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(Editor’s Note: AAOA received this question from our member S.C: “Can you please publish an article on the pros and cons of Section 8 housing? Do you have any existing material on this topic? I would very much like to hear what other landlords think about Section 8.”)

Do you have any experiences with Section 8 to share with other landlords? Do you avoid Section 8 housing? Please comment below.

AskWhat is Section 8?

Section 8 is an affordable housing program run by HUD. This program is administered locally. It is a voluntary program.

Individuals who cannot afford a place to live apply to HUD for assistance. Applicants who are accepted for Section 8 are provided a housing subsidy – a voucher they can take to any landlord who agrees to participate in the program.

If a landlord wishes to participate, they must work with the local HUD office to assure that the property meets HUD standards for safety. The office may also review the lease agreement and determine if the rental amount is fair for the market.

Once a Section 8 tenant moves in, there are continued requirements with the housing authority, including inspections. Evictions of Section 8 tenants are also regulated by HUD.

What Are the Pros and Cons of Section 8?

Many landlords agree that the most important reason to accept Section 8 tenants in the guaranteed payments from HUD for as long as the tenant remains on the property. It is also a good way to find qualified tenants in a bad market. See our previous feature, A Smart Strategy for Filling Vacancies.

But the downsides include the added amount of regulation and paperwork.

Deciding whether to participate in Section 8 is largely market driven. In a time of low vacancies, Section 8 may not make as much sense for a landlord who can command higher rents. But today, vacancies are high, there are quite a few more rentals on the market, and unemployment continues to climb. Given those factors, Section 8 tenants may be the most reliable.

It is important to keep in mind that HUD only screens applicants for its own eligibility standards. If you accept a Section 8 applicant, you still must conduct your own independent tenant background check.

What’s your experience with Section 8 housing? Please post your comment below.

If you are interested in finding out more about the Section 8 voucher program, see HUD’s website.

For questions about our blog, contact our editor at [email protected].

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  • The statement above: ‘the voucher may not cover the total rent…Tenant must have some means to pay the difference’ is not correct. Hud determines with the tenant the amount of rent the tenant is allowed. The tenant pays a pre-determined amount and Hud pays the difference. For example, when a Section 8 tenant wishes to rent a property that’s on the market for $800 and the tenant’s voucher is for $700, then, the tenant cannot legally pay the $100 difference.

    The statement above needs to be changed or deleted.

  • I own a small property management company and we have several Section 8 properties and tenants. The previous poster was correct in saying that if the tenant’s voucher is for less than what you are advertising the rent for, you either need to lower the rent or move on to another possible tenant. It is also very important to run credit check and criminal background checks, just like you would any other tenant. The toughest part of dealing with Section 8, in my experience, has been dealing with the local Housing Authority. There is a lot of paperwork and lots of steps you must take that are not clearly documented. It can be quite confusing and if you don’t time things right, you may not receive your first HUD check for weeks after the tenant has moved in. The unit must also pass an inspection, so prepare your owners to fix all of the little things like loose door knobs, electrical plates…as well as big things like painting, carpet and having working appliances. If you can find a good tenant — and they ARE out there — the program is wonderful.

  • I own several properties and I now have three Section 8 tenants. Firs time in 20 years. However, after getting lax in collecting rents – I got beat last year for the first time. So I now have these tenants and the 1 or 2nd of the month, in my mail, is a check.

    It depends on Section 8 and the program the tenant is on. It is based on their income how much the subsidy is.
    If you are asking $800 and that is market rate and they get $700 (based on THEIR income), they can pay the $100. You can’t mark UP the rent. I have a tenant that pays $97 of $925, one that pays 200 of $1600 and one that pays $260 of $1300. The Sec 8 forms indicate how much the state is paying and how much the tenant pays. You can’t have a side agreement for more.

  • Mary

    I only have experience with one Housing Authority Office, but they have been very fair with both tenants and landlords. They expect reasonable behavior of the tenants and well maintained property of the landlord. I appreciate their annual inspection because it shows the tenant (usually present) how to take care of a property. This office also offered to help me evict a tenant when she lost her assistance by inapropriate behavior.
    I am sure each Housing Authority office is different because there are different people in each one. However, they are here to help tenants have a home and to help landlords get paid.

  • Heather

    Section 8 can be a reliable source of income and have good tenants. All of our Section 8 tenants went through the same process as anyone else such as checking references for previous landlords. We do this for everyone and find it helps to see how people think of the home they live in. We ask our tenants to treat the home as their own and take care of it. We do quarterly walk throughs to check on leaks or problems and deal with them quickly.

    I have noticed that Section 8 tenants are used to reporting any issues with the home so you do not end up with a big problem. Any leaks or recommendations are usually in the interest of both parties, such as a tenant ask for a grease screen behind the stove, we installed a plexiglas sheet. This allows the tenant to clean the wall behind the stove when she cooks with grease and protects our paint job.

  • My partner has been working with Section 8 tenants for years and when we launched our Property Management Division, she was a big proponent for educating our Landlords on Section 8. I must say I had a completely different view about Section 8 but now that I am educated, I think it’s a great option for some landlords.

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