How to Profit Big & Help Those in Need by Renting to Section 8 Tenants

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It can make a lot of sense for a landlord to rent to tenants who qualify for Section 8, or government subsidized, housing. In California, the Section 8 program is sponsored by county governments and subsidizes the rent payments for citizens unable to afford the entire amount of a market rate rental. The idea is that over time the tenants in the Section 8 program will become self-sufficient and essentially won’t need government assistance.

Subsidized housing in general has a certain negative stigma associated with it. There is this notion that subsidized tenants are worse tenants because they will “trash the place” or “won’t pay rent.” In my experience renting to hundreds of Section 8 tenants, I have encountered a very high quality of person and renter. In fact, focusing leasing efforts on subsidized renters was one of the biggest things that made my single-family business successful.

Section 8 can be a little tricky because different counties can have different rules. There has also been an increase in bureaucracy in the program, which is obviously a deterrent for landlords. On the whole, though, I still really believe in the Section 8 program.

Related: Rent to Section 8 or No?

Here are the six best reasons to give subsidized tenants a chance at your next rental.

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6 Reasons for Landlords to Rent to Section 8 Tenants

1. Higher Rents and Built in Increases

Section 8 tenants pay a fixed percentage of their income, and the government or Section 8 program pays the difference. When I was trying to raise rents on a number of homes in my portfolio by increasing asking rental rates, I found that there were a lot of Section 8 tenants applying to the homes that were on the higher side of market rate. This actually makes a lot of sense because whether the Section 8 tenant rents a home that is $1,000 or $10,000, their portion of rent actually stays the same.

For example, if a Section 8 tenant makes $2,000 per month, they will only pay about 40% of that as their portion, so about $800 in this case. If this person rents a house that costs $1,000, then the government will pay $200, and if they rent a house that costs $10,000, the government with pay $9,200. The tenant pays $800 in both scenarios.

There are obviously limits to how much the government can pay, and there is also some diligence to make sure that the rental rate is around market, but as long as it’s close, there usually isn’t an issue. In some cases, I have been able to get about $100 over the nearest market rate comp.

Many Section 8 programs also have built in rent increases that the landlord can apply for on an annual basis. The tenant is indifferent because they only pay the fixed monthly rate. Again, the rent increases need to be around market, but any increase is a good thing for an owner.

2. Tenants Will Stay Longer

The key here is to make sure the homes you are leasing out are in really good condition and that you are a really good landlord. If something is broken, then fix it! I’m not saying that you should put in gold plated countertops, but it is important to make the home nice and a really good place to live. If you do this, then it is likely that the tenants will stay longer.

My Section 8 tenants stayed over three years on average. One of the main reasons is that I was a good landlord, but it was also due to the fact that it takes a while to make enough money to get off of the Section 8 voucher. This is by no means a knock on the tenants – they were great people; they just didn’t make a lot of money and couldn’t afford a place that was better.

The other reality is that there aren’t going to be many better places if you take care of your property and are a good landlord. There are loads of Americans who will be renters for life, and if you are a good landlord, this will end up benefitting you.

The real thrust of this point is that you make more money as a landlord if you can keep your tenants in place. Vacancy and turnover costs are killer. Section 8 tenants are more likely to stay long term, and remember that you also get a higher rental rate.

3. County-Guaranteed Rent

This is obviously a safe net. Many Section 8 tenants have lower credit than an ideal tenant. However, if the tenant loses their job or comes up short on a payment, then the county, or in some cases the city, will step in and pay you the entire amount owed.

Related: Section 8 Success Story

I was somewhat shocked when I found this out. I was renting homes in lower end cities that were partially guaranteed by other cities in the same county with ten million dollar homes. While you never want a tenant to be unable to pay, it helps reduce risk if you know you have a wealthy guarantor (particularly in the form of the government).

4. Lower Maintenance

I have heard people say that “Section 8 tenants destroy the place!” In my experience of renting to hundreds of Section 8 tenants, they are actually less likely to destroy your home, and they also require less maintenance! The reason is that most of my requests for maintenance happen within the first month of a tenant moving in.

This makes sense because we have just done repairs, and the house hasn’t been lived in for a while. As a landlord you expect this for the first month, and usually the maintenance issues iron out over time. Since Section 8 tenants stay longer in a home, the average maintenance costs end up going way down.

