Section 8 thoughts

5 Replies

I'm a former manager, retired, and low income.  I now live in subsidized senior apartments and I now have a Section 8 voucher. I've learned a lot about them.

First, you have the right to screen them however you want to, within the law.  You can set your screening criteria as strict as you would any other property.

Also, the tenant must come up with their own deposit.  They don't get a discounted deposit.  So, you can set your deposit the same way you would any other property.

The number you want to look at is the "Payment Standard" for your city/county. HUD has a Fair Market Rent amount, but the local public housing authority (PHA) may tweak that number a bit.

The payment standard is the max rent allowed for different sized units, based on number of bedrooms.  

If a voucher holder has had a good track record, the PHA may allow them to pay a higher rent than the payment standard, paying the difference between the payment standard and the higher rent - but only if the additional amount paid, keeps their portion of the rent to 40% (if I recall correctly) of their income.

Here is the payment standard list for Seattle:

King Co's website has a payment standard look-up feature, and you can put in different zip codes to find out what it is:

You should look over their contract to make sure it's something you really want to do. Normally, with a voucher holder, you can only evict them "for cause," regardless if their lease has ended or not. You can't just give them notice to move out, like non-voucher tenants. The "for cause" list, is determined by HUD. You can terminate if you want to raise the rents, as I recall, or if you want to move into the unit, for instance. But, you have to have a reason listed by HUD. Just make sure you understand it.

The PHAs are always looking for landlords, so don't be shy about going in and asking for an appointment to go over what would be involved.

Now that I know more about the program, as a voucher-holder, I think the bad rep of voucher holders is usually the landlord's fault for not screening them well.   Because you absolutely can screen them well.

For instance, just to get on the waiting list for a place I'd like to move into, I had to pay an application fee and allow them to do a credit and criminal background check - just to get on the waiting list.  I passed - yay - LOL.  But, it also gives me comfort knowing they're really picky about their tenants.

Good luck!

Here's my section 8 situation. I've never done it. Voucher recipient has 4 kids under 6, recently divorced (she volunteered we didn't ask). Voucher and child support don't cover our income requirement. No employment. Seems like a no brainer to decline.

The more I learn the less I like using the program.

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@Steven Anderson Yes.  Honestly, it's more work and a hassle.  If you can ask rent that's high enough to be above the payment standards, you wouldn't have to worry about it, even in areas where they now say you can't discriminate against voucher holders.

But, yeah, you can easily decline your applicant, in my opinion.  Plus, I started including in my criteria that I didn't rent to freshly divorced people.  They always move or their ex moves in.  They are unstable as tenants.  And freshly-divorced applicants are not a protected class :-)

Sounds like the California section 8 process is well defined.  A landlord had screen but you can only do so much.  There are tenants who feel their money is better served somewhere else or they can neglect your property.  There is no recouse for the landlord.  That is what gives the program a bad rep.

As a previous poster said, you can and need to vet them like any other tenant for the most part. I have personally screened Section 8 tenants for my units in Oakland, and Concord, Ca as well as Cleveland, Ohio.......Might take a little more work up front, but it is a peaceful feeling knowing you will get that check like clockwork at the beginning of each month.

This is not an absolute, but generally speaking I always ask

In the last 5 years in Felonies or Evictions? If yes, Goodbye.

Any animals or pets?  A cat or a chihuaha is OK.....A Rotweiller or Pit Bull or Snake is NOT OK.

Always ask how many people will potentially live at the unit....You don't want the mother, and grandma, and 4 kids living in the 3 bedroom 1 bath unit.....whatever number they say...always mentally add one more person to that.

Regarding Deposits and Application Fees.........If (before they even fill out the application for the background check) they say I don't want to pay $45.00 for a deposit fee if I'm not going to get approved .....that's a red flag.      As for the deposit....I will say it literally depends on how bad the person want the property....I recently had a rental unit that became available and I wanted a Section 8 tenant in there.....All three of these applicants filled out the application for the background check after seeing the unit and all wanted the unit.

Person number 1 said she will meet me at the property to fill out the paperwork to get to the Housing Authority and give me the deposit.  She shows up, 20 minutes late, we fill out the paperwork, and (shocker) she doesn't have the deposit with her, but will go get the money order. Comes back 90 minutes later saying the bank screwed up her stuff, and she will be back in 2 or 3 days with the money order. I reminded her that the advertisements will stay up until the money is in my hand and that I will continue screening tenants.

Person number 2 says she does not have the entire deposit now, but she can give me part of the deposit in 3 or 4 days and the rest of the deposit, she will give me when she moves out of her current residence (Also with a Section 8 landlord). She shows me in writing that her deposit is through the housing authority so I know this is legit. However...

Person number 3 says she will meet me back at the property in exactly two days at 7pm with the entire deposit. (She also currently has a Section 8 landlord).

Person number three showed up a few minutes early to the appointment, and she is who got the unit...(coincidentally she had the highest credit score out of all the applicants).

Keep in mind if someone has a Section 8 Voucher I give a LOT of leeway on what their credit score is.....I also don't care much about the "income" because I know most if not all of the rent is paid by Section 8......However, if I see a felony or eviction on that background check in the last 5 years.....they are automatically rejected....................If two candidates are fairly equal regarding credit scores, etc....then I will also look at who all.......I don't allow smoking of anykind in my rentals in Oakland and Concord....i don't care if it;s legal or not....I will also look at if they have an animal or pet (there's a difference) or not.....I do not allow any pets in my rentals in California......and I will look at how many people will live there....the less the better.

In Cleveland, I can't really control all of this because my property manager will deal with this on a day to day basis, but if I happen to get a phone call or text from a potential renter in Cleveland you can best believe I ask these types of questions before I pass the info on to my property manager.