A question that often comes up from prospective Seattle Area rental property owners is whether or not they have to accept Section 8 applicants.
Many do not even know what exactly Section 8 means.
Understanding the Section 8 Program
Section 8 is basically a program developed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) where a low-income tenant can apply for housing assistance. This means the government will pay a portion of the rent every month directly to the landlord and the applicant will pay the remaining portion. That portion will change based on the income status of the resident. There is paperwork that needs to be filed with HUD in order to have a Section 8 person in your property. The property also must be inspected and designated as safe and habitable.
Do You Need to Accept Section 8 in Your Seattle Area Rental Property?
In Washington State, there is a law that impacts Section 8 tenants and your responsibilities as a landlord. The rule states that you need to accept certain forms of income when you’re accepting tenants. Because Section 8 is a form of income, this means every landlord needs to accept a Section 8 applicant who is otherwise qualified. This would apply state wide.
Some property owners are wary of Section 8, but at SJA Property Management, we have found that this can be a really great and positive situation if done correctly. You have the government guaranteeing a certain portion of the rent every single month, which provides some security and consistency to your rental income. Also we’ve found that Section 8 tenants say longer on average, decreasing your vacancy rate.
Follow the Section 8 Policies
When you have accepted and approved a Section 8 tenant for your rental home, you want to make sure you have certain policies in place to give you the best chance of positive outcomes. You want to make sure you are screening the applicant as you would any other tenant.
There is an exception with this, and that pertains to what you’re looking for when you’re evaluating rent to income ratio. You may be using a rent to income ratio of three times the monthly rent or two-and-a-half times the monthly rent, which means that in order to be approved for your property, a prospective tenant must earn at least the equivalent of two-and-a-half or three times the rent every month.
However, with a Section 8 applicant, you would only be making that requirement on the portion that they are paying towards the rent. So, if they are paying $500 of a $1500 a month rental, they would need to make two-and-a-half or three times the $500.
If the tenant does meet all of your other rental qualifications and you do your walk-throughs and get the properly set up with HUD, it can be a very beneficial landlord/tenant relationship. Often, we have found that these HUD applicants stay in the property a lot longer, which means lower vacancy rates for you. This works out really well.
If you have any more questions regarding Section 8 or any landlord related issues, please feel free to contact us at SJA Property Management.