The other part of this is that many Section 8 tenants realize that they will never own their own home. I won’t get into the social issues of this point; it is just a financial reality. Because of this, many Section 8 tenants end up taking “ownership” of the home they rent… once they are there for a while. This is a key point because it is important as a landlord to make the home nice and fix the things that go wrong so tenants want to stay.

I’m not making a social comment, but purely a business one. If you do your job as a landlord, then the maintenance will be lower with Section 8 tenants as compared to regular tenants.

5. Tenant Accountability and Extra Screening

It is really hard to get a Section 8 voucher in many communities. There is far more demand than there is supply of vouchers and homes willing to take Section 8. This creates an environment of accountability for the tenants once they get into a good home – they will do everything they can to keep it. Again, it goes back to the point that it is important as a landlord to be a good owner.

Along with accountability, Section 8 tenants go through extra screening in order to get their voucher. Due to the high demand to get a Section 8 voucher, the program can be selective with its criteria. Some municipalities will do background checks and that type of thing. You should be doing your own screening of Section 8 tenants, but it is always nice to know that they have been screened by the government already.

6. You’re Helping People and Making Money at the Same Time

I’m in real estate to make money. I have to be because it’s my business. However, I also feel a responsibility to give back to society and the communities where I do business. If you read most of my blog posts, you will know that I’m usually against most things government.

The Section 8 program really is a good thing, though. One of the most fundamental needs of humans is to have a safe place to live, and this is particularly true of children. It is the responsibility of the community, which includes businesses, to take care of those who are less fortunate. The selfish reality is that giving back is also good for business. The biggest bang for your buck in terms of giving back is to provide a great home for a family who couldn’t otherwise afford it.

Embrace the Section 8 program, and programs like it. It will be good for your wallet, and your soul.

Landlords, weigh in: What do you think of renting to Section 8 tenants? What has your experience been with this?

Don’t forget to leave a comment below!

About Author

Conor Flaherty

Conor has experienced every aspect of the foreclosure and rental business for single-family homes. He was VP of Acquisitions at Silver Bay Realty Trust, and has flipped over 100 homes. Conor started a blog called Wall Street Slum Lord and is working on publishing his first novel.


  1. Charlie Williams on

    Allison, great article. I only have 1 Section 8 tenant right now. He is one of my best tenants. Like you were stating we had a few repair issues the first month but since then all has been great. I just had 2 units become vacant so I have advertised them to the Section 8 program here in my city. Do you do anything special to advertise to Section 8 tenants? I love getting my rent on time.

    Charlie -VA

    • Conor Flaherty

      Thanks for the comment, Charlie!

      I always put “Section 8 Welcome to Apply” in the subject heading of any listing. There are also ways where you can go to the section 8 program in your community and have them list your rental on their site. That way you get max exposure.

    • Like you said it depends what county runs the program. Santa Barbara county is one of the richest , in California. I own rentals in the North End , 70% of the residents here are
      very poor….field workers, and the rest waiting for amnesty. My experience accepting sec 8, you lose complete control of your property. They do the inspections, we were not allowed to observe. We were notified when the cockroaches are holding hands, and were ordered to pay for pest control, immediately. They brought in a dog, without permission, that bit neighbors on at least two occasions. Those with Sec 8 vouchers, have great difficulty finding decent housing , because of these shortfalls. I have had two homes not pass inspection by the Section 8 inspector in the past..that were well maintained and safe. So those who run Sec. 8, are their own worse enemy.
      Stay away.

      • Conor Flaherty

        Thanks for the comment, Lin!

        As I mentioned, there is increasing bureaucracy by the section 8 program itself – not unique for government entities.

        I’m sorry to hear that you had a really bad tenant. That can certainly happen with a section 8 tenant, but also with regular tenants.

        Hopefully the county bureaucracy will decrease and allow good owners like you to provide quality housing.

    • Eric D.

      CHARLIE WILLIAMS, if you want your rent on-time, just rent to at least average credit score tenants. I get 24 o 24 rents in the bank by the second of the month almost every month. Sometimes, I have to wait until the 3rd…

  2. jen kurtz

    I tend to focus on the positives of renting to section 8 as well, and so I am a big fan too Conor!

    Lin brought up the main argument to the opposition. Which, in some cases can be true, so it’s good to find out the reputation of the housing authority where your properties are to find out if they are the agency that wants to work with you and for their clients, rather than against you. Many people who are “slumlords” are obviously going to have a hard time with HA’s, but even good landlords that take care of their property can have a less than par relationship with their respective housing authority if they have poor leadership or power-happy attitudes.

