Do I Have to Accept Section 8? (Hint: Yes and No)

Do I have to accept Section 8

Do I have to accept Section 8Ah Section 8. If you’re a landlord, chances are you either love ‘em or hate ‘em.

Personally, I love to hate ‘em.

But the question is…do you have to rent to Section 8 tenants if you don’t want to?

I hear this one a lot, and my answer may surprise you. But first…

Why I Hate Section 8

Don’t get me wrong, I like the idea of Section 8 in its purest original form – a temporary subsidy for underprivileged, low-income folks to help with their housing while they get back on their feet.

And for landlords…basically guaranteed rent from the government. And who wouldn’t want that, right?

Me. I don’t want it.

Because after many very frustrating (to say the least) experience with Section 8, I’m convinced the system is flat out broken.

  • I’d say for every person who legitimately needs the program, there’s a dozen or more who are basically deadbeats, working the system, living off my taxpayer dollars for as long as humanly possible. Sorry if that offends you, but that’s what I’ve seen.
  • The Section 8 inspectors I’ve dealt with are notorious for always failing you at least once, no matter how nice your property is. It’s like they feel it’s their job to always fail you the first time.
  • And their nit-pickiness is flat-out mind blowing at times.

As an example of the last two points, I had one inspector pull out his pen, and tell me that if he was able to stick it under a single fleck of paint (on my freshly painted window sill) and pull it up, then he’d have to fail me for “peeling paint”.

I’ve also had one inspection result in a laundry list of silly items to “repair”, then after painstakingly tending to all of them, failed again on the second inspection due to a whole different set of “repairs” that weren’t even mentioned or noted on the last inspection.

Bottom line, I’m out. Section 8 can have their guaranteed rent – I’ll take my chances with regular tenants and common sense.

Why People Say You Can’t NOT Rent to Section 8

Whether you love or hate Section 8, you’d at least think that it should be the property owner’s right to make the decision on whether or not to participate in the program, right?

Well as you may have heard, there’s a disturbing trend emerging of municipalities across the country changing the ground rules to keep you from being able to say “No” to Section 8 tenants. One way they’re doing it is by amending laws to now prohibit landlords from discriminating based on a person’s source of income.  In short, this means that if someone has a housing voucher and can make the rental amount requested, the landlord must accept the voucher.

I say this is a gross violation of our property rights. But nobody in charge cares what I think.

How to Legally NOT Rent to Section 8 Tenants

Quickie disclaimer: I’m not giving legal advice here. Please use or don’t use this at your own risk, consult your attorney first and all that good stuff, OK?

That said, here’s my clever trick for getting around this…

Yes, we already have a “source of income” discrimination clause around here. So when I get a call from a prospective tenant, I can’t simply tell them, “Sorry, no, I don’t take Section 8”, or I’d be discriminating based on their source of income.

But remember those ridiculous inspections I mentioned earlier? Well I’m not aware of any law that requires me to have our houses 100% passable by the stringent Section 8 standards.

So basically whenever someone asks me if I take Section 8, my response is,

“Well, we always accept applications and application fees from anyone, Section 8 or otherwise. However in my experience, Section 8 tends to have a hyper-stringent property inspection that borders on the ridiculous. We’ve had properties in the past fail for a single fleck of peeling paint on one window sill, even though the entire house is freshly renovated and in excellent condition. So with this in mind, we’ll gladly accept your application. But we cannot promise you that our house will pass that level of inspection from Section 8. In fact, I’d be really surprised if it did.”

Problem poetically solved.

That’s always been enough to send them on their way, and also keep me in safe territory legally, since I didn’t turn them away – I just gave them fair warning of the likely outcome. Once I say this, they just move on.

So there you go. If, like me, you’d rather stick a hot poker in your eye than work with Section 8, this could be a way to let you have your cake, while keeping you out of hot water.

So what are your thoughts and feelings with Section 8?

I’m all ears, so leave a comment below and let’s hear it.


JP Moses is a roughly-hewn man-child who first got into REI after reading Rich Dad, Poor Dad back in Y2K and went full time in 2002. He's tinkered in everything from landlording to short sales to rehabs to Realtoring to REOs to notes to owner financing, blah, blah, blah...Till he finally stuck his flag deep into wholesaling and has since flipped somewhere north of a couple hundred deals.

JP's not a “guru” but also doesn't think it's a bad word. Among his core values are authenticity, creativity, big honkin' value, general fun-ness and being unshaven. He's super proud to be chief blogger guy at and host of the free REIology podcast. He also thoroughly enjoys sharing his 53 best real estate investing forms with anyone who wants them. You should totally check that out. 🙂

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David MySky Reply

Did you perform thorough background checks on your prospective tenants? If not, you only have yourself to blame.

David MySky Reply

One shouldn’t pay more than 35% but skyrocketing rents in just about every major urban area and its surrounding areas have pushed that percentage up to more than 50%. Wages have not kept up with rents. 45 years ago I learned that figure was only 25%.

David MySky Reply

Did you perform thorough background checks on your prospective tenants? If not, you only have yourself to blame.

