Apartments Section 8 Voucher

Becoming A Section 8 Landlord: A Guide

December 21, 2023 6-minute read

Author: Ashley Kilroy

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Millions of Americans need help finding affordable living arrangements. Many of these people turn to the Section 8 Housing program to connect with landlords who can provide decent accommodations.

These landlords provide a housing option for low-income earners. And purchasing an investment property for this purpose comes with perks, which include consistent income. However, there are also considerations like stricter guidelines. Let’s explore what it means to be a section 8 landlord and the process of becoming one.

What Is A Section 8 Landlord?

The Housing Act of 1937, sometimes called Section 8, authorized the Section 8 Housing program. The program is designed to support low-income earners, people with a disability and aging Americans who need access to decent housing.

According to the National Center for Health in Public Housing (NCHPH) and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), over 4 million people received voucher-funded assistance to pay for public housing in 2022.

This program connects them to places to rent through the HUD’s Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program. It’s a program administered by local public housing agencies (PHAs) that receive funding from HUD to pay private landlords directly.

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What Is A Section 8 Tenant?

Section 8 tenants must meet the requirements and complete the approval process. In addition, PHAs decide who’s eligible, but landlords have the ultimate say in who they rent to. With that in mind, here’s the process for a Section 8 tenant.

Eligibility Requirements

The most crucial factor in Section 8 eligibility is income. The program is only available to very low- or low-income wage earners. Individuals who earn 30% of the area’s median income, at most, qualify as very-low income. Following that, anyone earning no more than 50% of the area’s median income qualifies as low-income.

Tenant Application Process

Local Public Housing Agencies (PHAs) are in charge of administering vouchers to families and individuals. Because of that, they’re also in charge of screening potential tenants. As mentioned, the most important factor in eligibility is income level. However, PHAs also look at family size, the applicant’s age, disability status, previous home displacements and citizenship or eligible immigrant status.

The Wait List

Unfortunately, many people need the help of the Section 8 housing choice voucher program – outnumbering vouchers. So, once the PHA approves a person or family, that person or family goes on a waiting list.

Because of the overwhelming demand, an eligible tenant may wait years before a voucher is available. There just may not be enough funding to match the level of demand in an area. As a result, applicants may take their chances in voucher lotteries. These sometimes offer an opportunity to get ahead in locations, such as large cities, with the highest demand for affordable housing.

Voucher Allocation

Legally, PHAs must distribute 75% of their vouchers to applicants who fit in the very-low-income category. That gives people who earn 30% of their area’s median income an edge. But consequently, it puts low-income households at a severe disadvantage.

Direct Payments To Landlord

Generally, Section 8 vouchers pay for approximately 70% of the tenant’s rent and utilities. These costs are tied directly to the landlord’s bank account. The tenant then covers the remaining 30% of expenses using their own income.

There’s a higher rent limit, though. A family can elect to pay extra for an apartment of their choice. However, they can only do so for up to 40% of their monthly adjusted gross income.

How To Rent Out Section 8 Housing

PHAs provide applicants with vouchers they can use to rent from landlords. Applicants can search for eligible housing once they receive their voucher, but several months may pass before they receive it.

Here’s a brief overview of the process.

1. Voucher Holder Finds A Property

Once they’re approved and have their voucher, participants must find their rental. PHAs encourage participating families to consider multiple options and advise them on potential choices.

Applicants can find rental apartments through their local PHA site or listings from landlords in their area. Once they find a landlord they’re interested in renting from, they’ll show them the voucher. Then they enter the amount of rent to be charged.

2. Landlord Fills Out A Request For Tenancy Approval Form

Landlords must complete a request for tenancy approval (RTA/RFTA) form detailing information about the unit, whether it be rent, the address, utility costs or all the above. You can usually find the form on your local PHA website.

3. Landlord Screens The Tenant Applicant As Usual

While renting to Section 8 tenants requires an extra step or two, they’re still tenants. That means landlords have the same responsibilities. So, while the PHA screens participants, landlords should go through with their regular screening process as well.

