Having trouble finding a landlord who will accept your housing voucher? You are not alone. Tips and tricks from readers who went on a landlord search and actually found one:
First: Figure Out How Much You Can Spend
🌸 If you are out looking for a house, the first thing you need to know is how much your voucher will pay for rent. The amount will be written somewhere in your paperwork, but it may be confusing or difficult to find. If you’d like to understand more: How Do Payment Standards and Utility Allowances Work?
🌸 Update: We’ve been hearing back from many readers who say no one at their Housing Authority explained utility allowances, so they spent weeks looking in the wrong price range, or paying application fees at places that were then denied. If the landlord is not paying utilities, please make sure to deduct utility costs. See the link above for more information on how to do this.
Tips for Searching
🌸 Where to look: 13 Places to Find Landlords Who Accept Housing Vouchers
🌸 If there at least one disabled adult in your household… If a property says “seniors only” or “elderly only” always call and ask “Do you accept younger people with disabilities?” Many times these properties will accept a household as long as ONE adult is disabled. However many do not accept children.
🌸 If anyone in your household is over 55, also call the “senior” buildings and ask what age “senior” starts at.
🌸 Some readers report better success if they do not mention the voucher until after they have met the landlord and made a good impression (For small private landlords. Large buildings and agencies may have a firm policy).
Special Legal Protections
🌸 Some areas have Source of Income Discrimination Laws. In these areas, you all landlords must accept vouchers. Please check the link above to find out if these laws exist in your area.
🌸 Even though this is the law, some of our readers still have problems getting turned down by landlords. Lilac found a solution. Here’s how she did it: How I Got Every Landlord in Town to Accept My Housing Voucher
🌸 When you put in a rental application, it’s a good idea to also send the landlord an email letting them know about source of income discrimination laws, and requesting these be followed. Here’s a great letter you can use: Lilac’s Letter for Source of Income Discrimination Protection
🌸 If a landlord violates source of income laws, you can contact Fair Housing agencies in your area and report them for discrimination. Another option is to send them a short email letting them know that you believe they have unlawfully violated fair housing laws, along with a link to the laws in your state. Let them know that you would still like to rent the property. It is amazing how quickly many landlords will suddenly change their mind.
Deposits and First Month’s Rent
🌸 In some areas, it’s possible to find assistance with security deposits and other fees. Not possible everywhere: How to Escape Move-In Fees
🌸 You are not allowed to pay rent until the place is approved by the Housing Authority, and the Housing Authority gives you a written notice telling you how much your share will be.
🌸 It is better not to pay a security deposit until after inspection has passed. Some readers found that if they lived in an area without source of income protection, no landlord would hold the apartment unless they gave a hold fee. In this case, they decided to pay a hold fee that went towards the security deposit. However, they only did this if the landlord signed a letter stating that the full amount be would be returned if the apartment is not approved by the housing authority or does not pass inspection.
🌸 Important: Never sign a lease until the apartment has passed inspection, and the Housing Authority has reviewed the lease, and your housing worker tells you that it is OK to sign. If you sign a lease before this, and something goes wrong, you could be in a very bad position.
🌸 Some landlords require that you have a certain amount of income or they will reject you. If this happens to you look here: How I Got Around Landlord Requirements for Income 3x Rent
🌸 Here’s the text Hazel sent when this happened to her: Hazel Speaks Up About Minimum Income Requirements
Will You Get Approved?
You can learn more about whether you will get approved, or why you were denied, or what you can do about it, by getting a copy of the tenant selection criteria. Learn more here: How Tenant Selection Policies Work
This is Impossible!
🌸 In some cases, you may find it difficult (or impossible) to find a place within your payment standard. If this happens, you may still have a few options: How to Use Your Housing Voucher When the Rent is Too High
🌸 If you or someone in your household is disabled and has special housing needs, you can request a higher voucher. This is a complicated request to make, but with the right documentation it is possible: Requesting an Increased Payment Standard
It can be hard to find a place where the new lease starts the same day the old lease ends. Here’s two ways you can get more flexibility:
🌸 Overlapping Assistance – If you have overlapping assistance, your Housing Authority will let you keep your voucher at both places at once. This can give you more time to move and more flexility in moving dates. For example, if you get 10 days of overlapping assistance, your housing voucher pays rent at both places for 10 days. Some Housing Authorities will automatically give overlapping assistance to anyone who asks for it. Others will not do this, but you can still request it as a disability accommodation. See link above to learn how.
🌸 Escape Clause – If you have an early escape clause in your lease, you will be able to break the lease with 30 days notice or 60 days notice. Some landlords automatically put a clause like this in every lease. Some landlords do it in a lease renewal after you have been there for one year. Other landlord will not do this, but you can still request it as a disability accommodation.
🌸 If time is running out to find a place, just take any place you can no matter when the lease starts.
🌸 As soon as you submit the paperwork from the landlord, the voucher will freeze and you will be able to apply for the place. Even if the lease starts after your voucher expires.
🌸 Example: Jack’s voucher expires January 10. On January 5, he finds an apartment, but it is not ready and available til February 15. On January 6, he submits the landlord paperwork to the Housing Authority. His voucher freezes. On February 15 there is an inspection. He moves in later that day.
🌸 Update: HUD is now allowing Housing Authorities to create a policy that they will no longer have a freeze. We have not yet come across a Housing Authority with a policy like this, but it’s possible.
🌸 The housing authority has forms it needs filled out by the new landlord. It’s called request for tenancy approval – RFTA.
