What You Need to Know About Section 8 Housing Rentals

System - Thursday, December 28, 2017

“Section 8 housing” is a government program that helps the poor and impoverished better afford apartments and homes. In simple terms, a landlord can rent properties at market rates, and the government provides a subsidy to qualified tenants that helps them bridge the gap between that market price and what they can afford. Section 8 is a reference specifically to the U.S. Housing and Urban Development’s Housing Choice Voucher Program.

Section 8 housing is an important part of our nation’s social safety net. Plenty of working-class individuals and families are doing their best each day to provide themselves and build a better life. Programs like Section 8 housing help them build financial momentum toward a better future.

But what does Section 8 housing mean for landlords? Should you rent to Section 8 tenants? Should you try to avoid them? Knowing Section 8 tenant legal rules and the potential benefits and pitfalls of these rentals can help protect you against future problems. To help you make the best decisions for your properties as they relate to this program, here’s a look at the pros and cons of renting to section 8 tenants.

Make Sure You Screen Section 8 Tenants Just As You Would Any Others

The biggest mistake you can make in renting to Section 8 tenants is to abdicate your responsibility to properly screen and background check each applicant. Just as you would with any other tenant, regardless of whether they receive a government subsidy, you should: 

  • Run a credit check
  • Get their references
  • Confirm employment

Keep your standard screening process in place, and go through whatever proven routine you’ve used in the past to approve or deny applicants. 

The one thing you can't do is deny someone simply because they are a Section 8 participant. You can certainly deny a Section 8 applicant for any reason you would deny any other applicant — poor credit history, insufficient income when the subsidy is taken into account and other reasons. But to deny an applicant solely because they participate in the Section 8 program is discrimination. You don't want to expose yourself to liability by discriminating against a Section 8 applicant.

You’ll Always Have Good and Bad Tenants – No Matter Their Income

Here’s one thing you’ll learn over time as a landlord. Bad tenants come from all walks of life. You’ll have good tenants, and you’ll have bad tenants, and the good ones almost always outweigh the bad. But there’s not a bad tenant profile that you can look out for without carrying out a thorough screening process. 

That is, it’s not dependent on class, gender, income, race or any other demographic. It’s possible for anyone from any walk of life to be a great tenant. They can just as easily be a bad tenant. Is it possible for you to get a bad Section 8 tenant? Yes, but it’s no more likely than getting a non-Section 8 tenant who turns out to cause problems at your property.

That’s one of the reasons a proven tenant screening process is so important. You want to find an approach that works, and then you want to stick to it and use it. By developing a process and employing it consistently, you remove any bias from your decision-making. You can always tweak your process over time in response to lessons learned and new developments. But screening is the key to avoiding bad tenants and ensuring you fill your property with the best possible people — Section 8 participants and otherwise.

Always Maintain Property Quality Standards for New Tenants

Always make sure you maintain quality standards in your properties. Remember, ownership of a rental property is an investment. While you want to enjoy cash flow during operation of the properties, you'll also want to focus on the end game. Eventually, you'll need to divest of your property, and you'll want it to be as attractive as possible on the open market. 

Also, the Department of Housing and Urban Development sets quality standards for: 

  • What Section 8 housing must include
  • Inspections that are required
  • Repairs that must be made

Take a look at those requirements, and then you can decide if this program is something you want to be a part of or not. Section 8 housing can be beneficial to landlords, too, depending on the type of property you own and where it is located. But just because Section 8 tenants get a subsidy to help them afford their rent doesn’t mean you can provide anything less than a quality place for them to live.

Lean on Our Experience to Find the Best Fit for Your Properties

As with so many things related to property ownership, decisions around Section 8 housing become second nature over time. At Harrisburg Property Management Group, we provide comprehensive management services to landlords and property owners from all different backgrounds who own a diverse collection of property types. We work with the owners of Section 8 housing, too, and we use our depth of experience in property ownership and management to make the most of Section 8 housing opportunities.

Most importantly, we know the Harrisburg area. Our experience in working here informs every decision we make, and it also provides a unique advantage to our clients, who enjoy better service and better investment performance for having a management partner with local knowledge.

Whether you have questions or need support around Section 8 housing or another property ownership decision, lean on the depth of knowledge you’ll find with our company. Contact us today about management services from Harrisburg Property Management Group.

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