Once you finally receive your Section 8 voucher, you have to figure out how to find Section 8 houses for rent. That can be almost as difficult as getting Section 8 approval in the first place!
For basic information about what Section 8 is and how it works, please check out this helpful guide.
You only have 90 days.
In most cases, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) will only give you 90 days to find an eligible housing unit that accepts Section 8 and will pass inspection. That’s not a long time.
The federal law does not require landlords to accept Section 8.
The federal law that authorizes these housing vouchers does not require landlords to accept them, although there are some local (state and city) laws that require landlords to accept them. If you are not in one of those areas, though, you may find that many landlords simply reject the vouchers outright.
According to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, the following areas are protected by laws prohibiting discrimination against voucher households:
- California (Marin County, Santa Clara County, as well as the cities of San Francisco, East Palo Alto, Woodland, Berkeley, Santa Monica and San Diego)
- Colorado (Denver)
- Delaware (Wilmington)
- Illinois (Chicago, Cook County, as well as Naperville and Urbana)
- Iowa (Marion and Iowa City)
- Maryland (Frederick County, Montgomery County, Howard County and Annapolis)
- Michigan (Grand Rapids, East Lansing, Lansing, An Arbor, Jackson)
- Minnesota (Minneapolis)
- Missouri (Saint Louis)
- New Jersey
- New York (Erie County, Westchester County, Suffolk County, Nassau County, as well as Syracuse and New York City)
- North Dakota
- Ohio (South Euclid, University Heights, Wickliffe, and Warrensville Heights)
- Pennsylvania (State College, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh)
- Tennessee (Memphis)
- Wisconsin (Dane County and Milwaukee)
Once you are authorized to find a unit, you need to be prepared to begin your search. It may require some work to find an eligible unit, but it’s worth the effort!
Organization and planning ahead make the process easier.
If you plan ahead, you will save yourself a substantial amount of time. Make sure that you know how many bedrooms you need and how much rent you can afford. Have a realistic idea of where you need to live in order to accommodate the time and expense of your commute.
Since Section 8 is limited to a specific area, know where your boundaries are. Doing some research into the safety of the various neighborhoods can also help you focus your search.
Start your search online to save time.
Instead of driving around looking at various apartments and properties, start by looking online. There are many online websites, and many indicate whether or not a property manager will accept Section 8 vouchers.
If you’re trying to figure out how to find Section 8 houses for rent, check out these resources:
If you use a more popular platform like Zillow.com to search for Section 8 houses for rent, be sure to use advanced search features. Whenever possible, enter “Section 8” into the keyword filter. This will help you narrow your results to properties that are known to accept Section 8.
Remember that you cannot use Section 8 on properties that are already subsidized through a different affordable housing program.
Reach out for referrals from housing counselors and agencies.
There are HUD-approved housing counselors and agencies across the United States. You can use these resources to help you in your search for housing. These housing counselors can assist you with your rental search, credit repair and eventually with purchasing a home. Find your local HUD-approved housing counselor with this directory.
Have a script ready for the landlord.
Many landlords are hesitant to rent to Section 8 households and will deny the vouchers if they can. As a result, many tenants have found it helpful to have a go-to script with some helpful phrases.
Some recommended phrases include:
- Section 8 is “pro-landlord.”
- Section 8 is a “no-fail system” because the majority of the rent is direct deposited to the landlord each month.
- If you have a great rental history, be sure to mention that.
Be prepared for the inspection.
Before you can move in, the PHA that supplies your Section 8 vouchers must approve the property. A physical inspection of the premises is usually required.
In fact, inspections are conducted regularly under the Section 8 program. Inspections happen before your unit is approved and annually thereafter. Inspections may also happen when either the landlord or tenant complain about the health or safety conditions at the property.
The inspectors are always trying to determine if the property meets HUD’s Housing Quality Standards. The standards define 13 areas that the inspector must evaluate. If the unit fails any area of the inspection, it fails the entire inspection.
It is important to understand what the inspectors are looking for so that you can confidently predict whether the unit will pass or fail. Since you only have 90 days, you don’t want to waste your time on units that will obviously fail the inspection.
Watch out for discrimination.
The Fair Housing Act ensures that you are protected from discrimination while you are searching for housing. Landlords may be able to refuse to accept Section 8 vouchers, but they cannot act in a discriminatory fashion toward you. For more information about housing discrimination, please click here.