Bill Seeks to Stop Discrimination Against Section 8 Tenants

section 8Hawaii state senators recently announced a bill to stop discrimination against Section 8 tenants. Some states already have laws on the books, and if Hawaii’s bill passes, you can expect other states to follow.

This is an important issue to keep on your radar, as working with Section 8 tenants and the Housing Authority, who administers the program, is not an easy endeavor.

I would say labeling a law as “stopping discrimination against Section 8 tenants” is a misnomer. Any sort of discrimination is wrong and I think all landlords would agree.
The problem with Section 8 has nothing to do with the tenants, but everything to do with it being run by a broken, inefficient agency that makes it difficult for landlords to properly manage their properties.

Lingsch Realty does not work with Section 8 tenants. Twelve years ago when I started working in the leasing business, Lingsch Realty did accept Section 8 vouchers. However, it proved too difficult to work with the Housing Authority, and there is no shortage of non-section 8 tenants, so the hassle outweighed any benefits.

Some problems I found with working with the Housing Authority are:

1) One of the benefits of renting to a Section 8 tenant is that they are not subject to rent control regardless of the type of property. However, raising the rent requires approval from the Housing Authority. If the HA doesn’t agree with your assessment of market rent it is very difficult to even get someone on the phone to have a conversation to come to some sort of agreement.

I recently tried to raise the rent on a Section 8 tenant who was renting a single-family home. I presented the letter of increase to the tenant and the Housing Authority. The HA replied saying that the rent was too high. However, in the packet of comparable properties they presented me with were a series of apartments, not single-family homes which are priced higher for their privacy, backyards and private garages.

I tried contacting the housing authority via post, email, telephone and fax for over six months in order to remedy the situation for my client. When the HA would not communicate with me, I eventually threatened to revoke the Section 8 contract. Still, the HA did not contact me to remedy the situation and a long term tenant was forced to move out.

2) While like all tenants Section 8 tenants need to give 30 days’ notice prior to terminating their agreement, this doesn’t necessarily mean they will be out in 30 days. Their next residence needs to pass the Housing Authority inspection before they can move into it, so their move may be delayed numerous times if their new landlord doesn’t act quickly to make the repairs needed to pass inspection. This can make it difficult for you to schedule renovations and get the apartment rerented quickly.

3) All Section 8 properties are subject to annual inspections by the Housing Authority. This means each year, you will be presented with a list of items that need to be fixed prior to the Section 8 contract being renewed. Some of these items may include damage caused by the tenant. The Housing Authority does not differentiate between damage caused by the tenant and normal wear-and-tear, so you may be forced to fix items the tenant has broken on a repeated basis. This may not leave enough of a tenant’s security deposit upon vacating for reimbursement.

While I believe Section 8 Housing Vouchers are a great option for families trying to get back on their feet, and offer them better options than Public Housing Complexes, I simply cannot recommend participation in the program to my clients, until I see some changes with how the Section 8 program is run. If the agency ever put in place competent employees and guidelines, I would be happy to work with them.

Let’s keep this issue on our radar, and if our California or National lawmakers decide to make Section 8 voucher acceptance mandatory, our voices are heard to make sure the program works well for landlords and tenants alike.


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