Apartments Section 8 Voucher

Becoming A Section 8 Landlord: A Guide

Ashley Kilroy6-minute read

September 20, 2021

Share:

Millions of Americans need help finding affordable living arrangements. Many of these citizens turn to the Section 8 Housing program, connecting them with landlords who can provide decent housing.

These landlords serve as a vital resource in the real estate market for low-income earners. And purchasing an investment property for this purpose comes with its perks, like consistent income. If you’re interested, here is what the process involves.

What Is A Section 8 Landlord?

The Housing Act of 1937, sometimes called Section 8, authorized the Section 8 Housing program. It benefits low-income or vulnerable members of society, namely the disabled and elderly, 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), around 4.5 million U.S. residents live in Section 8 Housing. Approximately half of this group qualify for the HUD’s “Very Low Income” category, earning an income lower than 50% of the national median.

This program connects these people to suitable shelters through the HUD’s Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program. It doesn’t provide housing itself but vouchers through local public housing agencies (PHAs). The agencies receive funding from the HUD, which they use to pay private landlords directly. The program relies on these landlords who offer needed, very-low-income subsidized housing.

What Is A Section 8 Tenant?

You can’t become a Section 8 tenant right away. There are requirements and an approval process. In addition, PHAs decide who is eligible, but landlords have the ultimate say in who they rent to. With that in mind, here is 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 are also in charge of screening potential tenants. As mentioned, the most important factor in eligibility is income level. However, they 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 program – outnumbering vouchers. So, once the PHA approves a person or family, they put them 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 with the highest demand for affordable housing, like large cities.

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, helping them. 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 is a higher rent limit, though. A family can choose to pay extra for an apartment of their choice. However, they can only do so up to 40% of their monthly adjusted gross income.

The Section 8 Rental Process

PHAs supply applicants with the vouchers they need. While it might take a while, they can look for qualified housing as soon as the participant has the voucher in hand.

Here is a brief overview of what the process looks like. However, if you’re interested in learning more or want Spanish-translated materials, the HUD maintains HCV Landlord Resources.

Step 1: Voucher Holder Finds A Property

Once they’re approved and have their voucher, it’s up to participants to find their rental. PHAs encourage participating families to consider multiple options, though, 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.

Step 2: Landlord Fills Out A Request For Tenancy Approval Form

Landlords must complete a request for tenancy approval (RTA/RFTA) form. It details information about the unit, like rent, address and utility costs. You can usually find the form on your local PHA website, such as here on the Boston Housing Authority site.

Step 3: Landlord Screens The Tenant Applicant As Usual

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

Step 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.

Step 5: Schedule An Inspection

Local PHAs must inspect rental housing before they let a voucher holder live there. They want to 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 utilities to be on.

Step 6: Agree On Rent With Local PHA

In addition to approving the unit, the agency also needs to approve the rent. They need to 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.

Step 7: Sign The Lease 

After everything’s been approved, all the involved parties sign the lease. That includes the local PHA. The landlord also has to sign an additional document, 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 rent.

What Responsibilities Does A Section 8 Landlord Have?

As Section 8 requires, landlords have to take care of the property as they would for any other tenant. It needs to meet the sanitary and safety conditions necessary for decent housing. Outside that, they have some simple paperwork to complete, often through the local PHA’s website.

Find out what you can afford.

Use Rocket Mortgage® to see your maximum home price and get an online approval decision.

The Pros And Cons Of Becoming A Section 8 Landlord

Like every decision, there are benefits and drawbacks to this path. Many Section 8 landlords enjoy good profits and guaranteed payments, making it worthwhile to them. However, working with local PHAs creates an extra challenge sometimes. Here are some other factors worth considering before becoming a Section 8 landlord.

Feature

Pro

Con

Guaranteed Payments For 70% Of Fair Market Rent

 x

Generous Annual Rent Hikes

x

Low Vacancy Rates

x

Good Profit Margins

x

Partially Screened Tenants

x

Local PHA Bureaucracy

x

Getting Rental Payments Rolling

x

Annual Inspections

x

Tenant Issues

x

Pros

Here are some benefits to consider before 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.

  • Getting rental payments rolling: 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 issues: Tenants can struggle to finance basic necessities, including their portion of rent. There may also be personality differences, but you can mitigate that through screening.

How To Become A Section 8 Landlord

In the end, the best way to understand the role of a Section 8 landlord and all it requires is through contacting your local PHA. They 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 That Has 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. Ready to apply for a mortgage on an investment property? Apply today.

Get approved to buy a home.

Rocket Mortgage® lets you get to house hunting sooner.

See What You Qualify For

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.