Table of Contents
Knowing how to search for apartments and houses for rent that accept section 8 depends on how much money you can spend. If you’ve already done your numbers very well, you can get different options at your Housing Authority, at Affordable Housing, on the HUD page, at Zillow and even on Facebook Marketplace. However, there are a series of tricks that you must take into account and apply in the process. For this reason, below we show you steps and tips that we have collected from the experience of other tenants.
Table of Content
- Calculate how much you can spend
- Look for apartments and rental houses that accept section 8
- Learn about special legal protections
- Deposit and first month’s rent
- Landlord Paperwork
- Property Inspection
- Frequently Asked Questions
Calculate how much you can spend
If you are looking for a house, the first thing you should do is calculate how much of your rent the voucher will pay. The amount should be written on the papers they gave you under the name “Payment Standards”, “Proposed Amount” or “Shopping Range”. The name may vary according to your location.
If the amount doesn’t appear on the paperwork you were given, you should ask for a copy of your utility allowance chart or check to see if it appears on the website.
Once you have a chart similar to this at hand, you should look on your voucher or the papers that gave you the number of rooms your house should have. In some documents they look like “bedrooms” and in others it says “units”. When you get it, you will be able to see the amount that corresponds to you, according to the number of rooms that you are allowed and the zip code in which you will rent.
To this amount you must subtract the amount of “utility allowance” and ignore the utilities that your landlord (lessor) pays. The result is the amount of money that you must pay to your landlord, normally this value is 30% of your income.
Let’s see how it works with an example. John’s landlord charges $300 and the utility allowance says he pays $200. So, John must pay his landlord $100.
In a few cases, the utility allowance may be higher than what the landlord charges—especially if the beneficiary has extremely low income. In this case, the Housing Authority will deduct the amount it pays the landlord and send a check for the remaining amount.
2. Look for apartments and rental houses that accept section 8
Perhaps, this can be one of the most complicated parts. In many cases, people do not accept section 8 vouchers. For this reason, you should be prepared for them to reject your rental application. However, you should not give up. In the end, the effort will be worth it.
Below, we show you the different sites where you can find apartments and houses for rent that accept section 8 and some tips that other tenants have used to make the process much easier.
Ask your Social Worker
Although many people do not perceive it the same way, the social worker is a person who is willing to help. The only difference is that it follows a series of regulations because they establish what has already worked and leave aside what has not. In this sense, you can use this alliance for your own benefit.
Social workers typically have many contacts. After all, your job is to talk to people all day. For this reason, you may know where they rent apartments and rental houses that accept Section 8. Asking costs nothing and the worst that can happen is that you don’t know.
Check with your Housing Authority
Although they do not publish this, it is common for local housing authorities (Public Housing Authorities) to have a list of landlords that accept section 8 vouchers. They have been doing this for some years due to the difficulties they have in finishing their work. Thus, it is much easier for everyone.
Ask your Housing Authority if they have a list of landlords or tenants. In this way, you could get to rent a property more quickly.
Although it is a bit difficult to use, the HUD map can be of great help. If you are a little patient and persistent, you will be able to find apartments and houses for rent that accept section 8. Here are some tricks you can use to make the process easier.
The first thing you should do is select the “Find affordable special needs housing” option. If you select any other, you will be shown a mix of different options that may not necessarily suit what you are looking for.
What to look for on the HUD map?
If you already filled out the Section 8 application and they gave it to you, look for the purple circles. These are so-called “low income tax credit” buildings. According to what the system indicates, they have the obligation to accept the vouchers. However, many have waiting lists. If you want to apply to these and wait, we recommend looking at the yellow color options.
If you live in a rural area, you can also look for the dark green circles. Many of them accept the section 8 voucher, but not all. You must call and ask.
If you don’t have a voucher yet, but you are a very low income person, look for the orange circles. These buildings have some subsidized apartments where the rent can be very cheap, but they won’t tell you. When you call, don’t worry about the amount they tell you. Ask the following question: “Do you have any apartments where the rent is set at 30% of income?”
