Reasons to Consider Tenants with Housing Choice Vouchers
How Working with Housing Agencies Can Be Advantageous for Landlords
By Jerome Ryans, President & CEO Tampa Housing Authority
You meet with a prospective tenant to show them an apartment. You have a nice conversation. As the tour is drawing to a close, the tenant asks, "Do you accept housing vouchers?"
Without quite knowing why, you feel uncomfortable. You wonder: "Is this the start of a long and complicated process that will ultimately result in my inconvenience - and maybe even financial loss?"
These are common misconceptions about tenants with housing vouchers: that rent will not arrive reliably, apartments will be overstuffed with people, and the landlord/tenant process will be encumbered by bureaucracy.
The reality is that you have a lot to gain as a landlord or property manager by opening your doors to tenants with housing vouchers. Read on to learn about the advantages and stability of working with public housing agencies.
Reasons to Consider Tenants with Housing Choice Vouchers
If you are unfamiliar with the Housing Choice Voucher, a.k.a. Section 8, process, you may feel put off by tenants with housing vouchers, but there are ample, tangible benefits to working with tenants who use housing vouchers. Not the least of which: affordable housing tenants can provide you with a consistent flow of renters who are more insulated from economic fluctuations.
First, let's talk about the nuts and bolts of how renting to tenants with vouchers works.
What's the Process?
Let's clarify the steps to accepting housing vouchers so that it feels less anxiety-inducing. It is far more feasible than you expect, and many landlords believe the pros outweigh the cons of paperwork.
Once a tenant finds you and presents a housing voucher, here's how you would move forward:
Fill out a request for tenancy approval, likely using the housing agency's online form - you'll describe the unit's rent price, location, and utility costs.
If the housing agency determines the family is eligible, they schedule an inspection of the unit and a set rent amount is agreed upon.
If your rental passes inspection, the tenant signs the lease!
Although each step can take some time, it can be worth the wait - as we'll detail below.
Reliable Rent Payments
Worried that a tenant using a Housing Choice Voucher will present more financial instability than a non-voucher tenant? Actually, their rent payments are more stable than the average tenant in some important ways.
A guaranteed percentage of rent will be paid through their housing program. You will not even need to interact with the tenant for the agency's portion of the rent, bypassing the hassle of collecting checks. Instead, the housing agency will set up a direct deposit to your bank account on the same date each month.
In general, you can expect that 70% of the tenant's rent will be covered by the voucher, leaving the remaining 30% to the tenant. It is worth noting that tenants may pay a bit more depending on rent to owner and income.
This opens up more possibilities for the units that your Housing Choice Voucher tenants can occupy. You are not necessarily confined to your lowest cost units.
The tenant's rent will be protected from income variability. That is, if the tenant experiences an income change from job loss, the percentage paid by the housing voucher can increase to cover it. This helps stabilize the chain of income passing from tenant to landlord, no matter the tenant's financial situation.
Public Housing Agencies may also help tenants with security deposits. Even when a tenant has steady employment, saving up for a deposit may remain an obstacle, especially if they're jumping between short-term housing situations. Through an agreement with Hillsborough County, for example, the Tampa Housing Authority receives funding for security deposits to assist families on a first come first serve basis. Governmental agencies often work in tandem to ease that security deposit burden for people in need of housing.
Contrary to what some people believe, it is not simple or easy to acquire a Housing Choice Voucher. The tenants who do obtain it and find housing often stay there for a long time, so they don't have to go through the process again.
In other words, you are more likely to gain tenants who stay for years - and you'll avoid the empty gap periods of tenants who move in and out in smaller time windows.
Your Unit Is More Likely to Be Well Maintained
Vouchers will include housing inspections to hold you and the tenants accountable for keeping the unit in good shape. This is one of the extra steps of the housing voucher process. The purpose of the inspection is to ensure that your unit meets HUD's Housing Quality Standards, as well as any local housing agency standards.
While it could seem like one more delay to move-in day, it does also mean that a clear bar is set for the unit's condition when the tenant moves out. Damage or mitigation funds may be available to you when a family moves out and damages can be documented.
Free Outreach to Potential Tenants
When you agree to work with housing voucher programs, your properties will be listed in housing resources for future tenants. In Florida, owners can list units at FloridaHousingSearch.org. This can be advantageous as free advertising, especially because agencies will refer potential tenants to those listings.
As you may have noticed from this article, it is a relationship and a give-and-take. While you do have to slow down and go through the housing agencies' processes before tenants move in, you also receive a steady stream of viable tenants.
Building Up Your Community Through Stable Housing
We have talked about how accepting housing voucher tenants can make good business sense as a landlord. Now let's talk about the good that you are doing for your city.
It should be fairly obvious, you are helping some of the most vulnerable members in your community secure housing. When a person has a stable place to live, they're able to build wealth and focus on other constructive aspects of their life like health, education, and career. From this stable base, a person can become an active and contributing member of their community.
When you accept housing vouchers, you are enabling people to put down roots. For the price of one apartment, that is worth a lot.
Change the Paradigm on the Housing Choice Voucher Program
As you can see, working with your local housing agencies to have them send folks your way can lessen vacancies and increase your long-term rental equity - while contributing to the stability and growth of your community. Isn't that something good for everyone?
Are you a property owner or manager in Hillsborough County? Apply to become a Tampa Housing Authority Landlord today! Visit tampaha.org/landlords for more information.