Section 8 voucher rules

This is a discussion on Section 8 voucher rules within the Landlord vs Tenant Issues forum, part of the REAL ESTATE & PROPERTY LAW category; I am a long-time landlord, but have never rented to section 8 tenants before. I have a property that I ...

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Old Dec 10th, 2008, 01:43 PM   #1
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Confused Section 8 voucher rules

I am a long-time landlord, but have never rented to section 8 tenants before.
I have a property that I wish to open to section 8 tenants, and have identified a potential tenant.
She has a voucher for a 3-bdrm, and my house is 4-bdrm.
I know I can not charge her any more than whatever the Housing Authority will establish as the Fair Market Rent. I do want to stay within the regulations.
I have a few questions:
1-Will the HA let her take a larger house than her voucher is approved for?
2- The prospective tenant suggested that she would pay the difference between her voucher amount and the FMR. Is there any legal way that she can do that? -- perhaps a monthly fee specifically for allowing a pet, or for receiving gardening service?
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Old Dec 10th, 2008, 04:54 PM   #2
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Default Re: Section 8 voucher rules

1. Whether the S8 office would allow here to take a larger unit for the same amount is up to her caseworker. (Perhaps call one room a family room or den/office?)

2. No. You cannot make any arrangements for the tenant to pay any extra amounts that are not approved by s8. It is against the law and their rules and can terminate your S8 contract, and the tenant's aide if you do so. Run any and all proposed payments through S8.

Also, screen S8 tenants *very* well. They will get free legal aide to fight any evictions or charges you put against them, and they are not collectible if they damage the unit. You will not be able to collect any money from the tenant should that occur.
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Old Jul 29th, 2009, 07:28 AM   #3
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To the last person that responded you are either a real snob or uneducated on the subject. Section 8 allows you to rent a bigger house as long as it is not a HUD housing complex and it fits your budget.

2.You are allowed to pay up to 10% of your monthly untaxed income to the landlord. EX. If she is allotted say $730/month and has an income of $700/month She can rent up to $800/month, paying $70/month directly to the landlord from her other source of income and this is perfectly legal with Sec 8.

3.Just because someone is on Sec 8 does not mean they are going to live like animals and destroy a landlords property. And contrary to your ignorant statement. Most landlord require a cash deposit of at least a months rent. There by making any damages very collectible. That's why they call it a security deposit. And the tenant is responsible for paying the deposit in cash at the time the lease is signed. So stop putting your stuck up nose in the air and educate yourself before making such judgmental statements.
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Old Jul 30th, 2009, 02:04 AM   #4
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Default Re: Section 8 voucher rules

Not necessarily. Only in some areas can you rent a bigger place than what the voucher and your family requires. In many areas S8 will not allow this, even if it meets the voucher amount, for several reasons:
-There is often a waiting list for larger units. When there is, S8 will not allow you to take a unit larger than what you require since that unit may be needed for some other family (on the larger list). This is true for units with 4 or more bedrooms.
-A larger house means larger utility bills. Since part of the voucher amount is calculated on the family's ability to pay the utilities in the listed size house, they may be denied a larger house due to their possible inability to pay those future utilities. This is especially true in northern states and in areas where natural gas has risen considerably.
-Some S8 offices and caseworkers are stringent and abide by every rule. If that voucher is for a 3 bedroom, some caseworkers will not allow them to rent anything else.

I think you are confusing the permitted co-pay amount (which is determined by S8) for an illegal (under the table) payment for the amount of rent above the listed voucher amount. The tenant's co-pay can be little to nothing, or can be for a majority of the rent. The copay is determined based on household income and can change from month to month as income changes and they recalculate. You cannot make any payments to the LL that S8 does not know of and approve of. If a co-pay is approved by S8 to a LL, that amount is legal. If S8 is not informed of a payment to the LL, that can jeopardize and terminate the contract for housing aid and can result in being required to repay S8 any and all payments made to the LL.

I said nothing about living like animals or destroying property. Those were your choice of words. (Hmm? Wonder why YOU chose them?) I merely said they will obtain free legal aid attorneys and were noncollectable. Do not be fooled into thinking a one month deposit will cover all possible damages. That deposit may not cover unpaid rent or damages that can be caused by any tenant (S8 or not). A deposit of one month's rent will be used while waiting on an eviction. It takes more than 30 days to evict in most states. None will be left to cover any damages that may have occurred to the unit. (A tenant being evicted normally does not take excellent care of the property.) A single pet can ruin a carpet costing hundreds of dollars (depreciated value) or claw doors or woodwork. And most evicted tenants don't bother to clean the unit either. There will be costs to have the unit cleaned for the next tenant. (Leaving a unit intentionally dirty is not wear and tear and is chargeable to the deposit.) Therefore careful screening is needed to be sure you won't have to evict later in the tenancy. Avoiding tenants with criminal backgrounds, previous evictions, and poor rental references from previous LLs is a must to avoid having to evict.


