(DailyDig.com) – Housing Choice Vouchers, more commonly known as Section 8, are designed to allow low-income families or individuals to live in areas where they may not be able to afford the typical rent.
Qualifying for Housing Choice Vouchers can be a challenge as they are available only to those with extremely low income. Once a family or individual qualifies, the challenge then becomes finding a landlord who is willing to rent to a tenant using a Housing Choice Voucher. A voucher user may need to do some convincing to get a landlord to accept the tenant.
What is a Housing Choice Voucher?
The federal government offers several forms of rental assistance for low-income families and individuals. Under Section 8, or a Housing Choice Voucher, the government agrees to pay for 70 percent of the rent while the tenant pays the other 30 percent.
The program is designed to allow tenants to have a choice in where they live, and not be limited by locations where they can afford the rent with their limited income. For instance, some low-income families may want to live in a suburban area where their children will have better educational opportunities. The program is designed for families not to spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing, so they can afford food, utilities, transportation, etc. with their remaining income.
Landlords who accept vouchers also must keep certain paperwork up to date and be willing to have their properties inspected to ensure tenants are getting good quality housing.
Are Landlords Required to Accept Housing Choice Vouchers?
As of January 2023, 19 states and many cities and counties had regulations that prohibited landlords from discriminating against tenants using Housing Choice Vouchers. Most of these laws do not require landlords to automatically accept any tenant with a voucher. Rather, it means the use of a voucher cannot be the sole reason for turning down a tenant.
For instance, if a tenant has a previous history of not paying their rent or damaging previous rental properties, the landlord still could opt not to rent to that tenant.
Also, if a rental rate is higher than what the government is willing to accept and still is considered in a reasonable range for that neighborhood, the landlord cannot be forced to lower the rent to meet the voucher.
How to Convince a Landlord to Accept a Voucher
An Urban Institute study of discrimination in the use of Housing Choice Vouchers analyzed classified ads for housing and found only 1 in 39 qualified for Housing Choice Vouchers, based on rent, quality, and willingness to partner with HUD. That’s a pretty big hill for tenants with vouchers to overcome.
Ways tenants can convince a wary landlord to accept a Housing Choice Voucher include:
- Pointing out that 70 percent of their rent each month is guaranteed by the federal government, something that is not true with renting to tenants without a voucher.
- Showing the landlord that the tenant has a good history of paying their rent, either under the voucher program or in other rental situations.
- Proving a good source of income that will make paying the 30 percent share of the rent a reasonable expectation.
- Offering a solid history in other rental situations of having left previous rentals in good condition. This could even be a letter of recommendation from a previous landlord or two.
- Having a family member or friend vouch for the tenant that in the case of a financial emergency, that person will pay the rent. (This person likely cannot be a co-signer of the lease as the government will base the voucher only on the tenant’s income.)
While sometimes difficult, it isn’t impossible to get housing with a voucher. If you do believe you are being discriminated against, for this or any reason, you can file a Fair Housing Discrimination Complaint online or by calling 1-800-669-9777.
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