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How to Become a Section 8 Housing Landlord – Requirements, Pros & Cons

By Angela Colley

section 8 housing buildingMost landlords don’t think highly of the Section 8 housing program. Over the years, I’ve heard dozens of myths about it. Landlords see it as a hassle; they think the housing authority will breathe down their neck, or they believe they’ll get awful tenants.

The truth of the matter is that the Section 8 program can work wonders for some landlords. The housing authority is not that difficult to work with, the properties rent faster, and the tenants are not much different from others. However, with that said, how well it will work for you largely depends on how you run your business.

For example, large property management companies can easily handle the extra work that accompanies Section 8, while private landlords may not have the time to invest in the program. Landlords should thoroughly measure Section 8 pros and cons so as not to miss out on a potential source of rental revenue.

How Section 8 Works for Landlords

The Section 8 process is fairly straightforward. In order to operate a Section 8 rental, the local housing authority must approve both the landlord and the property itself. Different housing authorities may have their own requirements, but typically any landlord can use the Section 8 program, including private owners and property managers.

  1. As a landlord, you will need to complete an application and provide personal information. The housing authority will also review your rental rates to ensure that they fall in line with rates for comparable dwellings in your area. One major drawback is if the housing authority feels you are overcharging for your rental, you may be required to lower your rates.
  2. Once the housing authority approves you as a landlord, an inspector will visit your rental property to make sure it meets all local building and safety codes. The inspection process is a lengthy one. At the very least, you must have working locks on every window and door, the structure must be sound, and the wiring and plumbing must work safely. Depending on the area, you may need to install heating or cooling appliances, such as central air or radiant gas heaters. Some local codes may also require that you install handrails or safety ramps outside the property.
  3. Once the inspector approves your property, you can begin accepting Section 8 housing choice vouchers. At that point, you find your own tenants and complete a separate lease agreement with them.
  4. Then, once a month, the housing authority will mail you a portion of the rent and the tenant will pay you the rest.

Pros to Section 8 Housing

The Section 8 program has several advantages. Many landlords think the better aspects of the program outweigh the bad, but it is up to you to decide.

  • Guaranteed Rent. One of the biggest problems landlords face is getting the rent on time every month. With Section 8, you will always get the majority of the rent on time, every time. Typically, Section 8 tenants pay their portion on time as well. Since failure to live up to the lease can cost them their housing voucher, Section 8 tenants can be even more reliable than private tenants.
  • Pre-Screened Tenants. The housing authority reviews every case before approving a Section 8 housing voucher. Mostly, the housing authority is looking at income levels, but many housing authorities will turn down tenants with past criminal problems. This screening process may provide extra protection for your rental, and chances are that if the tenant passes both your tenant screening process and the housing authority’s, you won’t have any problems.
  • Wider Access. Section 8 is a popular program and most urban areas have hundreds of tenants on a wait list. By accepting Section 8, your property becomes marketable to a wider pool of tenants which gives you a better chance of getting it rented.
  • Free Advertising. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development offers a website that tenants can use to find low-income housing. Several local housing authorities also maintain a website or a separate list of Section 8 landlords in their area. Both of these services are provided free of charge to tenants and landlords.

section 8 housing

Cons to Section 8 Housing

  • Routine Inspections. To get into the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program, your property will need to pass a safety inspection and possible routine inspections depending on the area that you live in.
  • Rent Control. The housing authority will not tell you what to charge for your house or apartment, but you will need to keep your rent within the median for your area. If you have an extremely well done or nice rental in a bad area, you may lose out on rent you could have otherwise charged outside of the Section 8 program.
  • Potential for Difficult Tenants. Many landlords are wary of Section 8 tenants. Since these tenants are not paying much for the rental, they have less incentive to keep the property in great shape. Moreover, Section 8 can attract low-quality tenants that give you trouble. With that said, if you do your homework and keep an eye on the property, there is no reason you can’t find a great tenant and enjoy the experience.
  • No Decrease in Workload for Landlord. Despite the belief by many that the Section 8 housing authority will assist landlords throughout the rental process, you will still need to screen the tenant, create a lease, and police your rental just like you would with a private tenant. While you can report the tenants to the housing authority if they commit a major lease violation, the day-to-day responsibilities still belong to you. Moreover, the housing authority will not help with finding tenants, making repairs, collecting rent, or keeping the property safe.

