What Is A Section 8 Real Estate Investor? [Pros and Cons]

Published on June 30, 2023

What Is A Section 8 Real Estate Investor?

What Is A Section 8 Real Estate Investor?

What Is A Section 8 Real Estate Investor? [Pros and Cons]

In real estate investing, there are different strategies and opportunities you can focus on depending on the risks you can take and your expected returns. One of these is the relatively lesser-known niche of Section 8 investments. 

This blog will introduce you to the concept of Section 8 real estate investing, the role it plays in the housing market, the financial and social benefits that can be gained when you choose this niche, and the challenges you might face. 

Whether you are a seasoned investor seeking new opportunities or a beginner looking to get your feet wet in real estate investment, understanding Section 8 investing could be a game-changer for your business.

What is Section 8 Housing?

What is Section 8 Housing?

Section 8, also known as the Housing Choice Voucher program, is a federal rental assistance program in the United States designed to help lower-income individuals and families afford housing in the private market. 

Administered by local public housing agencies (PHAs), this program was established by the Housing and Community Development Act of 1937, with the "Section 8" term derived from a later amendment.

Eligible recipients of Section 8 tenant based assistance (those who earn 30% or less of their area's median income) are given housing vouchers, which they can use to pay rent on apartments, houses, or other forms of housing that meet program requirements. 

Rather than being confined to housing projects or certain areas with private landlords, the housing voucher recipients or low income renters have the flexibility to choose where they want to live, provided the housing passes a health and safety inspection and falls within a certain monthly rent range. 

A unique aspect of Section 8 housing is that the tenant pays a portion of the rent, typically 30% of their median income, directly to the landlord, and the PHA pays the rest. 

For real estate investors, this guaranteed monthly payment from the government makes Section 8 investing an attractive option. In the subsequent sections of this article, we'll delve deeper into the intricacies of Section 8 housing investment, its benefits, and potential pitfalls.

Two Types of Section 8 Housing Program Provided by the Local Public Housing Authority

Two Types of Section 8 Housing Program Provided by the Local Public Housing Authority

The Section 8 Housing Program has two main types: the Housing Choice Voucher Program (often referred to as Voucher-Based Assistance) and the Project-Based Voucher Program (or Project-Based Assistance). 

While both aim to provide affordable housing for low-income families, the implementation, choice of housing, and direct beneficiaries differ between the two.

Housing Choice Voucher Program or Voucher-Based Assistance

This is the most well-known and commonly utilized form of Section 8 assistance. Under this program, eligible recipients are provided with housing vouchers that they can use to rent housing in the private market as long as the housing meets program standards and the landlord agrees to accept the voucher. 

This gives tenants considerable flexibility in terms of where they live. The tenants pay a portion of the rent (usually 30% of their income) directly to the landlord, and the local Public Housing Agency (PHA) pays the remainder. 

The voucher is tenant-based, meaning it is tied to the individual or family receiving assistance. If they choose to move, they can take their voucher with them.

Project-Based Voucher (PBV) Program or Project-Based Assistance

Unlike the Housing Choice Voucher Program, the PBV program ties assistance to specific housing units, not the tenant. 

If a tenant moves out of a PBV unit, they do not take the assistance with them. Instead, the next tenant who moves in, if they are eligible, can benefit from the subsidy. 

These units are generally part of specific housing projects that contract with the PHA to provide a certain number of units for low-income tenants. The landlord agrees to either rent these units to tenants who have been screened and approved by the PHA, or the PHA itself may run the building and act as landlord.

Pros of Investing in Section 8 Housing

Pros of Investing in Section 8 Housing

Investing in Section 8 housing can open up a great opportunity for real estate investors. It is why more and more investors are looking into this niche, whether they are seasoned or new in the business. 

If you are undecided as to whether this path is for you, check out the following benefits:

Regular Monthly Rent Payments

A significant advantage of Section 8 investments is the consistency of income even though you're dealing with a tenant with low-income level. A portion of the rent, often the majority, is paid directly to the landlord by the government, ensuring regularity and reducing the risk of missed rental payments.

Higher Rents

In many cases, the Fair Market Rents determined by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for Section 8 properties can be higher than what the local rental market might dictate. This means landlords could potentially earn more from a Section 8 tenant compared to a non-Section 8 tenant.