The idea that these tenants are not collectible refers to the fact that since they are low income, they have no resources to pay any judgment that is granted against them. You cannot garnish government aid, SS, or disability payments. You can only garnish up to 25% of any wages they do receive. At minimum wage, working only part time, and collecting only 25% of take home pay - it would take a very long time to pay off any judgment. (If this tenant worked 20 hours a week at $8 an hour, 25% going to taxes, and a LL collecting 25% of what is left - that would be $30 a week max towards a judgment.) And S8 tenants usually work no more than part time and at minimum wage. If they quit the job, the LL must start the process to garnish all over again at the next job. Therefore, it is very difficult to get them to pay any judgment granted. (Thus - noncollectable.) It may be on their court record, but the LL will be unable to collect the money.

I am quite educated on the subjects of LLing and Section 8, having dealt with both for many years now. You have some very erroneous notions - S8 tenants living like animals, thinking a deposit will cover any and all damages to a property, confusing co-pays with illegal payments, etc. Where ever did you get these ideas?
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Old Aug 13th, 2009, 11:47 PM   #5
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Default Re: Section 8 voucher rules

From first hand, personal experience. I would suggest staying far, far away from section 8. I have lived and worked in properties that allowed this program, you will have a 1 in 20 chance of getting a good tenant. I have seen first hand what happens to properies rented through this program and it is not pretty. The other poster is completely correct when they state you will take a loss either from non-payment of the monies the tenant has to pay out of pocket, or from destruction of the property. You dont see any advocates of this program living anywhere near a section 8 property!
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Old Aug 19th, 2009, 01:53 PM   #6
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Default Re: Section 8 voucher rules

The poster is 100% correct in saying to screen S8 candidates *very* well. He/She did not imply they were animals or criminals or subhuman. But's be honest - you are S8 because you are lower income and therefore will probably not be able to pay damages, court costs or even the rent itself if that person is evicted. And while we are being honest, let's go all the way. You have a much higher chance of someone in the S8 program of having a criminal record or a past track record of an inability to hold down a job. Now don't go crying racism on me, I know people in the upper class also have criminal records and don't pay bills. I am just saying that you have a higher chance of renting to someone with those issues in the S8 program.
Also the poster is correct - an S8 rent has many free resources available to them. Basically, they are protected by the various government programs that got S8 qualified in the first place.

Lastly, ALL tenants should be screened very well. S8 or not. I used to rent a nice place on the beach in Massachusetts and the LL screened me so thoroughly that I couldn't sit down for a week.
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Old Sep 2nd, 2009, 09:38 PM   #7
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I will let you know that I have Section 8, I live in massachusetts, I currently have a voucher for a 2 bedroom and live in a 3 bedroom.....It is me, my husband and my son and I have one on the way....My share is 73 dollars because i am on bedrest an cannot work.....Section 8 pays the other 802 tot he landlord....My voucher was passed to me after my granmother died and she had her voucher for 13 years and NEVER had a problem with them letting her stay in a larger apartment....It says right on massresources.org......that rent is 30% of ur income after deductions and if u want an apartment that is larger you may have one, but if the rent and utlities come to more than the FMR that you would have to come up with the difference....this has always been the rule....Because the housing voucher is "mobile" (meaning once u move it goes with you) the availability of apartments has no bearing on the issue as it would if you lived in State housing where there are only so many 3 and 4 bedroom units available.
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Old Sep 2nd, 2009, 11:53 PM   #8
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Glad that is the rule in your area. It is not in other states!

In some areas of the country, certain sized units are hard to come by. When that is the case, they limit the size of the units to what is in the voucher. Only 2 years ago here, they displaced over 100 senior citizens from their S8 housing - merely because they had 2 BD units and their vouchers stated they could only have 1 BD units. S8 refused to pay extra for the other BD. (Made them look really bad in the news!) They either had to find a roommate or move. I ended up renting to several of these displaced seniors and put each in a one BD unit so they would not lose their vouchers. They are the best S8 tenants I ever had.

