Section 8 Housing 101

by Andrea West

Posted on 2016-02-09 14:12:45

Section 8. It may seem like another government regulation with its own set of hoops to jump through. Do you really want to set yourself up for something like that?


Initially, your thought may be ‘no.’ As a landlord, there’s already a lot on your plate. Would the extra paperwork to become a Section 8 landlord be worth it?


It can be, if you’re well-informed, organized, and know how it can work for you.


What is Section 8?


Section 8 is what allows landlords to rent to people that qualify for government subsidized housing. This can include the elderly, low-income families, and people with disabilities. They have to fill out their own paperwork in order to be approved. Once approved, they can look for Section 8 housing, apply for residency, and if they are accepted they sign a lease and are required to pay about 30% of their income toward their housing. The government pays the rest through the US Department of Housing and Urban Development.


The purpose of Section 8 is to enable these people to afford safe and decent housing. Public housing most famously dates back to the FDR administration. At first, affordable housing was built on tracts of land and these areas would later become known as the projects. Time proved that this wasn’t the best approach. Some negative effects were mismanagement and concentrated poverty.


So Section 8 is a result of one of the counter-measures. Some of the advantages of renting from subsidized, privately-owned property, as opposed to public housing, are reduced poverty rates and an increased ability to rent in better neighborhoods. Currently, subsidized housing assists more than four million people.


How Can I Become a Section 8 Landlord?


That requires more detail than I can handle in this blog post, but I can cover the basics.


  1. Applying to be a Section 8 landlord takes a LOT of paperwork. Fill this out and wait for approval from your local housing authority.

  2. Make any of the fixes and adjustments to your property that is required. As part of the process, your rental units will be inspected to make sure everything is in compliance with the program codes.

  3. Review applications and screen these potential residents like you would anyone else. They are not exempt from these steps in finding a place to live and you will still need to take responsibility for who you agree to rent your property to.

  4. Keep filling out the required paperwork.

  5. You will also be inspected periodically and will need to keep up with those fixes and updates as well.

What Should I Be Aware Of?


- Section 8 is not a mediator between you and your resident. You will still need to talk to them to get their portion of the rent, resolve any conflicts, and everything else that comes with the landlord  territory.

- You will have to keep your rates marketable. Section 8 doesn’t allow for over-priced or super ritzy apartment accommodations.

- You need to keep up to date and also honor your end of the lease. If not, your ability to rent to those covered by affordable housing will be terminated.

- There is a lot of government involvement. With this can come a list of legal issues and expenses..

- Quality of these residents may not always be what you would hope.


Now That I’m Slightly Scared, What Are Some of the Positives?


Of course there are positives, or I wouldn’t even bother writing this article. Here you go-


- A portion of the rent (the government-paid portion) is guaranteed, on-time rent

- All of these applicants are pre-screened, since it is something they have to do before they are even accepted for subsidized housing. But this doesn’t let you off the hook. You should still do your own screening for applicants.

- It’s another way you can fill up vacancies on your property.

- There is a sizable market for Section 8. Like I mentioned before, over four million people currently qualify for subsidized housing.

- This is accentuated by the fact that there isn’t enough Section 8 approved housing for everyone to go to. You could be someone who helps.


Anything Else?


Here is an article with a long list of helpful tips. Some of these may be more extreme than what you will be dealing with, but there’s bound to be something noted in this article that can help you out with whatever situations come up.

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