Should I Rent to Section 8 Tenants? A Guide to the Housing Choice Voucher Program

Written on September 28, 2015 by , updated on November 1, 2017

Section 8The term “Section 8 tenants” refers to renters who qualify for the government’s Housing Choice Voucher Program.

So how do people qualify, and what exactly is this program?

Renters who qualify must have an extremely low income, and if they do, the program helps them afford local housing by paying for 33%-75% of the rent.

Some people in this program are elderly, some are disabled, and some simply have little or no income.

Landlords are divided on whether they should or must rent to Section 8 tenants.

Landlords are divided on whether they should or must rent to Section 8 tenants, and for good reason. The laws vary state to state, and even county to county.

The Fair Housing Act (FHA), a federal law, doesn’t prohibit landlords from discriminating based on Section 8. However, some states, counties, and municipalities do, often by prohibiting discrimination based on “source of income” or “public assistance status” – considering them a “protected class.”

Here’s an overview of the pros and cons.

Pros & Cons of the Section 8 Program

Section 8 Waitlist

Pro: Guaranteed Rent

“Guaranteed Rent” – Two words that are music to a landlord’s ears. It almost sounds too good to be true.

But, under the Section 8 program, you are guaranteed at least a portion of the rent to be paid to you by the government – the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), to be exact.

And because you’re dealing with the federal government, this could be a mixed bag. Which brings us to our first two cons …

Con: The Approval Process

As with any government agency, red tape is involved, and Section 8 is no different.

First, you must fill out paperwork, and then your local Public Housing Authority, which operates under the Housing Choice Voucher Program, must approve your rental property.

Then, your property must undergo an inspection, and if approved, it must continue this type of inspection annually.

To pass, your property needs to meet acceptable health and safety codes. And whether your house is approved could depend on how stringent the inspector is in your area (meaning – you should expect to repair minor issues).

Related: HUD Inspection Checklist.

Con: Subject to Rent Control

If you are approved, the Housing Authority then reviews your lease and often restricts how much you can charge for rent. In other words, you can’t necessarily charge what you like.

You can’t charge whatever you want.

You generally can only charge what other properties in your area charge. So your property will be subject to a sort of appraisal process to determine rent.

Note that sometimes, depending on the area your property is in, you might receive more rent through HUD than you would by going through the open marketplace (but I wouldn’t count on it).

HUD then agrees to pay a certain percentage (this varies by case) of the rent. Your tenant pays the remainder, which usually amounts to 30% of their gross income.

Generally, a tenant only pays about 30% of the rent amount.

Pro: Long-term Tenants

Many Section 8 tenants, after being approved for the program and after finding a place to rent, tend to stay put for a while.

Moving is allowed, but Section 8 tenants need to notify the Housing Authority, give you proper notice, and find another place. In other words, it’s a hassle.

Plus, when Section 8 tenants sign a lease, it’s generally for at least one year.

Con: You Hurry Up and Wait

It usually takes a long time to go through the Section 8 process.

By the time you fill out the paperwork, get an inspector to come out, make necessary repairs if required, get the inspector to come out again to check your repairs, get a tenant in, and then receive rent, you might have been able to rent the place to someone else sooner. Meanwhile, you’re receiving no income.

The vacancy caused by delays due to red tape usually outweighs any benefit of the program.

Your Results May (Will) Vary

Section 8 tenants have a bad reputation. And just like any stereotype, there could be some truth to it, but every case is different.

People complain that Section 8 tenants are masters at manipulating the system, and many landlords are left holding the bag.

As with all tenants, there are so many things that can go wrong. For example:

  • They lose their voucher, and then won’t leave,
  • They destroyed your property, and the housing authority won’t compensate you,
  • They moved extra people in despite that being against the rules.

But just as there are horror stories with Section 8 tenants, there are good experiences too.

Some people, whether they are temporarily down on their luck, are disabled, or live on a fixed income, might not be able to afford housing without some help, but they could make wonderful tenants.

The key is for you to run a background check and credit report, and to call prior landlords. Do your due diligence before accepting any tenant.

Related: The Landlord’s Guide to Tenant Screening

Some Municipalities Require Participation

Some municipalities (I’m looking at you Oregon) require landlords to accept Section 8 tenants, meaning that whether you want to deal with a government agency or not, you have to, even though this should be the landlord’s decision.

Related: Oregon anti-discrimination law means landlords can no longer advertise ‘No Section 8’ (Oregon Live)

For example, if a Section 8 tenant fills out a rental application in a municipality that requires landlords to accept it, and if that applicant passes your screening process, you need to start the ball rolling to have your property approved… unless you rent it to another qualified applicant first. (After all, the government is not known for moving fast.)

Even California and the city of Chicago protect people in the program; however, many states like Colorado allow a landlord to “opt-in,” rather than being required to participate.