    I have found that at times section 8 residents can be high maintenance- meaning that they have unrealistic high expectations, or once in awhile have the attitude they they are doing you a favor by renting there. Although, this is probably more evident in a larger multi-family that is older and typically with more vacancies and with an on-site manager, as opposed to a SFH. On that same note, that stigma can be carried not only by property owners but also by residents. I have definitely noticed that residents who pay full rent do not want to live near someone that pays half of what they do- another issue that would not be as prevelant in SFHs as it is in multifams.

    I personally agree that the pros outweight the cons, after you have a full understanding of the program and know how to make it work for you!

  3. Thanks Conor!

    I think the absolute best way is to set expectations from the very beginning. Be honest. Don’t ever make promises you don’t think you could keep about upgrades, new carpet, anything you can’t control, etc. High maintenance residents don’t forget things they’ve asked you, no matter how small or meaningless. People respect people that don’t try to gloss anything over in rose colored glasses, be honest about everything you can do and what you cannot do- or will do and will not do. I also like to give a little education to a resident who just received their sec 8 voucher for the first time. They usually don’t know how the whole process works, that they will always have inspections from the housing authority, etc. This helps them understand upfront that they will have more interruptions than someone not receiving a subsidy. Honesty and directness, all the way.

  4. Mimi H.

    Personally, I have not had the same experience with Section 8 renters. Actually, quite the opposite. The cons have out weighed the pros and have been much more entitled than non Section 8s. It’s more complicated and generally I’ve not found it to be worth the effort. Super high maintenance tenants. And as Jen mentioned, other residents start to wonder about the value of the location, etc. – there is some stigma related to living next to a Section 8 renter (fair or not, this is the reality). I’d look into the cons more deeply before jumping in.

  5. angela henderson

    Thanks Connor! I just purchased my first property and completed the required course in Philadelphia to rent section 8. My husband and I are hoping for a good tenant. We’ve spent the last 6 months of our lives searching for the right property and then putting in most of the rehab work ourselves. Both my husband and I were raised in public housing by parents who migrated from the south in the early 60’s so we also see it as an opportunity to help someone else while also receiving guaranteed rent! Thanks for the article. It helped to confirm that we have a solid strategy!

  6. jen kurtz

    Angela, that is awesome that you are essentially paying it forward! I hope that some young people that we have here living in public housing units make the same successful lives for themselves! Congrats on your property!

    Mimi, you definitely are right about the cons as well. It really depends on the investor’s mindset and you definitely need to be prepared and comfortable with the program to particpate. If it’s not your cup of tea then it’s not your cup of tea. To each their own 😉

  7. Brandon McCombs

    I agree partially with point #1 and 4 but completely agree with 3, 5 and 6.

    HUD will still only allow rents to go so high. I just purchased an apt building in my town with 3 existing HUD tenants. However, there had been more. One of the apartments was a 5 bedroom 2 bath apt but the owners could only get the local PHA to agree to rent of $700. So they renovated the apt by creating a 1br/1ba apt off it. That was the only way they could get add’l revenue. I’ve seen some people claim on biggerpockets that HUD tenants can help raise rents in areas but if that’s the case the rent was apparently already drastically low. In my town HUD seems to reduce the rents even if only a little.

    My current 3 HUD tenants probably will stay a while, at least 2 of them. The 3rd one may be trouble but I don’t have sufficient evidence yet. However, prior to my purchase of the building one of the contingencies was for the sellers to ensure that a 4th HUD tenant was evicted from his apt. The sellers held up their end of the bargain. The reason for eviction was because the guy never cleaned. The apt was atrocious. Carpet was removed by the sellers because it wasn’t salvagable. The walls have some weird dirt/film on them and what looks like water stains coming from a ceiling on all 4 walls of one of the rooms but I know it’s not water. I don’t know how someone could live like that. With that said, I’ve been told by the HUD office that tenants are kicked off the HUD program for 3 years if they get evicted so they *do* have motivation to behave. They also told me the local PHA serves 8 counties (I believe) in WV and has over 800 families on the waiting list. I did plan for major cleaning costs for the guy who was kicked out but the other tenants really are low maintenance. The sellers told me that they don’t do background checks; of course for first time offenders checks don’t help so it’s hard to say whether a check would have saved them from having to evict the guy who didn’t keep his place clean.

