The Housing Choice Voucher Program (HCVP), or Section 8, provides an excellent opportunity for families with extremely low incomes, the disabled, and the elderly to find safe, clean housing. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) provides funds to local public housing agencies, or PHAs, who in turn administer vouchers to qualifying people. Once a family finds a qualifying residence, the PHA directly pays its landlord a subsidy. Afterwards, the family only has to pay the landlord the difference.
The main reason landlords might want to consider qualifying their properties for Section 8 housing is that it guarantees at least a portion of the rent—the subsidy—will be paid on time each month. Furthermore, because part of the rent is already taken care of, it’s easier for the tenant to pay the rest.
To qualify your property for HCVP, here are the steps you should take:
1) Make sure your property is clean, safe, and well maintained. A property must meet a certain standard in order to qualify for HCVP. Of course, it has to meet all regular habitation and building codes. It has to be clean and safe. Make sure that electricity, gas, and water are on, that the property has working smoke detectors along with a refrigerator and stove, that all electrical outlets have cover plates, and that there are no water leaks. Remove any tripping hazards, such as bad carpeting, and all debris. Fix any broken windows, and install a working fan if the bathroom doesn't have a window.
2) Find your local Housing Authority. If you go to HUD’s official website, you will find a complete database of all Housing Authorities in the country. Visit their site to find which office covers your area.
3) Apply at your local Housing Authority. Either call or go to your local Housing Authority, where you’ll be asked to fill out an application (depending on the office, this may be available online). The standard application will ask for basic information about yourself and your property, including address, number of rooms, etc.
4) Get your unit ready for inspection (as per the tips in #1). After you submit your application, your unit will be inspected. If it passes, your property will be added to your local Housing Authority’s database for perusal by prospective Section 8 renters.
5) Mention that you are open to taking Section 8 tenants in your ads. Any landlord can advertise for HCVP renters, but if a potential tenant holds a voucher, you’ll need to submit a Request for Tenancy Approval from the Housing Authority. If you get an interested family, go through the regular screening process that you would for any other potential tenant. If the tenant is approved, your property will receive another HUD inspection. If it passes, you’ll enter into a Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) contract with the Housing Authority, and the family will sign a lease with you.
Getting your property approved for Section 8 boils down to common sense: it has to meet the same standards of habitability as for any other tenant. As long as that’s taken care of, it’s all just a matter of putting in your application and then finding the right tenant.