David MySky Reply

You mean you have no compassion for those of us who have fallen on hard times, or have fallen due to a disability? There are people working FT for a Walmart somewhere and still qualify for S8. That’s how bad they pay their employees, that’s how bad wages have stagnated , and that’s how bad rents have skyrocketed.

Maybe you’d just rather have us all homeless and wandering about your neighborhood instead?

David MySky Reply

And if a tenant doesn’t work but has verifiable income? You can’t ask what they do all day. You’re just a bigot as evidenced by your Obama remark.

David MySky Reply

Unfortunately, CA SB1053 died in committee this year. It would have among other things, prohibit S8 discrimination, including statements in rental ads that say “No Section 8,” or something similar. You sound like a half decent landlord.

David MySky Reply


David MySky Reply

I’ll slap upside the head any bigoted landlord who refuses S8 vouchers unilaterally and then wonders where are all these homeless people coming from.

mya Reply

Sorry but section 8 tenants are trash. My mom rented to a section 8 tenant against my advice believing that she would never have a prob with getting rent because the voucher program vs. A working person who can lose their job and suddenly has no rent money. The section 8 tenant was her first tenant and last tenant. We lived in a two family home, roach and rodent free, she rented the one family as an apartment, newly renovated. $750 in NYC! I REPEAT – $750 IN NYC, GAS and Electric Utilities included! Tenant paid approx. $100 monthly. Quiet Queens neighborhood, residential with PARKING available on the premises and street parking is abundant in the neighborhood – IN NYC! the tenant would beg my mom for money weekly claiming she had no food but she received maximum food stamps for her household and SSD (tenant claimed she and her boyfriend were “former” heroine addicts). I begged my mom NOT to give them money, but she wouldn’t listen. Tenant moved her boyfriend and daughter in but rent remained the same. Her boyfriend was having mail sent regularly to the address. He told us he was receiving SSD and food stamps too BUT they would constantly beg for money! The police were constantly coming to the home because they were allegedly harboring fugitives who were their relatives. One cop brandished his gun at my sister while searching, thank God his nerves were under control. Laundry/wash room was not included so they had no access to the washroom, BUT they broke the lock so that they can access the washer and dryer when we weren’t home. They stopped paying their cable bill so they disconnected our cable wires and connected them to their units. Then suddenly she stopped paying her $100 portion of the rent! They were evicted 8 months later, then they had their friend sue us because he claimed he was injured on our property while helping them move out of the apartment. He lost his lawsuit because lack of evidence. 8 years later, her family, friends, and associates come by from time to time asking if we would rent the apartment and begging to b our tenants because the property is mint condition and price was unbeatable. My mom refused to have another tenant but it worked out for my younger bro who lives there now. Never EVER rent to Section 8. Take the application so you wont be sued but choose another tenant. It’s not worth it.

mya Reply

Not true at all. My mom evicted her sect 8 tenant for non payment, you can read my family’s horror story above

Linda Reply

I truly can understand why landlords have a problem renting section 8. I don’t dispute that some voucher holders of the section 8 program are dirty filthy animals !! It makes me so angry to see what’s done to people’s property. How can you treat people property that way ! Believe me, It not all people that utilizes the section 8 program that destroys property. My sister and her Navy Chief husband decided to rent out their home because he got deployed. On their return, they had over $10,000 in damages, and the tenants skipped out on more than 3 months behind in rent payments. These were not section 8 tenants. I divorced. Worked hard all of my life raising my children. Sometimes working 2 jobs. I became ill and could no longer work a job after 2 of my children were grown up and on their own. It is just me and my youngest son that have severe autism. We needed the section 8 program to assist with some of the rental payments in order for the 2 of us to afford decent housing. I have never, ever been late on my portion of the rent. I do not like filth, and can’t stand to be around it. Even with suffering with a severe form of rheumatoid arthritis, I always leave the property in better condition than what I found it, because that is just how I live. Now with no landlords wanting to except section 8 anymore. My son and I are forced to live in cheap, really bad neighborhoods where there are drug dealing, and drive by shootings. Where there is trash thrown all over the grounds. Filthy mouth uncontrolled teenagers. My son is an adult in age, but humble and childlike mentally. I keep him inside at all times. He is not ever allowed outside unless we are walking from the door to a car. He does not understand the danger of living in this sort of neighborhood, but I do. I just don’t think that people like my son and I should suffer because others destroy people’s property. I do not like getting assistance from section 8 because I have been independent all of my life, and took care of myself and family. Because I am now ill, almost 60 and can not work, and need assistance. Why should my son and I be punished along with the bad ones ?!! It is not fear too us !!

lola Reply

actually landlords are required to paint and clean the carpets with each new tenant…

lola Reply

Also its tenants responsibility to keep the unit clean, pay the agreed upon utilities,and abide by the rules.. However, you should be ashamed of yourself, due the fact that its the landlords responsibility for upkeep, maintenance and repairs of that said unit… Otherwise your on the verge of being considered a slum landlord..

Robo Reply

Incorrect. Cite the law.

Robo Reply

There are plenty of situations where landlords wouldn’t paint. I rented plenty of places that didn’t have fresh paint but were more than adequate because the prior tenant took good care of them. There’s no law that requires fresh paint or steam cleaning of carpets.

Robo Reply

“As needed” is very subjective.

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