In my area, there is no set rule of 30% as a co-pay (That is your state's rule). Tenants have paid as little as none of their rent (S8 paid 100% of it) or as much as 90% of their rent. It depended on their income and changed from month to month as their income changed. One month a tenant may have all of their rent paid (no co-pay), the next after they got a job, they paid half. When they lost the job, it would adjust again. The rules in your area are not the same as those in other areas of the country. They are not typical of all S8 assistance rules. Those rules apply only to Mass.

Oh, and here, vouchers are NEVER passed down from one family member to another. If an S8 assistance person dies, the voucher is lost and goes to the next person on the waiting list. The family members must apply and qualify on their own and wait until they reach the top of the list to receive assistance. The current waiting list here is 2 years.
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Old Sep 9th, 2009, 07:18 PM   #9
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I was reading your section 8 comments and was disturbed. I am on disability and just received section 8. I have worked most of my life and used tohave a regular apt. I am now not able to pay high rent. I have always been a good tenant. I am quiet, clean and always pay my rent on time. It is funny because I am dealing with a bad tenant neighbor who is a regular member of the coop and he is constatnly noisy and I have called the police 12 times and I have complained to management. Try not to stereotype section 8 people. Some people on it have disabilities or are elderly. There are some bad tenants, but now section 8 does not allow any criminal history. I had to have a background check etc. I have had more issues with so called good tenants!
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Old Sep 10th, 2009, 11:31 AM   #10
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Default Re: Section 8 voucher rules

I am sorry you are disturbed by the comments. Unfortunately, Section 8 programs in all areas of the country do not screen tenants for background. They do in your area, but not in all areas of the country. So S8 tenants in some areas of the country remain unscreened and may have criminal backgrounds. Criminal backgrounds are more prevalent in lower rent units than in luxury (high rent) units. (Fact: Those with criminal backgrounds often have trouble obtaining good paying jobs and must live in lower rent units.) LLs must be careful of who they rent to in any unit.

Section 8 screening only applies to the tenant, and not to his or her guests or unauthorized occupants. It is not unusual for tenants, whether on reduced rent or not, to have unauthorized people come and stay (or live) with them. For this reason, LLs must screen any person who will occupy the units. It is likely that your neighbor has a history of disturbing the peace (which may have been found in a background check). Many LLs have had problems with S8 tenants moving unauthorized people into their units, despite the rule than no one other than the authorized peole can live in a subsidized unit.

It is also a fact that most S8 tenants are noncollectable. Their income alone means the LL will be able to collect very little or none of any damage/unpaid rent judgment obtained against them. (For someone working part-time at minimum wage, and assuming the maximum garnishment permitted, a LL could collect, at most, $25 a week on a judgment. It would take a long time to pay off the average judgment.) Those who are elderly or disabled are noncollectible since their only source of income (pensions or disability payments) cannot be garnished in any way. No payments would be collected from their source of income. This makes low income tenants a high risk to LLs. There is a higher risk that they would not be able to recoop any monies owed by these tenants. Tenants with good paying jobs are easier to garnish and obtain payments for debt owed. Of course, no LL could discriminate against anyone based on any of the protected classes per Fir Housing laws. But low income is not a protected class in most parts of the country.

While you may be an upstanding citizen, LLing is a business. In any monetary business, the business owner has to weigh the risks of doing business with a person against the chances of making a profit from that transaction. (This is why places do credit checks, verify your identity, and take deposits before they sell you anything on credit.) LLs must view any prospective tenant impartially and in respect to the purpose of their business - to make a profit (just as any other business). A lower income, being noncollectable, the numerous regulations and requirements mandated by Section 8 rules, ... These make many LLs turn away form accepting these tenants. These are business decisions. Many LLs are upset by the regulations of this program (the inspections, the verifications, the paperwork/contracts, using S8's leases instead of their own, having to wait on the government, being locked into a year's lease). They do not make getting on this program easy for the tenant or the LL. Some do not like risk associated with the lower income tenants (the noncollectible issue, the fact that they qualify for free attorneys, the extra time required to terminate a bad tenant on this program). Some have just had bad experiences with tenants on this program and that can color their decisions.

Personally, I have had good and bad tenants on this program. I have had both good and bad tenants that were elderly or disabled or just low income. (Being elderly or disabled does not guarantee a good tenant.) Anyone can have a criminal history, be a nuisance, violate their leases, etc. Not all bad tenants have criminal histories. (You can still be a terrible tenant without one.) Each applicant must be judged on his own merit - his credit, his criminal background, his rental references, and so forth.
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