What Is Section 8 Housing And Why Landlords Should Listen Up

Landlords are a funny bunch – they want great tenants, preferably long term that will pay the rent regularly, but many miss out on a key pool of renters. This is because they don’t consider the positives that come from catering to tenants who qualify for section 8 assistance. However before we go any further, let’s answer the key question: “What is section 8 housing?”

Section 8 refers to Section 8 of the United States Housing Act of 1937 – which authorizes government assistance for low income families to pay private rent. What this means is that the Government pays a percentage of the fair market rent on a property. Currently there are over 3 million households that are eligible and supported by Section 8 housing assistance. But what exactly does this mean for landlords?

What Section 8 housing means for landlords

what is section 8 housing
Apartment For Rent: Mt. Adams Bar & Grill © by cincyproject

Just because a household is eligible for Section 8 housing support does not mean that they find it easy to access housing. There is a very large pool of qualified tenants waiting to enter rental properties, but cannot access them because of a lack of housing availability. This is often because Section 8 prejudice is a real issue among landlords – sad but true. This misplaced prejudice arises from a complete misunderstanding of the Section 8 program and those who are unfortunate enough to qualify.

The reality is that Section 8 qualified tenants offer a real opportunity for landlords. Instead of looking with apprehension at a tenant that comes with Section 8 support, landlords should identify an opportunity. A Section 8 tenant will (by and large) be very grateful to have access to a decent place to live for their family, take care of the place, and have a large percentage of the rent paid for by the Government. Sounds like a good deal to me!

The pros and cons of section 8 housing – for landlords

Sure, landlords are often trying to run a business, and any damage to the property or non-payment of rent is an expense that few can afford, and no-one wants to pay. As real estate investors, there is often a mortgage to pay which relies on the payment of rent by the tenant. No-one maintains that landlords are obligated to run a charity – as we have said, a property available for rent is often part of someone’s real estate business.

Depending on your State, it may well be illegal to reject a tenant’s application solely on the basis that they come with Section 8 subsidized rent. That is a good thing. From a humanitarian perspective, it should be. From a business perspective, Section 8 tenants offer what amounts to a potentially significant opportunity for landlords and tenants.

So our message to landlords is that Section 8 tenancy applications come with guaranteed rental payments (a percentage of the total is better than nothing at all) and what is generally a long term rental arrangement. A large pool of potential tenants means that your property will not sit vacant for long either, even if the tenant does leave.

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