If you have a little low income, but not much, you can also look for the purple circles. These properties may be on sale, but they won’t be as cheap as oranges. In addition, you must have a minimum income to apply. For example, a single person might need a minimum income of $1,000 to apply and be eligible.
Tip: On the map, there is a magnifying glass button that looks like a search engine, but it is not. If you click there, you can get a spreadsheet with the data of all the places you see on the map. If it doesn’t let you download it, move closer to the location you want so it will show you fewer options.
Affordable Housing Online
This is a very good page that offers a lot of options. There are buildings that have their own financing system, so they do not accept vouchers. But don’t let this discourage you, some do accept them. Be sure to type the zip code you are looking for correctly, as each one will show you a different list.
An important benefit of Affordable Housing is that they have QuikMatch. This is an alert system that will let you know when new properties are listed in your search areas. The best thing is that if you don’t have a computer, tablet or smartphone, you can access the service through their customer service system and they will send you an SMS with this reason.
If you have email, they will send you an email where you can see all the details of the property, including images, maps and many more.
Since 1999, this bilingual, non-profit organization has been connecting people with second-chance housing and jobs to try to provide equal access. For this reason, they offer support with new houses listed, assist displaced households and collect data in many regions and municipalities of the country.
The SocialServe program works very simply. It is a map in which all the listed properties are shown. Some can cost up to $300 a month and it was two blocks from public transportation.
Using the advanced search, you will be able to find a property for yourself more easily. For example, you can set parameters such as if they allow pets, if they have a garden or if they ask for a credit report or not.
Marketplace and Facebook groups
The Facebook marketplace may be another option, although it does take a bit of work. The good thing is that it allows you to find apartments and houses that accept Section 8, using a series of parameters.
In principle, you should narrow your search to the area in which you want to rent. Then you can set the amount you can cover. Once you have this, they will show you a series of homes that you must call and ask if they accept the voucher. And although you will receive many negatives, keep your mind positive because you could be surprised.
In other cases, Facebook groups can also be an option. Many neighboring towns have one and there are always people who post real estate rentals there. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to take a look, call and ask.
Although many people are not aware of this, Craigslist has section 8 listings. Many of the landlords post their properties so that they can be found by potential renters.
However, it is important to be careful on sites like Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace because there have been reports of listings of cheap houses for rent that are not real and it is presumed that the people behind them may not have the best intentions.
Zillow is one of the most important web and mobile applications in the real estate sector. And the best thing is that it has filtering options that allow you to find apartments for rent that accept section 8, as we show you below.
In principle, you must click on the button that says “more” (as shown in number 1 in the image). This will display a series of options that will allow you to filter your search. Then, you must click on “income restricted” (number 2 in the image). Through this, you will be able to see all the houses that have fixed prices.
Another option you can use is the box where it allows you to enter keywords. If you place a voucher or section 8, you will be able to obtain more easily all the publications that accept this facility.
Local newspapers and newsletters
Local newspapers and newsletters from churches, free clinics, grocery stores, and other places of local interest can be another source for Section 8-friendly apartments. As most people search for sources on the internet, these tend to be in lower demand by comparison. In this sense, it is possible that there are some opportunities that the vast majority go unnoticed.
In this case, the only limitation is that they will not tell you at first that it is a house that accepts section 8. You’ll have to call and ask. In other words, you will receive some negative news, but you may find some unexpected. It’s all about putting desire and searching.
Tips for looking for apartments and houses for rent that accept section 8
- If there is at least one senior in your household, try calling properties that list “seniors only” or “disabled only” to ask if they accept seniors. In some cases, these properties accept tenants as long as there is at least one elderly or disabled person. However, many of them do not accept children.
- If someone in your household is over 55, call the buildings “senior” and ask what age they consider the minimum for senior.
- Some tenants have reported higher success rates when they mention vouchers after they have met the landlord or landlord and made a good impression (see below for details on this). However, this has only worked for private landlords. Large buildings and agencies may have a firm policy on this.
Learn about special legal protections
Some areas have laws against source of income discrimination, commonly known as SOI laws. In these zones, all renters or landlords must accept the vouchers. Below, we mention the states in which this legislation applies.