    I do appreciate the tenants I have right now because they do keep me breaking even right now with the mortgage and owner financing payments but they obviously aren’t sufficient to fund capex items or even any major repair items. But the owner financing we got will cover us for those things until we can get the other units rented. But I don’t plan to get any more HUD tenants. Three is enough.

    • Conor Flaherty

      Brandon, thanks for the comment and for sharing your experience. Pretty crazy that they have 800 families on the waiting list… Do you think they’ll offer any additional incentives to owners to address the scarcity of available places?

  8. Lisa Arlt Escoto

    Great article, Conor! I’ve found Section 8 to be very profitable in my market (Norfolk, VA) as the rents are higher, the tenants generally treat the property better, high-demand for section 8 housing, and you can’t beat getting the rent check directly from the government!

  9. I am a native of New Orleans and went back there after Katrina to help rebuild as a general contractor. I left when things slowed down and want to go back to help with blighted properties, programs to assist the homeless with finding residences, and possible Section 8 rentals. There are programs in place there now that we’re not there before. Does anyone have experience with these programs in said New Orleans area? Would appreciate feedback because my experience with government agencies there was less than desirable, but things have changed with the new administration . Thanks.

  10. Eric D.

    I used to be a Section 8 landlord, never again. You might have smaller one bedroom apartments, so you have higher success. If you have three+ bedrooms, you would have a different experience. I have had decent Section 8 tenants, and bad ones. One is now in prison for murder, life, no parole. But it is not the program, it is the tenants.

    While a Section 8 renter will have a background check, their live-in and visiting ‘guests’ do not. They are typically the issue. Low quality renters have low quality friends.

    Make no mistake, most Section 8 tenants have a low credit score, and low credit score = high risk. Even though income and credit score are unrelated.

    Whether or not the people are on Section 8. If a landlord stays above a 600 credit score, regardless of where the rent is coming from, they will be better off. Excluding Section 8 altogether is an easy way to avoid screening and rejecting many applicants.

  11. David duCille

    If section8 tenants are more high maintenance for you then its your own fault in my opinion. Tampa Housing authority is EXCELLENT with how they manage the program and even have partnered with the police to issue crime free addendums and other things. I did a full renovation of a 25k house I bought. All in I’ve invested 60k and I get 1100 in rent tenant pays $265 of that. I have a 4bed 2ba and I would have gotten closer to $1300 but I just couldn’t find someone with a 4bd voucher so I had to take someone with a 3bd voucher. Still better than having it sit vacant

  12. Aaron Wyssmann on

    I’ve only had one section 8 tenant and she has been pretty good to work with. My only complaint is that she thinks that I should have to pay for everything maintenance wise. The property is in good shape and passes each year during the inspections. So I don’t have nearly as much experience as others here but I would rent to others that have the vouchers as will.
    Good article.

  13. Its not section 8 its WHO from section 8. You may find a woman with 2 children is totally helpless to do anything to keep a property in good condition. She may not even call if the sink drain leaks . It may get worse and worse and possibly destroy part of the cabinets.

    On the other hand a section 8 carpenter that lost a job because the company went under will call you and say he can fix it but just needs some stretch tape or a new cap to replace the one that’s cracked. .

    One you have headaches and the other is a pleasure.

  14. Ed France

    I have had several properties I rented out. I have had bad experiances with the tenents except one. I had a tenant in a 2 family in Brockton Ma. Having my management team serve him for process of eviction a couple times with an added fileing fee he became an on time payee granted I always give my tenants a 5 day grace period. And in the same building that tenant I would have to travel 500 miles each way to collect the rent. So I sold the 2 family I bought for $35000.00 and 6 yrs. Later sold for $175,000.00 I was happy with the hastle of that one. Had a section 8 in Rochester NY that wasn’t paying me a dime and got rid of the building. Thanks for the article here as it is informative and if there are city guarintee programs then maybe I will check into it. I had problems with another property in a depressed area in the country and I recommen researching the areas you want to invest in. I renovate all my own properties so my losses were to a minamum

  15. Tom Keith

    Thanks for your thoughts Conor, We had decided to reach out to Rent subsidy for single family as a community service. Since we are just getting started the first rental we purchased was sent to me from a contact I made at the housing department and I have possible tenant from this person also. You never know where you will find good and bad deals, just need to separate the two efficiently.