🌸 Many of our readers found that things went more smoothly if they brought these forms when they went to view the apartment, sat with landlord and filled them out together, and then personally mailed, faxed or delivered them by hand to the Housing Authority.
🌸 Update: Some of our readers are reporting problems when leaving the landlords to submit this paperwork. If you can submit it yourself, you can be sure it got in, and get a receipt. Some Housing Authorities will allow someone to scan and email it in. There are also free online fax services.
🌸 If someone in your household is disabled, and this makes it harder to find housing, you can request a longer search time. If anyone tells you that you cannot do this, do not listen. My Housing Worker Said, “No More Voucher Extensions”
🌸 Some of our readers have requested extensions for ten months or more. You can also request to get your voucher back after you ran out of time.
🌸 If you are too ill to move, but don’t want to lose your spot, here’s a clever solution Basil found: Basil Gets to the Top of the Section 8 Waiting List… And Stays There
Creative Living Situations
🌸 Some people have managed to make rentals work by getting creative! In some cases, this might include renting a room instead of an apartment, renting a place owned by family, living with roommates, adding household members, or other creative options: I Have a Housing Voucher. Can I Rent a Room? Can I Live With Other People?
Move Your Voucher
Some areas are easier to find housing than others. You could consider moving your voucher to a different area. This is called “porting.” There are two ways this could be possible:
🌸 One: You already live where your voucher is issued. If you already live where your voucher is issued, sometimes porting is easy. All you have to do is ask. Other times, you may need to request an accommodation. Learn more: How to Port
🌸 Two: You got a voucher somewhere else. If you don’t live in the same area where your voucher was issued, it gets more complicated. Sometimes you will have to move to the new area for 12 months first. If someone in the household is disabled, sometimes you can request an accommodation to skip the twelve months. Learn more: Moving a Voucher to You
More Disability Accommodations
Accommodations that some of or readers have found helpful while seeking landlords.
Requests to Housing Authority:
- Increasing Number of Bedrooms
- Rent a Place Owned by a Relative
- Longer Search Time
- Get Voucher Back If Ran Out of Time
Requests to landlords:
- Criminal Background Problems
- Credit Checks Problems
- Past Evictions Problems
- Bad Landlord References
- Assistance Animals in Buildings with “No Pet” policies
If you are having trouble getting approved, here are some court cases you can use to help advocate for yourself:
- Landlord Must Accept Low Income or Poor Credit (page 240)
- Landlord Must Accept Low Income
- Landlord Must Accept Voucher
🌸 If you don’t love the first place you find, you can always move in one place as a starter, and then start getting on waiting lists for nicer places.
Low Income Tax Credit Properties
🌸 Some Low Income Tax Credit buildings are nice, and they will take Section 8. They may have waiting lists. If a place you like has a waiting list, you may wish to get on it for the future. The Low Down on Low Income Tax Credit Buildings. Where to find them:
- On the HUD map, all purple circles are tax credit buildings. Some orange and dark green circles are tax credit properties as well.
- Many are also listed on AffordableHousingOnline website mentioned above
- If you are up for a challenge, here’s where you can access the LIHTC Database
Tip: Some of these properties require that you have a minimum amount of income. Don’t be scared off if you see this. They may have completely different rules for people with vouchers. Ask! If asking doesn’t work, you could try this: How I Got Around Landlord Requirements for Income
Found somewhere you are not sure about? Here’s a few places you can learn more:
🌸 Call the utility company. Tell them the address and specific apartment. They can tell you how high the utility bills were in past years, so you know what to expect.
🌸 Google the name of the city or area and the words “crime map.” Some areas have online crime maps that show you exactly how many recent crimes there were on that block.
🌸 If you are not 100% certain that the person you met with is the actual landlord, you can look it up: How to Find Property Owners
🌸 After your landlord agrees to accept your voucher, the apartment will need to have an inspection by the Housing Authority. Reports of inspections vary greatly.
🌸 Some people report that their inspector was very thorough and checked small details like chips in paint, temperature of water, and locks on bedroom doors.
🌸 Other people report that their inspection was five minutes, where the inspector breezed through, checked that the lights and water worked, passed the inspection, and then left.
🌸 If the inspection does not pass, the landlord will be given a chance to fix the problem and get another inspection.
🌸 You may be able to use your voucher in another location. This is called Porting. How to Port
🌸 In some situations, porting can cause your rent to change because different Housing Authorities have different rules. Questions to Ask Housing Authorities If You Want To Move
🌸 If you are seeking a landlord in another location, you may find it helpful to request to Apply by Mail or Email (Not in person)
Readers Tips: Approaching Landlords
🌸 Edward wrote a brief intro email and got an immediate good response: Sample Introduction Letter to Landlord
🌸 Great tips for making a good first impression on a landlord: Tips to increase your chances of finding a landlord who will accept section 8
Frequently Asked Questions
Common questions while seeking housing:
- How Much Rent Do I Pay? How Much Rent Does My Landlord Get?
- Will My Voucher Raise if I Get Approved for An Additional Bedroom?
- Can I Rent a Room? Can I Live With Other People?
- Can I Rent a 3 Bedroom Apartment with a 2 Bedroom Voucher?
Q: Can I rent a 2 bedroom apartment with a 3 bedroom
A: Yes, you can, but the value of your voucher will decrease to the 2 bedroom payment standard.
🌸 Way more than you ever wanted to know about vouchers: The Sleepy Girl Affordable Housing Survival Guide