What is Section 8?
The Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program (“Section 8”) is the largest and most successful low-income housing assistance program in the country. Property owners who participate in the Section 8 program benefit from the program because as much as 100% of the rent is paid by the government. As long as the lease terms and property are maintained, the rent is virtually guaranteed and sent to the owner every month, often times by direct deposit into the owner’s bank account.
Section 8 participants can rent most properties that are listed at, or around, the current market rent rate.
How Does Section 8 Work?
Approximately 2.3 million households receive federal rental assistance via the Section 8 program. Section 8 is federally funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Although federally funded, the Section 8 program is administered locally by over 2,400 Public Housing Agencies (PHAs) across the country.
Is it Hard to Get a Section 8 Voucher?
Obtaining a Section 8 voucher is not easy. Because of funding limitations, not everyone who qualifies for a Section 8 voucher receives one. Due to overwhelming demand, many waiting lists for Section 8 assistance are closed and only open sporadically and for brief periods of time. This makes getting on a Section 8 waiting list challenging. If you manage to get on a Section 8 waiting list, long wait times are the norm and families often wait years to receive a voucher.
Further complicating the process, most PHAs also have different local priorities or methods of selecting applicants from their waiting list. Often this includes a local residency preference for those living or working within the PHAs jurisdiction. Some PHAs also administer special purpose vouchers that are designated for specific populations, like the Mainstream Section 8 voucher program which provides a Section 8 voucher to households with a disabled adult household member.
In short, there are many different conditions that can make applying for Section 8 cumbersome and difficult. AffordableHousing.com is trying to make this easier by partnering with many of these Public Housing Agencies. Our platform and partnerships help streamline the process of finding and qualifying for affordable housing programs, like Section 8.
See “How to Apply for Section 8” to learn the best way to get a Section 8 Voucher quickly.
How to Apply for Section 8?
The first step in getting a Section 8 Voucher is finding a Section 8 waiting list that is open and taking applications. Anyone interested in applying for Section 8 should start by searching AffordableHousing.com’s Nationwide Section 8 Waiting List Directory.
New Section 8 Waiting List openings are updated and posted daily along with who is eligible and instructions on how to apply. Families interested in applying for a Section 8 voucher assistance should check this Waiting List Directory frequently.
In order to increase your chances of getting a Section 8 voucher, and to simplify the process of applying for Section 8, AffordableHousing.com developed a universal application called RevoList. The RevoList software is an intelligent universal application for all Section 8 waiting lists and other affordable housing programs in the United States. RevoList helps you get on multiple Section 8 waiting lists at once which increases your chances of receiving housing assistance.
One RevoList application can submit your information to hundreds of different Section 8 waiting lists at once. Look for the RevoList logo in the Waiting List Directory to apply to multiple waiting lists at once.
What Number am I on the Section 8 List? (I am already on a Waiting List)
Most Housing Authorities will not tell you what your place is on a waiting list. This is because rankings can change as an applicant’s needs change. PHAs require applicants to keep their application up to date with any changes in their family composition, income, or contact information to remain on the waiting list. Updating factors that can affect ranking on your application, like income, can change your ranking.
If you are on a waiting list, it is very important to keep your contact information current. Often times applicants are selected after years of waiting but their mailing address or phone numbers have changed. Sadly, many applicants cannot be reached when they are finally selected to receive a Section 8 voucher. You can rest easier if you have completed a RevoList Section 8 application application, the RevoList software will make sure your information is always kept up to date.
How Do I Request Supplemental Rental Assistance from my PHA?
It is important to note that a Section 8 voucher holder that suffers a financial loss must contact the PHA and notify them of the change in their income. This is done by requesting a “Change of Family Income Form”. Some PHAs also allow online submission of income changes.
If you are a property owner and have a Section 8 tenant that is suffering a loss in income, be proactive and assist them in obtaining a rent adjustment by contacting their case manager. Often a voucher holder may not know that a rent adjustment is possible. Be proactive and you will be protected from financial loss if your tenant suffers an unexpected financial hardship.
What are the benefits of renting to a Section 8 tenant?
The Section 8 Program virtually guarantees that a property owner will receive their rent every month. Additionally, the Section 8 voucher program provides an owner with ‘Rent Stability’. Rent Stability means a property owner will receive their full rent each month even if a voucher holder loses their job and can no longer pay their portion of the rent.