Final Word

The Section 8 program has its benefits. You get free advertising, a range of potential tenants to choose from, and guaranteed rent every month. But you’ll have to do extra work for these privileges. Many landlords hop on the Section 8 bandwagon and love every minute of it, while others wouldn’t touch the program if you paid them to.

Deciding on whether to accept housing vouchers is really a matter of where your rental is, how popular it is, and your willingness to deal with the process and paperwork. For example, if you rent in a popular urban area with a high percentage of low to median income renters and don’t mind the extra work, then the Section 8 program may be the best thing for you. But if you rent in a suburban area with few low-income residents and really do not want the added stress, you’re probably better off leaving the program to someone else.

As a landlord, what experiences have you had with Section 8 in the past? Have you had any trouble with the housing authority or your tenants?

(photo credit: Shutterstock)

Angela Colley
Angela Colley is a freelance writer living in New Orleans, Louisiana with a background in mortgage and real estate. Her interests include animal rights advocacy, green living, mob movies and finding the best deal on everything. She blames her extreme passion for never paying full price on two parents that taught her that a penny saved is two pennies if invested wisely.

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  • Barbara S Ellis

    How do I (homeowner) apply to make my two-family home SECTION 8 READY!!!

    • Angela Colley

      Barbara – the conditions vary by state. If you contact the housing authority office in your city they can give you a complete list of everything you’ll need to do to apply as a landlord. Thanks!

  • Bob Borean

    What inspections do I have to have on my 5 unit apartment building in Columbus, Oh qualify for section 8

  • David

    If I own a house with and in-law apartment, can I apply for section 8 for the in-law apartment?

    • Tiotek

      What’s an “In-law Apartment”

  • Marie

    If i rent a home in a 55 and over mobile park can the tenant apply for section 8

  • Iris Lacoste

    can I have a family of 3. single mom and 2 daughters rent a section 8 from their grandmother?

    • Tiotek

      No, a tenant can not rent from a family member.

  • Joann Brown

    How do I become a Section 8 Landlord in Maryland

    • Tiotek

      Look for HUD, Low Income Housing or Housing Authorities in your county

  • [email protected]

    can I acquire properties with the aid of public housing with little to none of my own money?

    • Reader

      No.

  • Mr Christian

    Can I Have section 8 tenants if I am still paying on the home?

    • Angela Colley

      Generally yes, but some state laws may differ. Check with your local housing authority. They’ll be able to give you specific advice for your state.

    • Tiotek

      Yes

  • BlueEagle

    A property management company handles several of my current rental properties, can they manage section 8 properties for me as well.

    • Tiotek

      My God I hate property management companies, they require anyone 18+ to pay $40. if they plan on living in the rental & there’s generally 2 to 4 adults per application, so that’s like $80.-$160.00 just to drop an application .

      Then after they’ve stacked-up at least 5 to 10 applications(the more the merrier), they’ll finally make a selection based the same racially biased qualifications that have always held true(please don’t ask me to list em)

      I’ll put it like this, I applied & paid at a property management company for the opportunity to have them present my 19 year old son & I to a series of LLs.
      I have no evections on my history & I have a letter of recommendation from my current LL, which covers 4 trouble free years(not late on rent once). No calls from the police, fire, emergency or city. Just $37,000.. worth of trouble-free equity paid into her property over the last 4 years @ $900. a month.

      Now all of a sudden my LL says she needs to move in, so needless to say my Son & I have to move out(just like that) so after I apply at a property management company, I somehow expected they would look-out for us, after all we paid them $80.00. In the end I got no house from them in fact they didn’t bother to tell me the LL I was applying to was arrested on sexual charges stemming from a tenant harassment suit.

      Now don’t you think this is something I should have been for-warned about ? After all what had I paid them for ?