4. Local PHA Reviews Rent

After completing the RFTA and gaining approval to rent from the landlord, the voucher holder returns to their PHA. The agency reviews the form to make sure everything seems reasonable.

5. Inspection Is Scheduled

Local PHAs must inspect rental housing before they let a voucher holder live there. They’ll ensure the unit meets HUD’s Housing Quality Standards before anyone signs the lease. The agency may have certain requirements for the inspection, too. For example, they can request the landlord’s presence during the visit and that the utilities be on.

6. Rent Is Agreed Upon By Local PHA

In addition to approving the unit, the agency needs to approve the rent. They must make sure the tenant can afford the proposed amount. Remember, the voucher holder has to pay around 30% of their own income for rent and utilities. The subsidy covers the rest.

7. The Lease Is Signed

After everything’s been approved, all involved parties – including the local PHA – sign the lease. The landlord also has to sign a Housing Assistance Payments Contract, which guarantees they directly receive the Section 8 subsidy. In return, the landlord guarantees to maintain the property’s sanitation and upkeep at a reasonable rental price.

What Responsibilities Does A Section 8 Landlord Have?

Section 8 landlords have all the same responsibilities as private landlords. They’re required to meet the sanitary and safety conditions necessary for decent housing. Beyond that, they have some additional paperwork to complete – often through the local PHA’s website.

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The Pros And Cons Of Becoming A Section 8 Landlord

Like every decision, the decision of whether to become a Section 8 landlord carries both some risks and potential benefits. Many Section 8 landlords enjoy good profits and guaranteed payments, making this endeavor worthwhile to them. However, working with local PHAs creates an extra challenge sometimes.

Pros

Here are some benefits you might enjoy by becoming a Section 8 landlord:

  • Guaranteed payments: Rent is generally guaranteed since the PHA pays the approved voucher amount directly. That guarantees a consistent income.
  • Annual rent hikes: Landlords can request approval for a rent increase once per year.
  • Low vacancy rates: The demand for Section 8 housing is usually higher than the supply, so units fill quickly. Residents also tend to stay as tenants longer.
  • Good profit margins: Although it might not apply in every real estate market, rent through a Section 8 voucher usually outpaces average C- or D-class neighborhoods. Combined with regular payments, this makes it a reliable source of money.
  • Partially screened tenants: The PHA already screens applicants, ensuring they meet a certain level of standards.

Cons

Here are some drawbacks to consider before becoming a Section 8 landlord:

  • Local PHA bureaucracy: Landlords have to comply with their local PHA, which requires some extra work and communication.
  • Delays in first rental payment: In Section 8 housing, landlords don’t receive the first month’s rent until after the tenant moves in.
  • Annual inspections: The local PHA conducts yearly property inspections. Failing one could require repairs, or the landlord risks losing the subsidy.
  • Tenant income issues: Tenants can struggle to finance basic necessities, including their portion of rent.

Removed this comment, as it came across as very classist and suggests that poor/low-income people are more likely to have personality conflicts with landlords.

How To Become A Section 8 Landlord

Becoming a landlord and learning how to manage rental properties is a big step for any investor, but Section 8 housing involves a few more steps. Start developing a plan for becoming a landlord by reviewing your finances, exploring your desired rental location, and determining the types of tenants you want to serve.

Once you’ve decided, talk with your local PHA to understand the role of a Section 8 landlord and what you’ll need to do before finding your first tenant. The local PHA can provide a detailed explanation of the expectations as well as the particulars of their operation. Their website also probably provides instructions on how to work with them.

The Bottom Line: Section 8 Is An Important Market With Much To Offer Participating Landlords

Not everyone has the financial stability to find housing on their own. The Section 8 Home Choice Voucher Program is vital to the rental market for these people. And it’s worth exploring for anyone interested in becoming a rental property owner.

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Headshot Ashley Kilroy

Ashley Kilroy

Ashley Kilroy is an experienced financial writer. In addition to being a contributing writer at Rocket Homes, she writes for solo entrepreneurs as well as for Fortune 500 companies. Ashley is a finance graduate of the University of Cincinnati. When she isn’t helping people understand their finances, you may find Ashley cage diving with great whites or on safari in South Africa.