To maintain and grow your rental housing business, you rely on tenants to pay the rent in full and on-time each month. Unfortunately, the financial and personal hardships of your tenants will inevitably impact you and your business. A job loss, divorce, car trouble, or health problem affecting your tenant will become your hardship when the rent is not paid.
By partnering with your local housing authority, you will have access to tenants with valuable rental subsidies, which are designed to protect tenants from life’s adverse events and provide you with greater financial security.
The most common rental subsidy program provided by housing authorities is the federally funded Housing Choice Voucher program (also known as Section 8). Here are some of the top financial advantages enjoyed by property owners who rent to voucher tenants.
On-Time, Convenient Payments
The housing authority pays their portion of the rent on the first of each month, and most housing authorities offer the convenience of direct deposit. From the housing authority, you will not hear excuses about why the rent is late. Instead, you will receive guaranteed income
Protection from Tenant Financial Losses
What happens when your tenant loses his job and cannot afford to pay the rent? You have to go through an expensive eviction process, which will lead to more lost rent, right? Not if your tenant is on the voucher program. When a voucher tenant’s income decreases, the housing authority’s portion increases to cover the loss of income. In a way, the voucher is like an insurance policy, covering you against tenant income losses.
Free Marketing and Endless Supply of Potential Tenants
The housing authority offers a free unit listing service. By advertising with the housing authority or through one of their referral websites, you will have access to a large pool of tenants ready to rent from you. As with all applicants, you should screen any potential voucher tenants for suitability.
Incentive for Tenant Lease Compliance
Eviction is costly and problem tenants can harm your bottom line in other ways. Each voucher tenant must comply with a list of family obligations in order to remain eligible for assistance. The family obligations are the tenant’s contract with the housing authority which includes assurance that the family will not commit any serious or repeated violations of the lease. To increase tenant compliance, most housing authorities provide counseling, warnings or reminders to tenants who have received notices from their landlords and are at risk of eviction. If it is proven that a tenant violated their lease, the tenant may be terminated from the voucher program. Because of long waiting lists and limited funding for the program, it is virtually impossible for a tenant to get back on the voucher program once they have been terminated. Therefore, voucher tenants are motivated to be good tenants.
Safeguard Against Lost Rent during Eviction
Unfortunately, not every tenant (voucher tenant or not) will live up to their lease agreement and you will be forced to evict. If this occurs with a voucher tenant, the housing authority will continue to pay the housing authority’s share of the rent throughout the eviction process until the date the tenant moves out or is locked out.
The housing authorities want to expand housing opportunities for voucher participants where- ever possible. This means that the housing authority can pay market rent as long as comparable rents exist in the neighborhood and the tenant’s rent portion is affordable. If your unit is not subject to local rent control rules, there are no caps on rent increases for voucher tenants, as long as comparable rents continue to exist in the neighborhood.
Prevention of Overcrowding
In today’s hot rental market where rents are increasing faster than incomes, tenants are adding wage earners to their household in order to afford the rent. Throughout southern California, families are doubled or tripled up in two and three bedroom units. Overcrowding is bad for a landlord’s bottom line as it increases utility costs, places additional wear and tear on the unit, and leads to conflicts between neighbors. By renting to a voucher tenant, you will not be faced with overcrowding. The housing authority restricts the number of individuals allowed in the unit according to the number of bedrooms in the unit, and by basing a voucher tenant’s rent portion on their income, the tenant does not need to add additional people to the unit in order to afford the rent.
Free Periodic Unit Inspections
Have you ever had a tenant not report a minor problem and it turned into costly repair? Under the voucher program, the housing authority conducts periodic unit inspections. Usually, the repairs requested by the housing authority are minor and related to routine maintenance. However, the inspection can reveal a problem in its early stages, such as a small roof leak, minor plumbing issue, or termite problem, before significant damage is done.
If you are not yet convinced that the Housing Choice Voucher program can improve your bottom line, a number of southern California housing authorities offer a range of extra services to participating landlords, such as signing bonuses, free educational workshops, payment of damages exceeding the security deposit, payment of rent to hold vacant units, and payment of tenant security deposits. Check with your local housing authority to find out what they have to offer. For a southern California directory of housing authorities, visit the landlord resources page at http://www.cahahousing.org
Kristin Maithonis is Housing Manager at the City of Norwalk Housing Authority. For more information, call (562) 929-5653 or email [email protected].