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More States & Municipalities Requiring Landlords to Accept Section 8 Tenants

by Editor | ezLandlordForms

Hidden tears and suppressed emotions are probably not expressions often associated with landlords… unless describing efforts to remain calm after seeing their once-pristine, one-year-old property destroyed.

In an online debate about whether renting to Section 8 tenants is a good idea, a first-time landlord offered up video footage to support his emphatic vote against it.  During the video, he explains why he will not show the viewing audience his face amidst the rubbish: “…because I don’t want you to see a grown man cry,” he says as he walks from room to room panning the damages in each.

Dozens of other landlords and property managers weighed in with fervent opinions on both sides.

This debate is not a new one, of course.  Perhaps, in the very near future, it won’t even be relevant if the federal government follows the lead of municipalities like Cook County, Illinois, where Section 8 voucher holders were recently made a “protected class” in anti-discrimination laws.

Classifying Section 8 tenants under the Fair Housing Act’s “protected class” umbrella makes it illegal for landlords and property managers to refuse to rent their properties to Section 8 voucher holders solely on a source of rent/income basis.  Landlords who own four or fewer properties are exempt, however.

Currently there are 17 states in which landlords are legally mandated to rent to prospective tenants with Section 8 vouchers.  In the past, landlords had the luxury of turning away tenants with Section 8 housing vouchers without much explanation.  But that is no longer the case in many areas, and some believe that federal inclusion of Section 8 voucher holders as a protected class will arrive in the not-too-distant future.

Some landlords passionately disagree with a legal mandate to accept Section 8 tenants, largely due to fear of major damage done in the rental property.  But concerns about Section 8 go beyond property damage: the initial approval process can be grueling and fraught with inspections and red tape, and there are required annual property inspections.  When asked about his past interactions with Section 8, ezLandlordForms’ Brian Davis (no relation) expressed frustration with his experience, in which inspectors consistently required about $2,000 worth of repairs for each property, each year, as a simple and effective way of proving that they had visited each property on their rounds.  That’s an expensive price for landlords to pay for timely rent payments.

A common maneuver among real estate flippers is doing the bare minimum property repairs to pass the initial Section 8 inspection, signing a quick lease with the first voucher holder that comes along, and then quickly selling the property to an unsuspecting novice rental investor.  The flipper touts the high rent and guaranteed on-time payment, knowing the tenant was not screened and the property is in poor shape under the new carpet and fresh coat of paint.

Still, there are plenty of landlords who court Section 8 tenants because of the guaranteed on-time payments, and in some cases, higher rents paid by the government.  The appeal is easy to understand, and makes for easily-digested soundbytes, especially for novice landlords.

To ease the minds of some landlords, Section 8 officials have said the inspection process is being streamlined to shorten the length of time it takes to have a property inspected.  They also have provided assurance that landlords are still able to maintain their current credit and background checks.  A Section 8 tenant who does not meet the credit and background check guidelines may still be rejected (under most circumstances).

Nevertheless, landlords and property managers should keep an eye out for local Section 8 mandates, as more jurisdictions adopt the mandate around the country.

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