Incentives to Maintain the Rental Property

To remain eligible for the program, Section 8 properties must meet specific health and safety standards, requiring regular maintenance. While this might seem like a challenge, it can be an incentive to keep properties in good condition, thereby preserving or potentially enhancing their value over time.

Large Pool of Prospective Tenants

With a growing need for affordable housing, there is a large pool of prospective tenants who qualify for Section 8 assistance. This can lead to lower vacancies and quicker tenant turnover.

Longer-Term Renters

Many Section 8 tenants tend to stay for longer periods, as their options for housing can be limited. Longer tenancies can reduce costs related to vacancy and tenant turnover.

Free Advertising Opportunity

Many public housing agencies (PHAs) provide free listing services for landlords who accept Section 8 vouchers, reducing advertising costs and aiding in quicker tenant placement.

Tax Credits

Landlords of Section 8 properties may qualify for certain tax credits, such as the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC). This program provides tax incentives for landlords to develop low-income housing.

Pre-Screened Tenants

Before tenants receive a voucher, they undergo a screening process through the PHA. While this doesn't guarantee problem-free tenancies, it can provide a degree of assurance about the tenant's background.

Cons of Investing in Section 8 Housing

Cons of Investing in Section 8 Housing

While investing in Section 8 housing can present numerous benefits, it's also essential to understand the potential challenges and drawbacks associated with this investment strategy.

These potential drawbacks don't necessarily mean you should avoid investing in Section 8 housing. Many of these challenges can be effectively managed when you do your due diligence.

Government Bureaucracy

Section 8 landlords must adhere to a lot of rules and regulations or government bureaucracy, which can sometimes be complicated and overwhelming. These regulations can dictate everything from the lease terms to how repairs and maintenance are handled.

Delayed Payments From the Local Public Housing Agency

Although the government guarantees a portion of the rent for project based Section 8 tenants, there can be delays, particularly when a new tenant is moving in.

The housing authority must inspect and approve the rental unit before the first payment is made, which can take several weeks after the lease agreement has been signed by you, the tenant, and the property managers.

Rent Limits

Rent amounts for Section 8 housing are based on fair market rent determined by HUD not by your or a property management company.

While this can sometimes be higher than market rent, it can also be lower, limiting the potential income from the property. You can't also ask for rent increase just because you want to.

No Security Deposits

Depending on local regulations, landlords might not be allowed to charge a security deposit, or the amount could be minimal. This could potentially lead to higher out-of-pocket costs if a tenant causes damage beyond normal wear and tear.

Accounting Delays

The housing authority could delay rent payments, especially the first rent payment, due to the long bureaucratic process, disrupting your cash flow.

Costly Inspections

Section 8 properties are subject to regular inspections to ensure they meet the program's quality standards. If a property fails to pass strict inspections, you are responsible for making the necessary repairs, which can be costly.

Potentially More Damages to the Rental Property

Some landlords have reported higher incidences of wear and tear because of Section 8 tenant damages, which could lead to increased maintenance and repair costs on top of the utility costs.

Delinquent Tenants or Problem Tenants

While Section 8 tenants are prescreened by the PHA, this doesn't necessarily mean they'll always be responsible for your rental housing. There's still the risk of damage to the property, nonpayment of the tenant's portion of the rent, or other lease violations especially if the tenant has criminal history.

Difficulty Evicting Tenants

Evicting a Section 8 tenant or local housing authority tenant can be more challenging and time-consuming than evicting private pay tenants due to the protections in place for government-assisted tenants. Remember that the Section 8 tenant income is relatively low so they can't easily find a property owner that would sign a lease agreement with them.

Risky Lower-End Neighborhoods

Many Section 8 properties are located in lower-income areas, which can be riskier in terms of property damage, crime, and lower appreciation rates.

How to Invest in Section 8 Rental Property

How to Invest in Section 8 Rental Property

Investing in Section 8 rental property can be a fruitful venture, but it does require careful planning and understanding of the specifics of the housing assistance. 

It's also crucial to remember that every local PHA may have slightly different rules and regulations, so always make sure you're working closely with your local PHA and potentially a legal advisor experienced in Section 8 housing to ensure you're in full compliance with all regulations.

Step 1. Find Eligible Section 8 Properties

The first step involves finding properties that are suitable for the Section 8 program. Suitable properties should be located in areas with a demand for Section 8 housing and must meet the Health and Safety standards set by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). 