Note that you don’t have to accept an applicant just because they have a Section 8 voucher. In jurisdictions that require you to take Section 8 tenants, you are encouraged to screen them as you would anyone else.

You need to contact your local or state fair housing agency to determine what the law is in your jurisdiction.

Related: 

Share your Experiences

Do you have experience renting to Section 8 tenants? Let me know in the comments!

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86 CommentsLeave a Comment

  • Jan

    We have a few rental units and have had 7 Section 8 people in the last few years. Each time, they paid rent late, moved in several more people. Now find mattresses and trash piled to ceiling, doors broken. She had broken 3 storm doors off the hinges with her electric wheelchair, ripped the wheel chair through all of the kitchen cabinets, torn off all baseboards, broke drywall and smashed corner bead. 2 year old dishwasher is trash, and 2 year old refrigerator are filthy with food still inside –and cockroaches inside! She left trash piled to the ceiling in basement and outside back door. She threw it out back door, broke down the fence! She left everything owned there for us to pick up, clean place. Just cleaning so far $1500

    • Ingrid

      These people passed your screening process? A government certificate for housing does not guarantee a slovenly, disruptive, destructive tenant. You should be able to review their rental history. You can choose to rent to tenants who appear to be respectful and clean, with no evictions or poor rental history. You do not HAVE rent to section 8 applicants. There are, however, plenty of upstanding Americans who benefit from this government aid. Sounds like your folly, honestly.

    • Dianne Zweller

      Very unfortunate situation indeed, but I will tell you that non Section 8 tenants can be just as nasty if not worse as it comes with the territory. There’s no way of distinguishing a good tenant from a bad tenant which could go either way
      I am now looking into the program after speaking with several colleagues because the rent is guaranteed and on time. I don’t mind waiting for the process because I keep all of my units in mint condition as if it were mines.

      • Monica monlyn

        In need of a 2 bedroom apartment
        In the amount of 1,768.00
        Section 8
        I am a very clean person
        I am 41yrs old single parent w/ 2 children
        Need a landlord that is not a slum Lord
        Tired of slum lords..

    • Monica monlyn

      That is truly sad that people take advantage of good landlord’s. They make it hard for good people like myself..i am in need of a 2 bedroom apartment in the amount of 1,768.00 section 8…just like you may be tired of reckless disrupted people.I’m tired of slum lords getting over and not doing their job. But taking my money..

  • George Busey

    My sister has a house for rent under section.8 in D.C. ,can.I rent from her using my section o.voucher ?

  • T Menefee

    I am currently thinking of purchasing a duplex and setting the units up for elderly tenants, would it be against the law to market to the elderly only.? It seems like a good idea. I would like to to do this in the state of Indiana.

    • Emily

      I would NOT advertise to elderly people only. Depending on where you are, discrimination in housing (or other things like education or public accomidations) based on age is illegal in some places.

  • Jersey

    I am on section 8. My son is living w me temporarily because he is injured, on workmans comp(finally receiving $) and he is on my lease, etc. with all necessary agencies because I am not a lawbreaker. Please explain to me why does he have to pay 30% of his weekly workers comp money (that is finally coming in after a year) when he has tons of back bills to catch up on!? In addition, he will not be able to get ahead in any way.

  • LaSprina Capshaw

    Hello everyone, my family and I are searching for a 3 bedroom house, townehouse, or two flat home. We are a very religious, clean, hard-working family. 2 adults, and 3 children, girls, 13, 11, and 9. If you are a landlord in the western suburbs of Chicago, IL, please consider contacting me via this post. We are in need of shelter real soon. We are upstanding citizens, so please give me and my family a try. Thank you so much, LaSprina Capshaw

    • Sonia

      Hi lasprina,
      We will soon be putting a 5 bed house out to section 8 but it is on the south side of Chicago in west englewood. It is right in front of a church.

  • Sonia

    We are new landlords and are thinking of putting up a 5 bed for rent in west Englewwod. We want to give it to section 8. Any idea on how much rent we can get from it?

  • Emma Gomez

    what i’am trying to rent is a house or apartment.i already have a voucher for section 8. but i’am having a hard time finding one,i’am wanting to rent in Denver, Co.if you know where i can fine one,or if you have one,please let me know . thank you .

  • neal

    how do I take my house out of the section 8 program

  • Bruce bosko

    Landlord next door to my Waterfront house rents Section 8. We’ve had heroin addicts drunks and police crawling in through windows looking for people that live there. It’s up to a landlord who by the way this one is an absentee landlord. To monitor their properties. Detriment to whole neighborhood. That’s it live out of state pocket the money and don’t give two s**** about your property.

  • Tony Jones

    Hello I am looking to purchase two or three duplexes to rent before the Year is out. I have a cousin who insists that she can rent them out for me but some say section 8 is better. I’m in Memphis Tn. Any advice please???

