent in the Section 8 program a Philly landlord must attend an orientation class which is give once per week.  After completing the orientation class the landlord needs to schedule a time to complete the training class that is given.  Now, this also doesn't take into account the requirements that a landlord be "local" to the property or have property management that is local to the property, among other things.  After passing the training class the landlord is then permitted to work with the HUD office as a potential landlord, discuss the lease/holding fee documentation, and schedule an inspection. Here, HUD needs to approve the documents that the tenant will sign.  

Now, as a landlord I've got a tenant who is approved but cannot hold the property, pay the fee, or sign the lease within 10 days.  They are, in effect, excluded from being able to rent my property if I am not currently part of the Housing Choice program here in Philly. I am now forced to move to the next available candidate who can move in the quickest.  The entire process was a big waste of time and money.  the tenant wasted their time filling out the application and I wasted my time processing it.  This is why it is a pretty standard thing for a tenant to call and ask if the landlord takes vouchers.  Now, that's a loaded question as the answer could be discriminatory.  The correct answer is that you take all payment types however the house has not been inspected for inclusion in the program.  That single sentence lets the potential tenant know that the landlord is not part of the voucher program.  As I mentioned in my other reply if the tenant pushes it and asks something like "would you join the program" the answer is sure but you rent to the first approved applicant that can move in the quickest.  That clarifies for the potential tenant that there is no way you are going to hold the property off the market for a month, without a holding fee paid, while attending orientations, training classes, and getting paperwork approved all before even an inspection can be completed.

so while you are technically correct that "landlords do not submit properties for inclusion into the SEC 8 program", it's a way to let the potential tenants know that the property hasn't been inspected and that you, as a landlord, aren't part of the program.