It may be beneficial to work with a real estate agent experienced in Section 8 properties for this step.

Step 2. Contact Your Local PHA for Application Instructions

Once you have identified potential properties, you should contact your local Public Housing Agency (PHA) for instructions on how to apply to become a Section 8 landlord. 

The PHA can guide you through the process, which usually involves providing details about the property, agreeing to accept project based vouchers, setting a reasonable rent instead of a higher rent, and understanding your obligations as a landlord under the program.

Step 3. Prepare the Section 8 Home for Inspection

Before your property can be rented to a Section 8 tenant, it will need to pass an inspection conducted by the PHA. 

This ensures that the property meets HUD's Housing Quality Standards. You should be prepared to make any necessary repairs to the property to pass this inspection.

Step 4. Make a Tenant Selection Plan

As a Section 8 landlord, you'll need to develop a plan for selecting tenants. This includes understanding the screening process conducted by the PHA to create a verified waiting list, setting criteria for your tenants through a point system (which must be in line with Fair Housing laws), employing the help of leasing agents and property managers, and understanding how to handle the voucher payment system. 

Step 5. Choose and Manage Tenants

Once the property passes the approval process for subsidized housing, you can begin the process of selecting tenants. You can choose to list your property with the PHA, which can then refer potential tenants to you, or you can advertise your property on your own. 

It's important to screen potential tenants carefully (without discriminating) and to treat Section 8 tenants the same way you would treat non-Section 8 tenants.

After selecting tenants and the housing assistance payments contract has been signed, the role of property owners shift to property management, which includes collecting rent, maintaining the property, enforcing the lease, and complying with the PHA and HUD regulations.

Tips for Section 8 Landlords

Tips for Section 8 Landlords

Property management as a Section 8 landlord can be rewarding, but it also requires careful management to ensure success. As such, you should always maintain professionalism and adhere strictly to the guidelines set by HUD and your local PHA. 

Here are some more helpful tips for landlords to effectively manage their Section 8 properties:

  • Do regular property inspections. In addition to the inspections conducted by the Public Housing Agency (PHA), it's a good idea for landlords to visit the property regularly. This can help you catch any maintenance issues early before they turn into larger, more expensive problems. Regular strict inspections can also help you ensure tenants comply with their lease obligations when you rent properties.
  • Remove non-essential items in the property. By reducing the number of non-essential items in the property, such as luxurious fittings or fancy appliances, you can reduce the risk of damage and the potential costs of maintenance and repairs. Stick with sturdy, functional items that can withstand regular use.
  • Screen your tenants well. While the PHA does conduct a background check, landlords should still conduct their own screening process. This can include checking references, verifying income, and assessing the potential tenant's rental history. Remember, it's essential to follow all laws and regulations regarding potential tenant screening for project based Section 8, including Fair Housing Laws.
  • Tenant-proof the property. Choose durable, easy-to-clean finishes and materials for flooring, countertops, and walls. This can help your property withstand wear and tear better and can make the turnover process easier when a tenant moves out.
  • Manage your tenants strictly. When investing in Section 8, ensure that tenants understand their obligations under the lease and that you are prepared to enforce these terms. This includes timely payment of their portion of the rent, appropriate behavior, and respect for the property. Communicate regularly and clearly with your tenants, and don't let issues slide.
  • Send eviction warning notice immediately. If a tenant violates the lease while being given housing assistance, such as failing to pay their portion of the rent or causing excessive damage to the property, don't hesitate to send a warning notice. Document all issues in case eviction becomes necessary later. However, remember that evicting a Section 8 tenant can be a complex process and requires the landlord to follow specific procedures. 

Summary: How to Become a Section 8 Real Estate Investor [Pros and Cons]

Investing in Section 8 housing can provide a steady income stream, thanks to government-backed tenant's rent payments, while offering a critical service to low-income individuals and families in need of quality but affordable housing. 

However, like any investment, Section 8 real estate comes with its own set of challenges and risks. It's crucial to carefully consider these factors, along with the potential rewards, before diving into this market. 

If you have decided that Section 8 real estate investing is for you, start finding eligible houses by contacting us at Property Leads! We offer high-quality seller leads in all your target areas and we’ll sell them to you exclusively to lessen your competition!

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