  • Dianne Zweller

    Very unfortunate situation indeed, but I will tell you that non Section 8 tenants can be just as nasty if not worse as it comes with the territory. There’s no way of distinguishing a good tenant from a bad tenant which could go either way
    I am now looking into the program after speaking with several colleagues because the rent is guaranteed and on time. I don’t mind waiting for the process because I keep all of my units in mint condition as if it were mines.

  • Matt

    I don’t rent to but have neighbors that are Section 8 renters. Our executive community has a median household income well over $100,000 per year and the houses average 3200 square feet. Houses, when leased, rent for over $2500 per month. The Section 8 tenants don’t have a clue how to live and maintain where we are and often get evicted for repeat offenses. They don’t benefit socially and self isolate. Their children fail repeatedly in our schools because they are so far behind their peers. Someone please explain to me how the government subsidizing a rent with $1750 per month with this much culture shock is not a disservice and a big waste of taxpayer dollars. Why not baby steps in step-up homes instead of luxury accommodations?

  • Denise Mason

    Do the Section 8 tenants have to get renters insurance?

  • Monica monlyn

    In need of a 2 bedroom apartment
    In the amount of 1,768.00
    Section 8
    I am a very clean person
    I am 41yrs old single parent w/ 2 children
    Need a landlord that is not a slum Lord
    Tired of slum lords..

  • MBM

    EarthLink.netSection 8 gave my tenants s my personal home address. I’m a landlord and a woman and I feel that that’s a violation of my privacy. I gave them a PO Box and I’m not sure why my address has to be on the tenets private mail from section 8. Do I have legal recourse for the violation of my privacy.

  • Mitch Dunn

    Is there any problem with a landlord renting to a relative in the Mass, section 8 choice housing voucher program? The relative is disabled.

    • Gallery Sitter

      Usually they frown on it, best to check with your local office to be sure. Where I’m from its a definite no. Hope that helps.

  • Gallery Sitter

    Sadly, because of opinions and poor word choices those using programs like these are looked down upon and find renting hard. You need to do more research and add more information so landlords and renters alike can make an informed decision. You may think you are helping but your article makes it WORSE for all sides of the rental trade. Either update or remove it before you ruin someone’s or some family’s life over it. Sigh. Not all places have it so hard as you make it out to sound. Next time try not being so bias, add some actual FACTS. Only thing I find correct is the fact it is the home owner’should choice to or not to rent. This article has definitely colored my opinion about COZY…..

    • Laura Agadoni

      Hi Gallery,
      I’m sorry you feel that way. What exactly do you find to be incorrect in the article?

      • Gallery Sitter

        Hello Laura,
        I don’t mean to offend anyone, but the process as it was meant to be was not stated fully. It was more about CHI’s issues and what’s wrong with it, instead of what to expect. I know how it SHOULD work overall. Im not from IL or familiar with CHI”s issues. Obviously my auto correct has its own mind as well. Lol. I just felt it was more bias to an “office” than informative about the program over all with a few well known issues LLs have about section 8 in general thrown in for a quick touch.

  • Not all bad

    Hi,
    I’m a Section 8 tenant. I pay my rent on time and in full every month. I have excellent credit. I’ve never been late in the almost 15 years I’ve lived in this apartment. I respect the blessing of having a nice place to live. I try to keep my apartment tidy as well as the outside. Although I’m not perfect. I’m friends with my neighbors that live upstairs and I like my landlord and vice versa.
    I think its a case by case situation. People with Section 8 can make things difficult but so can people who don’t have Section 8. To jump to conclusion about Section 8 tenants isn’t fair for tenants like me. They don’t only make it hard for you but also for me. There are still good tenants out there.

    • Just 2 peanuts

      I couldn’t agree more. Get rid of the worst on BOTH sides would free the World for us all. Sad to say people can not judge between forgivable actions and blatant full on larceny. Once only the cream of both are left we well have a great, helpful program for all.

  • Jim Young

    I never would rent to Sec8. They are there most times because they a low life bums. I would never tell them that, I was always courteous and would say yes we are taking applications, and do a criminal and financial back ground check and that is a 100 dollar non refundable fee to apply. I never had it go farther than that. LOL. Unless you rent in the slums or have a S&^% hole rental stay away from these renters.

  • David

    I will never rent to section 8 if I list my rental house again. I currently have one house rented to section 8 tenant for a few years. At the beginning, it seems no problem since tenant only pay 5% of the rent. But when I need to do remodel and ask them to move, that’s all the problems comes. They created mold, ask the City to inspect and sent you a lawsuit. Although you may have the same issue with regular tenants, the regular tenants need to think twice if they want to go to court and will lose money if they lose in court. But for section 8 tenant, they can not lose money since they don’t have money to pay you if they lose in court.

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