Navigating the maze that is known as Section 8 or Government Housing

by jay.raman@ashokalion.com 11, January 2011 17:39

Today, Ashoka Lion has been working with several property owners to help assist them fill a vacancy. These owners were open to the Section 8 housing program tenants, and we have located tenants to fill those vacancies. The Section 8 or Government Housing Program is a huge program that provides subsidized rent for hundreds of thousands of tenants a year. When we work with the tenants, we have to not only lease the property to them, but we must help get all paperwork for these governement housing programs on behalf of the owner and provide the housing officials all the appropriate documents.

The typical housing packet submission requires a general warranty deed, copy of the rental owner's drivers license, copy social security, and a signed w-9 form to prove the owner's identity and mailing address. In addition to these documents, the assistance packet provided to the tenant must also be filled out. In addition, you must examine the voucher as the packet of information is commonly called to insure that all the appropriate signatures have been obtained. A packet missing a signature will not be allowed to be submitted to the housing department if the intake personnel notices any missing items. Though this is a good thing, it can also be extremely painful, when they try to tell you that a w-9 filled out by a owner in 2009 is not valid for submission with a packet being submitted in 2011, even though the owner's information has not changed. Another painful rejection that we have encountered is that they try to require that the w-9 be in original ink, which is very difficult to get in a timely manner from owners who are not in state owners in the Houston or Dallas areas.

After wading through the paper intensive submission process, the housing authority will call to setup a inspection of the property that we submitted the packet. The inspection will consist of a variety of issues from requiring that all the utilities be on for the inspection, insuring appliances are present at the property (even if landlord is not providing them), and having a person over the age of 18 present for the inspection. Ashoka Lion requests that tenants be present at the property for the inspecction, but if not, we will be at the property if given proper notice of when a inspector will arrive.

After the inspection is passed, the landlord will have to now sign the lease that was partially filled out (housing usually keeps the effective date blank) till it is determined after the inspection. Additionally, if our property management submitted the lease with a rent amount and this rental amount is not accepted; then Housing Authority will request our property management team adjust lease to the acceptable rent by the housing authority (assuming the landlord is okay with this approved amount). After this is submitted, a contract is then mailed to our rental owner to sign with the contracted amount, and period of the initial lease (usually one year). This contract must be signed and submitted to housing to process the paperwork.

It is important to keep copies of all documents submitted.  It has been our experience that the Housing authority will not accept a fully completed packet, but if they do not locate the paperwork will try to blame the property manager for missing documents. How can a document be missing if the Housing Authorities intake personnel are not allowed to accept partially completed voucher packets?  In our property management team's experience, this usually has to do with the housing authority misplacing these document and then deferring blame to the property manager.  Also, it is important to make sure your prospective tenants provides you a case worker to contact to insure that the paperwork is moving along in a timely manner. We try to email correspondence to show a time stamp with our communications just in case it is argued that we were not making good faith attempts to resolve matters.

The entire process of submission to payment can often take 60 to 90 day for a check to be issued. Even with our history, it is always fun to hear a prospective tenant tell me interesting facts like "Housing will pay you in 2 weeks" or "Housing will allow me to pay more then the stated rent". If Housing were to allow you to pay more rent, then why would they subsidize your rent for the amount that they will? Tenants rarely have a answer to that question.

Working with the Housing Authority is like working with any large entity (slow and often times confusing), however the rewards to owners can be a steady stream of rental income. As long as the owner is comfortable with slower delay at the begining of the contract, as well periodic inspection spurring repairs; then the Housing authority does provide a steady stream of rent for owners. In this day and age, the certainty of rent may trump the discomfort with the process of dealing with a large organization with tons of red tape.