  • Oreo2501

    Can u have back taxes and still qualify to be a section 8 landlord

    • Tiotek

      You mean can you owe back taxes & still qualify to be a Section-8 LL.( I say yes but I’m not 100% so I’ll leave it for one more qualified)

  • Thomas Williams Jr.

    I am a homeowner can I rent to relatives who have section 8

    • Tiotek

      No(I wish one could, since it’d make it a lot easier to find a landlord willing to take a chance.

      • Jessica

        ??… So, if my mom got her house approved to accept section 8 vouchers and we go through all the right channels and do all the correct paperwork I could NOT rent her house?

  • Peter

    Hi I have a question about section 8.

    If section 8 put my rental property in abatement ,does the tenant have to continue to pay their part of the rent till section 8 remove the abatement off the property??

    • Tiotek

      Is this a hypothetical question ?
      I ask because I fail to see how Section-8 could cause anyone’s house to fall into, or be put into abatement. From my perspective abatement is something only an owner can let happen, after all Section-8 merely rents from you.

      Look, a tenant’s responsible for promptly notifying you of any problems with the rental, & it’s your job to repair the problem before the next scheduled payment (30 days). You’re given 30 days to fix it, or the month to month contract will be void until it passes inspection. After all, you will have breeched the contract.

  • ArmyAviator

    Who pays for the DAMAGE done to my property, when the tenants decide to move? Who pays the unpaid rent, when they skip in the middle of the night?

  • Kristy McCoy

    I have a condo that I want to rent out. Do I have to inform the association that I might rent to a section 8 person? Does the section 8 inspector or any people from section talk to the association?

  • YSTownie

    I am a tentant in Ohio, renting a privately owned home, managed by a third party. Due to my documented disability, I have have to quit working since moving into the home 16 months ago. I was approved for Section 8 housing, 2 weeks after appyling. I took the request to the management company who denied to accept the Section 8 voucher. Her reasons were as follows: She owns and manages many propetries in the area and doesn’t want to be hassled with working with the housing authority on inspections / leases, etc.; She doesn’t want to ask the owners of the property to participate because it will be a burden on their end and her job is to relieve that burden; She can easily rent out the property if I need to move as a result of this; When I moved into the home, I was able to work and not need this amount of assistance, perhaps I can’t afford it now and should move; Her largest concern: having to accept Secition 8 on all her other properties which are, and this is local public knowledge, not kept up to code & the cost to repair everything up to Section 8 standards would be unbearable. Do I have any grounds at all to fight for the righ to stay in my home? I am a single mother and due to the area, would have to re-locate my children out of town. Thank you.

    • littlebuddy12345

      I seriously doubt the landlord said the things you say she did. It sounds like you chose to interpret, to your liking. That would be enough for me to avoid you. I don’t know what your single mother status has to do with this either. The landlord may be a single mother also. Now what?

  • http://www.nononsenselandlord.com/ No Nonsense Landlord

    As a former Section 8 landlord, I agree.

    Section 8 is a great program, but the tenants are extremely high risk. If I was to ever be required to take section 8, I would still keep my credit score criteria and I think all would be well at that point.

    I just wrote a post why I asked my last Section 8 tenant to leave.

  • Tiffiana Harden

    I would like to be a section 8 landlord. I have the land to out the apartments on, but not the apartments. Will the gov build the apartments for me? Or do I have to do that?

  • guest

    I’m a landlord with a section 8 tenant in a rent controlled city. Attorneys say the only effective way to get the tenant out is for non payment of rent The housing authority failed the unit and we fixed what was written in their report. the tenant told me, a couple of weeks later, something else was broken. we were still trying to make the second repair when the housing authority came back after 30 days to reinspect the initial problem which had been completely fixed. They failed the unit again stating that the same thing needed to be fixed which was in their first report. they cancelled the next months rent and refuse to address the problem with the incorrect information on their report.. i wish i had known the cons of section 8 before i rented to them. Section 8 is a federally funded program. Those are my taxpayers dollars helping fund the program for low income people. What’s more pathetic is that these same low income people are given free legal advise and attorneys so that they can sue you while you may have to pay $350 a hour for an attorney. This is not working for me.

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