The Housing Choice Voucher Program—formerly called Section 8—provides vouchers to qualified people to help cover their rent.
The government typically provides these vouchers through the DC Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). However, they may also be provided through a non-profit organization.
With a Section 8 voucher, the government or another entity will cover part or all of the person’s rent. You aren’t required to accept Section 8 vouchers as a landlord in DC, but you can certainly choose to. It is, however, illegal to refuse a tenant because they’re using a voucher, and it’s against the law to advertise that you don’t accept renters because of housing vouchers.
There are pros and cons to having tenants with housing vouchers, so here’s what you need to know about Section 8 vouchers as a landlord in DC!
You May Not Have to Worry as Much About Vacancies
The waiting list for the Housing Choice Voucher Program can be years long. Tenants who finally get the opportunity to take advantage of the voucher are more likely to stay for as long as they can at their approved unit.
This means potentially fewer vacancies for you as a landlord. If a tenant has been approved for a unit at your property, there’s generally a lot of paperwork involved, and if they want to move, a similar process applies.
The tenant will need to notify HUD, give notice, and find another unit that’ll be approved. Tenants often don’t want to deal with this process after waiting so long for a unit, and so will stay as long as they’re able.
Still Conduct Your Usual Screening Process
You can still choose your criteria for tenants with Section 8 housing vouchers, as long as they don’t violate the Fair Housing Act. Under the Fair Housing Act, you can’t discriminate against tenants based on race, color, religion, sex, disability, national origin, or familial status.
Still run a background and credit check, just as you would for tenants that aren’t utilizing the program. Doing your due diligence will help you find the best tenants for your unit.
It’s also important to be aware of how much the voucher will cover. The voucher may cover the full amount of rent, but if not, you’ll need to be sure the tenant can pay the difference through your screening process. Keep in mind that Section 8 vouchers don’t usually cover security deposit costs, so you’ll need to be sure your tenant can cover these as well.
In DC, it’s common for the program to cover about 70 percent of the rent, meaning your tenant will still be responsible for the remaining 30.
You’re More Likely to Get Paid on Time
While there’s generally less hassle around rent collection with Section 8 vouchers, there are still some concerns to be aware of.
You’re more likely to get paid on time, at least for the majority of the rent. HUD typically pays landlords via direct deposit, meaning you won’t have to deal with the tenant and won’t have to worry about late rent payments—at least if the voucher pays for 100 percent of the rent.
However, if the voucher doesn’t fully cover the cost, understand collecting the remaining amount from the tenant is your responsibility.
The Approval Process May Take Longer
To accept Section 8 vouchers, your unit must meet Fair Market Rent standards, which are established by HUD. Your property must also pass an annual inspection, which HUD will conduct for free.
The property must be up-to-code, which means you could need to make some repairs. From filling out paperwork to getting your property inspected and approved, filling your unit could take a little longer.
That’s money you could be making from an existing renter instead of waiting for a tenant with a voucher to get approval for your property. However, for some landlords in DC, the benefits of having a tenant with a voucher outweigh this initial process.
Have Questions About Section 8 Vouchers? We Can Help
Should you get your property approved for Section 8 housing in DC? If you have questions about whether or not Section 8 housing could benefit your income property in DC, we can help at FAS Management. Our professional property managers have helped property owners in the nation’s capital for over 70 years. Call us today to find out more about how we can help at (202) 337-5080!