How to dance around Sec. 8 requirements in Seattle & WA

5 Replies | Seattle, Washington

Seattle currently includes 'source of income' as a protected class when considering tenant applicants.  On Sept. 30 a new WA state law will expand that to the entire state.  

At our property management company we are now writing all of our leases as 10-month leases, with 12-month renewals for those who want to stay and qualify.  Sec. 8 currently will not sign a 12-month lease.

I accepted Sec. 8 for 25 years.  I figured a good tenant screening process should be blind to source of income.  While I got my teeth kicked in a few times in the early going, that decision forced me to be very keen on how to accurately screen for good and bad tenants.  It took about 8 years, but I got it figured out.

4 years ago program requirements at Sec. 8 forced us out of the program.  We simply got tired of arranging for inspections, then replacing perfectly good handrails because they weren't the proper height, and so on, and so on.  When this market slows down we may reconsider.  But for now it is a lot less hassle not dealing with it.

"At our property management company we are now writing all of our leases as 10-month leases, with 12-month renewals for those who want to stay and qualify. Sec. 8 currently will not sign a 12-month lease."

Can you explain this one a little more?   It sounds like you are attracting Sec. 8 to start but not to renew?

You bet, Gabe.  It is actually the opposite.  We are writing 10-month leases for all properties (so we are not discriminatory).  Sec. 8 will currently only sign 12-month leases.  By offering only 10-month leases it is our expectation that we will not be able to accept those applicants.  

At lease renewal we will do a 12-month renewal.

This is just one example of many of the value-added services a (good) property manager can provide. Owners often look at the management fee and think it is too expensive for "just collecting rent". Besides attending to the myriad of questions, requests, and issues with tenants and the property, a good PM will provide liability protection with legal knowledge, asset protection with a tight lease, and increased ROI with simply smart management. These are often overlooked because many PMs are "just collecting rent".

As with tenants, it is always a good idea to vett a PM firm to separate the wheat from the chaff.

That makes more sense.  I currently have 11 month leases to start and then m2m.  I plan to  write a company policy about first lease vs lease renewal with an existing tenant and the standard term length.

There are tons of good clauses in a great PM's lease.  I wish we had more resources to share/assemble these docs.  I have a legal service that generates leases but I found that the document it produces is pretty poor.  It doesn't have clauses for most things that are in a good PMs lease.

As long as you require first, last and security deposit, set your CS at 680, and check backgrounds etc. There should be no problem from what I can see. Just treat everyone the same. The longer initial lease is creative and attractive but carries a potential downside too.