Having trouble finding a landlord who will accept your housing voucher? You are not alone. Tips and tricks from readers who went on landlord searches 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 listed on your voucher. If the voucher is confusing or you’d like to learn 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.
13 Places to Find Landlords
🌸 Ask your housing worker and check the Housing Authority website. Sometimes Housing Authorities will have a list of landlords.
🌸 AffordableHousingOnline – Great site with a lot of options. Some buildings have their own funding so cannot accept vouchers, but many will accept them. Be sure to type in every zip code you can look in. Each zip code may give you a different list.
🌸 Search on Facebook marketplace
🌸 Invitation Homes is a private property management company. Some (but not all) of their properties accept vouchers. They purchase foreclosed houses, so quality varies, but some readers report positive experiences. Properties in: Atlanta Carolinas Chicago Dallas Denver Houston Jacksonville Las Vegas Minneapolis Northern California Orlando Phoenix South Florida Southern California Seattle Tampa
🌸 Readers report that Mainstream Renewal accepts vouchers in multiple states. Tip: Don’t be scared off by their qualifications page. Income qualifications are different if you have a voucher.
🌸 Search online to see if your area has an association of realtors. Check the website to see if realtors list rentals there.
🌸 Check the HUD map. Warning: Some buildings on this map already have their own HUD funding, so they can’t accept vouchers. Call and ask.
🌸 Local newspapers and community bulletin boards (churches, health food stores, etc)
🌸 Search for Facebook groups. Type in the name of your city or county and the word “rentals.”
Tips for Searching
🌸 Is 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.
🌸 Edward wrote a brief intro email and got an immediate good response: Sample Introduction Letter to Landlord
🌸 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).
🌸 Some areas have Source of Income Discrimination Laws. In these areas, you all landlords must accept vouchers.
🌸 The map in the link above is not updated often. Please google your city or state as well to see if any new source of income laws have passed. All of California now has these protections.
🌸 In these areas, landlords cannot require that your income be 2x rent or 3x rent if you have a voucher, as that is not mathematically possible.
🌸 If a landlord violates source of income laws, you can contact Fair Housing agencies in your area and report them for discrimination.
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
🌸 Some landlords ask for security deposit and first month’s rent up front. This is a little tricky for people on vouchers.
🌸 You cannot 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. Then you pays your share only.
🌸 You can pay security deposit, but it is safer to wait until the place passes inspection. Often the landlord will not hold the place with out the deposit. Many of our readers report that they paid it early with a signed letter from the landlord that it will be refunded if inspection fails.
Many landlords state they require you to have income that is three times the cost of the rent. A few tips that might help:
🌸 If they are a building or organization that is “affordable housing” or “low income housing”, they may have different rules for voucher holders. In fact, you might be able to completely ignore the income minimums listed on their website! Call and ask.
🌸 If they ask that your income is two times rent or three times rent, you can try showing them that your income is in fact three times your share of the rent. You may wish to enclose written documentation of how much your share of the rent will be and a brief letter or note pointing out the amount of your income and amount of your share of rent.
🌸 Include on your application ALL income, including food stamps. Also the value of your voucher, the amount of assistance you get from your voucher is income to you.
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
🌸 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?
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
- Overlapping assistance (coming soon)
Requests to landlords:
- Problems with Background Checks
- Problems with Credit Checks
- Assistance Animals in Buildings with “No Pet” policies
🌸 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!
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
🌸 Don’t have to limit yourself to buildings that already accept Section 8. Almost any landlord can accept Section 8 – you just have to talk them into it!
🌸 Even landlords who say they won’t take Section 8 are sometimes willing to make an exception if you show them what a quiet, nice, wonderful, reliable tenant you are going to be.
🌸 Large buildings and property management agencies may have a firm policy in place about Section 8 and may be less likely to make an exception for you.
🌸 Small private landlords and individual homeowners may be more willing to work with you, even if they have never accepted Section 8 in the past.
🌸 Consider not mentioning the voucher. Some of our readers report that they found nice places by approaching small private landlords and never mentioning or asking about Section 8. They waited until they had met the landlord in person and made a good impression, and then explained they are in a housing program that will pay part of the rent. Landlords who had never taken Section 8 before were sometimes willing. For a large complex with an apartment manager, they may not have the authority to make this decision, but a small private landlord might.
🌸 Don’t say “Section 8.” The word Section 8 can bring up prejudice and misconceptions. Some people don’t even use the word voucher. They say “housing assistance.” Or “housing assistance program to help working families” Or “housing assistance program to help people with disabilities.”
🌸 Some people stress to their landlord: housing vouchers are a very steady and reliable source of rent. It can be a guarantee that your rent will be paid in full and on time.
🌸 If an application requires three times the rent, show that you DO make three times the tenant portion (the amount you pay) of the rent.
🌸 Call every realtor and property management company in town and ask if they are ever able to accept vouchers. Even if they don’t accept vouchers on a particular place, ask if they EVER accept vouchers in ANY of the properties.
🌸 Stay in touch with realtors and ask about upcoming rentals and things that have not yet been listed on their website.
🌸 Call every property management company in town and ask if their property can accept vouchers.
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
What Do You Think?
Please comment below with stories, ideas, questions or suggestions. Please let us know if any links on this page stop working.
If you found this page helpful, please share it with others by pressing one of these magic little buttons: