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Section 8 Housing: Is It For You?

168 views January 11, 2024 Karina Jugo 3

Section 8 Housing, or the Housing Choice Voucher Program, is something that mystifies some and frustrates others. In a nutshell, it is a federal program that provides housing for those with low income, including the disabled and elderly.

Is Section 8 Housing limited to a particular district?

Essentially what the program does is help provide housing for those groups that qualify by paying their rent on apartments or homes. These properties can be anywhere, so it’s not just limited to the various subsidized housing projects. Public housing agencies administer it locally in the markets where you find it. This makes it easier for those agencies to be sure that the tenants and residences that participate are appropriately certified.

It works by allowing low-income families to choose from privately owned residences. For landlords and property managers participating in the program, the difference between 30 % of that household’s income and the public housing authority’s (PHA) payment standard is met. This is typically somewhere between 80-100 % of the fair market rent.

Landlords or property managers who wish to participate in the program have to offer reasonable rents under the program’s standards. Those in the program are able to choose properties with a higher rent than the fair market amount, but then they pay the difference themselves.

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Can any rental home qualify for Section 8?

If you’re thinking about being able to accept the Section 8 vouchers, there are a few things you should know. First, a governmental agency or the local public housing authority will inspect your property to ensure it complies with the quality standards set about by HUD. Landlords are expected to provide sanitary, safe housing at reasonable rates, and those standards have to be kept as long as the owner is taking payments from the program.

When a family is eligible for Section 8, typically, they are placed on a waiting list. The amount of time on that list varies depending on the local market. There are different standards by which voucher program applicants are chosen from waitlist to waitlist in different municipalities.

Some of the most common requirements are:

  • A stove or range for cooking
  • Kitchen sink with both hot and cold water
  • A refrigerator that is of suitable size for the rental unit
  • Alternative exits for fire safety
  • Food preparation and storage area
  • Services and facilities for food waste disposal
  • One window per sleeping and living room
  • Working light fixtures in the kitchen and bath
  • Minimum two outlets in the living room, bedrooms, and kitchen
  • Free from harmful air pollutants, with adequate air circulation throughout
  • A toilet that flushes
  • A tub or shower that has both hot and cold water
  • Fixed basin for hot and cold water
  • Kitchen, bathroom, living room, minimum one bedroom or a living/sleeping room
  • Exterior doors and windows screened that can be accessed from the exterior
  • No major defects
  • A weather-tight, firm roof

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Are Section 8 rentals advisable for landlords and property managers?

Approving your property for Section 8 Housing can be a lengthy and somewhat stressful process. There is so much paperwork involved and inspections to deal with it can almost seem like it’s not worth it. But just like any other venture, there are pros and cons involved.

For those still unsure of what it is, Section 8 Housing is a federal program that assists veterans, the elderly, the disabled, and low-income families in finding safe and adequate housing. This means that the Public Housing Agency (PHA), which works under the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), pays a portion of the tenant’s rent directly to the landlord or property management company while the renter pays the remainder. This is used as compensation for accepting higher-risk tenants.

Section 8 Pros and Cons

Also known as the Housing Choice Voucher Program, Section 8 housing provides rental subsidies to eligible beneficiaries, making it an attractive option for landlords and property managers looking to fill their properties. While the program offers several benefits, it also comes with its set of challenges and drawbacks. Let’s explore the pros and cons of renting out to Section 8 housing beneficiaries.

Pros:
  1. Steady Rental Income: One of the significant advantages of renting to Section 8 housing beneficiaries is the assurance of consistent rental income. Since the program covers a portion of the tenant’s rent, landlords can rely on timely payments from the government. This mitigates the risk of tenant default and helps maintain a stable cash flow.
  2. Reduced Vacancy Rates: Given the demand for affordable housing among low-income individuals, rental properties accepting Section 8 vouchers often experience reduced vacancy rates. This can be particularly advantageous in markets with a surplus of rental properties, as landlords may find it easier to attract tenants through the program.
  3. Lower Tenant Turnover: Section 8 housing beneficiaries often stay in their homes for more extended periods due to the challenges associated with finding suitable alternative housing options. This results in lower tenant turnover rates, reducing the time and costs associated with finding new occupants for the property.
  4. Expanded Pool of Potential Tenants: By accepting Section 8 vouchers, landlords open their doors to a broader pool of potential tenants. This inclusivity allows individuals and families with limited financial resources to access stable housing, promoting social equity and diversity in residential communities.
  5. Property Inspections and Quality Standards: The Housing Choice Voucher Program requires properties to meet specific quality and safety standards before accepting Section 8 beneficiaries. As a result, landlords may benefit from property inspections, ensuring that their investments are adequately maintained and in compliance with regulations.
Cons:
  1. Administrative Burden: Participating in the Section 8 program entails considerable paperwork, bureaucratic processes, and ongoing communication with the local public housing agency (PHA). Landlords must adhere to program guidelines, complete regular inspections, and submit appropriate documentation, which can be time-consuming and labor-intensive.
  2. Rent Control Limitations: Section 8 imposes certain limitations on rental pricing, and landlords may find themselves unable to charge market rates for their properties. The program’s rent control policies may not always align with current market conditions, potentially impacting the property’s profitability.
  3. Delayed Payments and Red Tape: Although the program promises reliable rental income, delays in receiving payments from the PHA are possible due to bureaucratic processes and administrative issues. Landlords may face financial strain when waiting for overdue rent payments.
  4. Stigma and Prejudice: Renting to Section 8 housing beneficiaries may encounter stigmatization or prejudice from neighbors or other tenants. Some people harbor misconceptions about Section 8 recipients, associating them with negative stereotypes or potential property damage, which can create tensions in the community.
  5. Property Damage and Maintenance: There is a perception that Section 8 tenants are more likely to cause property damage or neglect maintenance responsibilities. While this is not universally true, some landlords may experience challenges in ensuring their properties are well-maintained.

 

In Closing

Renting out to Section 8 housing beneficiaries presents both advantages and disadvantages for landlords. On the one hand, it offers a steady rental income, reduced vacancy rates, and access to a broader tenant pool. On the other, it comes with administrative burdens, rent control limitations, potential payment delays, and concerns about property maintenance and social stigma.

Aside from the application and qualifying process, the Section 8 Housing Program is not that much different from typical leasing agreements. You can still have screening and background checks and, if things go south, go through an eviction process if the lease agreement is broken.

Ultimately, landlords considering participation in the Section 8 housing program should carefully weigh the pros and cons to make an informed decision that aligns with their financial goals and personal preferences.

Authors

  • Karina Jugo

    Karina Jugo is a content administrator at RentPost who works directly with real estate and property management experts to create resources and guides for property managers. She has more than 15 years of experience in content research and writing for various industries.

  • Jacob Thomason

    Jacob Thomason is the CEO and co-founder of RentPost, software platform providing property managers, landlord or owners with the tools necessary for property management. Jacob is a software entrepreneur with with a vast array of expertise ranging from business concept design to software architecture and development. He is running RentPost for more than 14 years and helping property managers and property owners.

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