An example of Rent Stability occurred in 2020 during the COVID-19 Pandemic. During this crisis, if family with a Section 8 voucher lost their job the PHA was able to adjust the tenant's portion of the rent payment downward and increase the government paid share. In other words, the government paid portion of the rent is increased to compensate the owner for the tenant's lower income. Rent Stability with the Section 8 program kept millions of families housed and owner’s rent current during the COVID-19 crisis.
Here are the top 5 benefits of renting to a Section 8 tenant
- Guaranteed Rent
- Rent stability
- Decreased turnover, Section 8 tenants tend to stay in the same property longer
- Market rental rates
- The regular inspections help safeguard your investment and help reduce risk of loss
How To Become a Section 8 Landlord?
An owner who is interested in renting their units out to a Section 8 voucher holder should list their property on AffordableHousing.com to get started. Posting a listing on AffordableHousing.com is free (premium features are available). Section 8 renters will begin contacting you as most of them use this platform to find housing.
Initial paperwork involves the landlord negotiating and executing a lease agreement with the renter. Any standard written lease agreement will do. Once this is done the housing agency will provide you with the RFTA (“Request for Tenancy Approval”) form, which indicates the address of the unit, the utilities the tenant is to pay, and the monthly rent requested. The RFTA form will be provided to you by your Section 8 renter’s case manager.
Once the RFTA is signed your unit will need to be inspected (see property inspections for Section 8). After the unit has been inspected by the housing agency, the owner will sign a contract with the Housing Authority and a Rent Reasonableness determination will be performed by your housing agency (see Rent Reasonableness).
Click here to add your rental listing on AffordableHousing.com
How Much Rent Can I Charge for My Property in Section 8?
Landlords often want to know what Section 8 will pay them for their rental property. The rent that an owner can charge for their rental unit must be Reasonable. For a rent to be deemed Reasonable the owner may not charge more than what is charged for a comparable rental unit in the same location in the private, unassisted rental market. In other words, an owner cannot charge more than the going market rent.
AffordableHousing.com’s free “Market Rent Estimator” tool that will help owners determine approximately what a reasonable rental rate would be for any property. If you are an owner and are thinking about renting your property to a Section 8 participant, you should start here.
In order to more accurately determine that your asking rent is reasonable the PHA is required to perform a “Rent Reasonableness” determination on your property. The Market Rent Estimation tool is not a replacement for the rent reasonableness determination. The rent value determined during the rent reasonableness process takes many more factors into consideration and it is a more accurate and defendable estimation. So the rent value shown in the Market Rent Estimator may differ from the final rent determined by the PHA’s Rent Reasonableness determination.
See “What is Section 8 Rent Reasonable?” for tips on how to pass the rent reasonable determination.
How do I know if a Section 8 renter Qualifies for my Rental Property?
For new move-ins, the rent must be affordable to the Section 8 tenant based on their income. Section 8 renters with larger incomes can afford to rent properties with a higher market rent than Section 8 renters with lower incomes.
This calculation takes many factors into consideration including cost of utilities and who pays for them, the family size, and the income and payment standards of the local PHA.
AffordableHousing.com’s Section 8 Eligibility calculator makes it easy for a family and landlord to know if a Section 8 tenant can afford a rental property.
What Portion of the Rent Does a Section 8 tenant Pay? How Much Does the Government Pay for Section 8?
Generally, families will pay no more than 40 percent of their adjusted monthly income toward their rent share. The rental subsidy will cover the rest. However, determining the PHA’s exact share of the rent, and the remaining tenant’s portion can be very complicated. To make this simple and more transparent we have integrated a Section 8 Eligibility calculator on all listings. The Section 8 Eligibility calculator will also tell a family (or owner) if a renter will qualify for a listing based on their income.
The eligibility calculation is included on all AffordableHousing.com’s listings. A Section 8 tenant just needs to enter their voucher size and adjusted monthly income which they can get from their PHA.
Affordability and eligibility determinations are also integrated into the search filters on AffordableHousing.com. This helps a Section 8 tenant more easily locate the listings that they qualify for. Families with vouchers should select the “Find Rentals Based on My Income” option under the price filter. This allows a Section 8 renter to enter their adjusted gross income and voucher size. Once these have been entered all listings will be color coded and sorted by Section 8 eligibility and affordability.