Localities with SOI laws in effect
- California : Los Angeles County (unincorporated areas only), Marin County, Santa Clara County (unincorporated areas only), Alameda, Berkeley, Corte Madera, East Palo Alto, Fairfax, Los Angeles, Mill Valley, Novato, San Anselmo, San Diego, San Francisco, San Rafael, Santa Monica and Woodland
- Colorado : Boulder and Denver
- Delaware : Wilmington
- Florida : Broward County, Hillsborough County, and Miami-Dade County
- Georgia : Atlanta
- Illinois : Cook County, Chicago, Glenview, Harwood Heights, Naperville, Urbana, and Wheeling
- Iowa : Des Moines, Iowa City, and Marion
- Kentucky : Louisville
- Maine : Portland
- Maryland : Anne Arundel County, Baltimore County, Frederick County, Howard County, Montgomery County, Prince George’s County, Annapolis, Baltimore, and Frederick
- Massachusetts : Boston, Cambridge, Quincy, and Revere
- Michigan : Ann Arbor, East Lansing, Grand Rapids, Holland, Jackson, Kalamazoo, Kentwood, Lansing, and Wyoming
- Minnesota : Minneapolis
- Missouri : Clayton, St. Louis, and Webster Groves
- New York : Erie County, Nassau County, Suffolk County, Westchester County Buffalo, Hamburg, New York City, Rochester, Syracuse and West Seneca
- Ohio : Bexley, Cincinnati, Linndale, South Euclid, University Heights, Warrensville Heights, and Wickliffe
- Pennsylvania : Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Borough of State College
- Tennessee : Memphis
- Texas : Austin and Dallas
- Washington : King County (unincorporated areas only), Bellevue, Bellingham, Kent, Kirkland, Olympia, Redmond, Renton, Seattle, Spokane, Tumwater, and Vancouver
- Wisconsin : Dane County, Milwaukee County, Cambridge, Madison, Milwaukee, Ripon, Sun Prairie, and Wauwatosa
How to use SOI laws to find rentals that accept section 8?
Keep in mind that in some cases, landlords may refuse to rent, despite being against the law. If so, it is best to send an email with all the requirements that the landlord requests, such as:
- Criminal History
- Credit Check
- Good references from previous landlords
- Proof of your Income
- Evidence that you pay a lease of similar value
- Evidence that the lease will occupy 30% of your income
Along with all these documents, you can send a very respectful reminder of this law in a subsequent email and ask them to apply it. If the landlord has questions, you can refer them to the law enforcement agency serving the area.
That way, if your landlord violates this law, you can contact a Fair Housing agency in your area and report them for discrimination.
Deposit and first month’s rent
When it comes to the deposit and the first month’s rent, there are a few things you should know. For example, in some areas you may be able to get assistance with your security deposit and other additional fees that you must pay when you move in.
In addition, you should not pay rent until the house is approved by the Housing Authority and this institution gives you a written notice indicating how much you must pay for yourself.
It is better that you do not pay the security deposit until the inspection has been approved. Some people have deposited outside the source income protection areas and landlords do not withhold rent unless they are paid an additional fee.
In this case, it is advisable to use this money for the additional fee, indicating that the money will become the security deposit. However, it is important that you put in writing that the amount will be returned in the event that the Housing Authority does not approve the apartment for rent.
Important: Never sign the rental or lease contract until it has been reviewed by the Housing Authority and your worker gives you approval. If you do it before and something goes wrong, you could find yourself in a very bad position.
The Housing Authority has a form that must be filled out by the new landlord or tenant. This is known as a Request for Tenancy Approval or Tenant Approval Request. This process is usually much easier if prospective tenants take the form to the landlord’s house and sit down to fill it out together.
And although it is not an obligation, it is recommended that tenants deliver the papers to the Housing Authority, either by email, fax or in person. Sometimes problems can arise when this task is left to the landlord. In addition, this way you can make sure that the document has been received.
When your landlord accepts your voucher, the Housing Authority will conduct an inspection. However, reports from tenants who have performed these inspections indicate that results can vary widely.
Some people indicate that their inspector was very detailed and noticed even the smallest details, such as the paint, water temperature and the door locks of each of the rooms.
