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If a prospective tenant asks, "Do you accept Section 8?" how do you respond? Can you say no, or must you always say yes?
Some landlords like having Section 8 tenants because it's a guaranteed source of on-time rental income. However, others are wary of having to deal with Section 8 bureaucracy and would like to avoid it altogether.
Do landlords have a choice, or do they have to accept a Section 8 tenant?
What Is Section 8?
Section 8 of the Housing Act of 1937 created the Housing Choice Voucher Program. The program, more commonly known as Section 8, provides rent assistance to low income individuals.
Section 8 allows participants to pay up to 30 percent of their adjusted income for rent. Section 8 vouchers cover the rest of the rent amount.
When a Section 8 participant picks a unit to rent, Section 8 housing authority will inspect the rental unit for building and safety code compliance. Common requirements include having an alternate exit in case of fire, working locks on every door or window, safe electrical wiring, working plumbing, and a sufficient number of fire alarms. The housing authority must approve of the unit and the landlord before a landlord can accept Section 8 vouchers.
Section 8 Discrimination
Under the Housing Act, there is no provision requiring a landlord to accept Section 8 vouchers. However, some state and local Fair Housing laws, such as Chicago's Fair Housing Ordinance, do prohibit discrimination based on source of income.
If your city or state prohibits this type of discrimination, you cannot reject all Section 8 applicants outright. You cannot advertise "No Section 8 Accepted" or "Section 8 Do Not Apply." However, this does not mean you are required to accept every prospective tenant with a Section 8 voucher.
You must consider any prospective Section 8 tenant as you would any other tenant. You cannot make screening harder or charge higher rent. If you have multiple units in your building, you cannot limit Section 8 tenants to certain areas or floors of your building.
If you are considering participating in Section 8, consult with an experienced landlord-tenant attorney to learn more about the requirements in your area.