If you are an owner and are curious to know how much of the rent payment will be guaranteed by the housing agency for a specific Section 8 applicant, simply post a listing on AffordableHousing.com and enter your Section 8 renter’s adjusted gross income when you are previewing your listing. The government and tenant portion of the rent will be broken down for you.
What is Section 8 Rent Reasonableness?
In order to more accurately determine that the rent an owner is asking is reasonable a Housing Agency is required to perform a “Rent Reasonableness” determination on the property. This is done after you enter into a lease agreement with a Section 8 renter.
Many PHA’s use AffordableHousing.com’s rent reasonableness software to perform the rent reasonableness determination and we have created a guide to help you through the rent reasonable process.
The following tips will help guide you through the Section 8 Rent Reasonableness Process:
- First, posting your vacancies on AffordableHousing.com will help you pass the Rent Reasonableness determination. Owner can post their rentals on AffordableHousing.com for free. Not only is this the best way to find a Section 8 renter, but it also helps streamline the Rent Reasonableness determination process later.
- When posting your listings on AffordableHousing.com it is beneficial to add photos and descriptive comments to the listing. Make sure to showcase amenities and comment when a property has been remodeled. For example, take the time to promote the fact that the kitchen was recently remodeled, and the interior and exterior of the property were just painted.
- Property owners can also help substantiate that an asking rent is reasonable by adding non-assisted comparables into the RentWatch software for free. These comparables should be other properties that are already rented, and owned or managed by the owner/manager. It is important that these comparables not be rented to Section 8 renters. Only non-assisted rental comparables may be used in the rent reasonableness determination.
- Once an owner has created a free account on Affordable Housing they can upload complete rent rolls (for apartment buildings) or upload individual rental comparables one at a time by clicking the “ad Comparable” link in the owner dashboard. You can also contact our customer service team and we will help upload these comparbales for you.
Add rent comparables for a rent reasonableness determination
Property Inspections for Section 8
The federal government requires the Housing Authority to inspect all units assisted through the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program, as well as most other programs it administers. A unit must be inspected before move-in and typically once every 1-2 years thereafter (depending on the housing agency).
The purpose of the inspection is to ensure that rental units are “decent, safe, and sanitary.” These standards are called Housing Quality Standards, or HQS, and are not the same as building codes. Housing Quality inspections are not as strict as a building code inspection and are not performed by a municipality’s building inspections department. The goal of HQS is simply to make sure the rental property is safe and habitable.
Here is a Detailed Section 8 Inspection Check List:
- All utilities must be on to complete the inspection
- Replace defective, missing, or non-working smoke detectors. Check the Batteries
- Double cylinder deadbolt locks are typically not permitted
- Light fixtures must be covered (globes)
- No exposed wiring of any kind anywhere
- Electrical panels, light switches and outlets need cover plates
- There should be no open spacers in the electrical breaker box
- Heating is required, it could be a reverse cycle air-conditioner or a permanently mounted space heater (portable heaters are not allowed)
- All windows and sliding doors need to operate properly and screens are typically required on windows
- Bathrooms need ventilation; it could be a window to the exterior, or a ventilator fan
- All appliances should be in good working order
- All plumbing should be in good working order, without leaks
- Hot and cold water is required
- Water heaters relief lines must be ¾ inches and have a pressure relief valve for safety
- No junk, appliances, trash, or debris on surrounding areas
- No overgrown vegetation
- No scaling or peeling paint
- No leaks or water seepage from roof, walls, or windows
- No deteriorated roof overhangs
How Do I Get a Rent Increase in Section 8?
The Section 8 program does allow an owner to increase their rent each year. The Rent increase request must be made at least 60 days before lease expiration. A new rent reasonableness determination will be performed each time an owner asks for a rent increase. Rents cannot be increased above the going market rent for the area.
The Section 8 Eligibility calculation no longer applies on a lease renewal. The eligibility calculation is for new move-ins only. This means that the Section 8 renter’s income is not factored into a rent increase determination by the PHA and an owner is permitted to raise rents to market rent each year. A landlord will need to negotiate a rent with their Section 8 tenant annually and then request a rent increase from the PHA. Owners should make sure their Section 8 renter can afford the new rent.