  16. David B.

    My experience with section 8 has been great. I have been working with the section 8 program for over 10 years in two states and currently have over fifteen section 8 tenants. I do run into the occasional bad apples but overall it’s worth it. I have a team that is strictly dedicated to dealing with our section 8 tenants including maintenance issues. Currently I’m consulting with peers who are incorporating section 8 into their business model. It is a nice way to keep the checks rolling in. Great article by the way.

  17. Bad apples, we all make the mistake of renting to the wrong tenant from time to time. This is where Section 8 housing really shines. The landlord by complaining to the tenant’s counselor has the power to cost the bad tenant his future subsidy. I have had tenants make repairs to my properties at their cost before leaving.

  18. David B.

    I’m currently in Wisconsin and Illinois. Both housing authorities have been great (not always) to work with. Most of my section 8 tenants are in SFHs with a few being in apartments. I continue to deal with my HAs personally. I enjoy being active in my business and interacting with the main players at the HA. Eventually I’ll delegate but right now I enjoy going downtown to network and interact with people who are helping me expand my business. Thanks.

    • Conor Flaherty

      Thanks for the comment David!

      I love hearing about investors like you who enjoy the process and want to be a part of the community. I think it is good for everyone, and makes a lot of business sense.

      Have you found that your relationships with the HA have helped the process with section 8?

  19. Josh H.

    I started investing in Baltimore, MD about several years ago and now have a lot of Section 8 tenants. The jury is still out for me though as maintenance costs have been much higher than I anticipated, and all of the tenants are behind on tenant portion rent and water bills. Baltimore City requires water bills to be kept in the owner’s name and paid by the owner, which I’ve always found frustrating. I work with a local property management firm too, and they have had very little success collecting overdue water bills or tenant rents. At least I can always count on the Section 8 rent each month though!

    I love the idea of helping people out while making money at the same time, but my expected profits have definitely taken a sizable hit due to higher maintenance costs, unpaid tenant portion rents and overdue water bills.

  20. Lisa Wylie

    My experience with Section 8 in Portland OR has been OK but not great. I bought a “C ” duplex in 2004 as the housing bubble was starting up and soon it was hard to find tenants who were OK and would stay a while. So I turned to Section 8. The tenants were about the same quality (relatively low), but at least with Section 8 the majority of rent was paid regularly and the turnover was lower. Then I had a tenant who didn’t tell me about a toilet leak. After they moved out I had to gut the bathroom and rebuild, as the floor was rotted out. After that I vowed to move away from Section 8. It helped that Portland had become a landlord’s market by then. I still have a Section 8 tenant in one unit. Until recently 100% of their rent was paid by Section 8. Now though the tenants are all supposed to pay at least $100/mo, and these tenants are having trouble with that.

  21. Jeff Rabinowitz

    Your experience with Section 8 will vary greatly according to the area and the agency involved. I participated with 4 different agencies in Southeast Michigan (the Detroit suburbs) for 3 years and will never do so again. One of the agencies had a great director who told me my houses were among the nicest he had placed people in. He treated me with respect and was a resource if there was a problem. Unfortunately, he retired 1 1/2 years after I met him and his successor did not seem to give a flying f..k whether I or an one else participated. My experiences were that the social workers were understaffed and apathetic. One agency had very limited hours for a landlord to leave messages (they did not answer their phone directly) and the calls were rarely returned. Rent was, most certainly, not guaranteed. The agencies frequently reviewed the contracts and changed the amount of the vouchers. I once had a change of ~50% within a couple months of signing a contract which bound me for a year. When I objected I was invited to sue the agency. I only participated for 3 years and had less than 10 tenants but I could fill this page with atrocious conduct by agency workers and problems with the tenants which the agencies’ failures to intervene in made much worse.

  22. David Soest

    One of my customers told me she only rents to section 8 disabled.
    She said there’s a real shortage of homes for them and most of the time there are no kids so less damage if they ever do move out but she said they rarely do,.
    Something to think about……

  23. Deanna Opgenort

    I’ve looked into section 8, but the not able to get rid of troublemakers & “entitled” attitude of those calling discouraged me from pursuing Section 8. ” You’re guaranteed to get paid” isn’t much of a sales pitch coming from a potential renter, since I’ve ALWAYS gotten paid. In full. Even the tenants I’ve asked to leave. “I’ve been here over 3 years but the landlord refuses to put I new carpeting for me” (how old is your carpeting? It was new when you moved in? but you figure you are entitled to new carpet every three years? really? I’m not going to be replacing your carpeting every three years either!)

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