Other people mentioned that the inspection took about 5 minutes. In these cases, the inspector was quick to verify that the lights and water faucets were working. Upon completion, he passed the inspection and left.
If your inspection fails, the landlord will have a second chance to fix the problems and a new inspection may be performed. The biggest problem with this is time and investment, as landlords want to start the contract quickly and some are unwilling to make the necessary renewals. As a consequence, they might retract.
In this case, it is best to try to talk to the landlord and come to an agreement. Once the inspection is approved and the Housing Authority gives its approval for the signing of the contract, you will be able to move.
How to convince a landlord to accept section 8?
- Wait to ask him if he accepts section 8 in person
- Dress for the occasion when meeting potential landlords
- Keep your social media accounts private
- Make sure your car looks clean, in case they see it
- Get a babysitter if you have children
- When you call landlords, do so from a quiet room. Some landlords may back down if they hear children screaming or crying.
- Show your potential landlord 2 letters of recommendation, either from previous landlords or current or previous employers
- Sell the program by explaining why it benefits them : transparent, simple and straightforward process, zero marketing costs, guaranteed and timely payments, receiving quality tenants.
- Do not fear meetings with landlords who have never heard of Section 8. Sometimes this can be a positive, as you will be the only voucher holder they meet
- Ask for an extension if your time limit is running out. It is also recommended that you send them in writing and that you do not wait until the last minute to do so.
- Make sure you have a professional voicemail, or as professional as possible
- Never answer a call from a number you don’t recognize, especially when you’re in the car with kids. It could be a landlord calling and you don’t want them to be heard yelling.
- If you have metro PCs or any other prepaid phone plan, make sure it’s always active. After all, you don’t want your potential landlord calling a disconnected number.
What to do if time runs out?
If you’re running out of time to look for a rental, grab any housing no matter when the rental starts. As soon as you hand over the landlord papers, the voucher will be frozen and you will be able to apply to the place, even if the rental starts after your voucher expires.
For example, suppose John’s voucher expires on January 20. On January 15, he finds an apartment, but it won’t be available until February 15. On January 16, he delivers the landlord’s documents to the Housing Authority. His voucher is frozen. On February 15 they do the inspection and John moves in later that day.
Note: HUD now allows Housing Authorities to create policies without freezes. However, there have still been no reports of entities that have applied it.
What to do if the rent is still too expensive?
In some cases, you may search for a site and the Housing Authority will tell you that the cost of rent is too high, even though you’ve looked everywhere and found no lower prices. If this is a problem, you should not argue with your landlord. Here are some ways you can deal with this problem.
Ways you can pay more money
- Ask to pay 40% of your income. This doesn’t work in all cases, but it may be that the Housing Authority does its math and allows it.
- Separate non-rent expenses. Some rentals come with services included. If you separate these expenses and buy them separately or in an addendum, you can buy everything -and even for a lower price in some cases.
Ways the Housing Authority can pay more money
- Search in another postal or zip code. Some Housing Authorities use the same payment standard for all zip codes and others use more complex systems. Take a look at your chart and maybe you can get a higher payout (sometimes it’s a matter of a couple of blocks).
- Move to an area where they give you an extra room. When you change areas, you may get more rooms and more money.
- Learn the rules for the disabled. If a member of your family has a disability, they may be approved for additional benefits, such as a higher utility allowance or an extra room for a helper.
How everyone pays more money
The Housing Authorities have their own rules about who can be added to the voucher. If you add a new family member, for example, you will be able to have a larger number of rooms and the institution could pay more as a result.
However, with a new member in the family, you will also have to pay more for rent, so you must make sure that it is viable and safe before making this decision.
Note: In some cases, you do not have to be a family member. It can be a friend or a roommate.
Ways no one pays more money
- Trade with your landlord. If the price is a little above your ability to pay and the landlord is nice, it is sometimes possible to negotiate the price to fit within what you can afford.
- Ask for extensions. In this way, you can more easily search for a new apartment or rental house that accepts section 8. In most cases, the Housing Authority provides between one and two extensions, but if there is a disabled person in your family, it can be up to 5.