One of the biggest roadblocks for HUD’s Housing Choice Voucher program (HCV) is the reluctance among landlords to rent to voucher-holding tenants. We’ve discovered there are plenty of reasons for this hesitancy, but one of the best answers to landlord hesitation (like with most hesitation) is the ability to offer incentives.
We’ve learned creating a successful incentive program will help landlords to suddenly disregard many of their concerns about renting to HCV tenants. These concerns can include delays in leasing and costs for repairs.
PHAs who have implemented landlord incentives are seeing great success and increased landlord participation.
Let’s take a look at some of the available incentive options.
What Are Some Incentives That Are Available?
The following are some examples of incentives that can be offered. This is not an exhaustive list, however, these incentives do address a few of the areas of concern we’ve identified keeps landlords from accepting voucher families.
A signing bonus is a payment that the PHA makes to a landlord who has rented a unit to a voucher family. This is a one-time payment of a set amount given to the landlord to act as a perk for renting to a HCV family.
The PHA will set the terms for who can qualify signing bonuses, whether it’s landlords returning to the program after a certain amount of time or even current landlords who agree to rent to another HCV family, or maybe even first-time landlords.
Funding for an incentive like this usually comes directly from monies earmarked from the PHA’s budget. PHAs can also secure grants to be used specifically for the purpose of incentivizing landlords.
Sometimes when landlords have agreed to rent to HCV families, the rental unit can sit vacant while the PHA is processing all the necessary paperwork to prepare the voucher holder for move in. This gap between the time the landlord agrees to rent the unit and the time when the family actually moves in causes landlords to shy away from renting to HCV tenants. They feel as if they can move faster on their own and not wait on payments. The vacancy payments incentive compensates the landlord while the unit is sitting vacant while it is awaiting processing and initial inspection.
Vacancy incentives tend to be particularly effective because this is one of the top reasons landlords choose not to rent to HCV tenants. This particular payment can be offered monthly to offset the loss of income a landlord would accrue while a unit remains empty. Funding for this incentive can come from either the PHA’s own incentive fund or of course through grants received by the PHA.
Damage Claim / Mitigation Fund
Property damage is a big worry for prospective landlords. It’s a true stigma amongst landlords that HCV families don’t care for the rental units as market lessors do. Any damage that is caused by tenants during their lease is typically the responsibility of the tenant as outlined in most lease agreements. Landlords worry that tenants who need financial assistance to rent the unit, won’t have the means to pay for any damage that may occur.
Monies from a damage and mitigation fund pays the landlord for costly repairs when the landlord has been unable to collect payment from the tenant. Think of this as PHA insurance. Funding sources for this particular incentive can include sales tax increases, recording fees on real estate transactions, state general funds, municipal bonds, or grants.
This incentive has proven to increase landlord satisfaction even when the landlord does not need to use it. When landlords have access to an initiative that helps pay for repairs, they feel far more secure knowing in renting to HCV families.
PHAs can and should create partnerships with local organizations and programs who provide additional benefits you can pass along to your prospective landlords. Cultivate a relationship with your local grant specialist in order to access all available grant funding or any local organizations that provide assistance with security deposits. Be sure to look at state, county and local government entities, social service and nonprofit organizations… funding can be found in creative places!
One of the keys to the success of these types of programs is how well you, the PHA, know the community you serve. Many of these programs can be personalized to the specific needs of the landlords and tenants in your community. Explore what, if any, unique challenges your landlords or participants might encounter, and then develop a way to offset the negative impacts of those needs.
In the event there is no funding available for a PHA to utilize for these purposes, there are still other creative ways to help alleviate landlord concerns.
Although PHAs don’t typically provide this service, landlord-tenant mediation offers a way for landlords and tenants to resolve complaints outside of a court setting. It may prove to be a valuable offering to landlords because it has the potential to prevent costly turnovers, evictions, and legal claims.
PHAs can offer seminars, workshops, and resources on a variety of current and helpful topics for landlords and even for tenants. Seminars and workshops can be valuable networking opportunities. Offering educational tools on all things housing can help keep landlords ahead of any important changes.
Incentive programs are a great way to partner with landlords and create trust. Not only do they temper perceived risks, but they offer more stability for tenants in the long run. Regardless of how landlords receive aid, the result is placing more families in clean, safe, and well-maintained homes. Which is what we’re all here for. If you want to know some additional incentives you can offer your landlords, download our Comprehensive Guide to Landlord Incentives.