For families in the HCV program, getting their voucher was hard. But finding a landlord to take their voucher is harder and it’s only getting worse as the housing crisis in America continues to escalate.
So, today, we are here to do a little myth busting surrounding the preconceived ideas about the Housing Choice Voucher program and its participants.
Let’s get right to it…
1. Voucher families are lazy.
What if I told you more than 50% of voucher holders are either elderly or disabled and the majority of the remaining percentage are single parent homes?
Many elderly and disabled households live on benefits they receive through Social Security, or on the income they are able to bring in under their circumstances.
As of July 2023, the average income in the U.S. was $4,629 per month BUT, the average cost of living for a family of 4 is $7,095 per month. Even a family of 2 needs $5,782, on average, to simply cover the usual expenses. Taking that best case scenario of a single parent of 1 child pulling in the average income, they are still more than $1,000 per month short to cover the average expenses.
As the cost of living continues to rise, a person doesn’t have to be jobless or lazy to qualify for or have a legitimate need for assistance.
2. Voucher families are problem tenants.
Actually, HCV tenants tend to be much longer-term tenants, staying in the same unit 7-8 years on average.
Outside of that, there are ZERO documented statistics that show data to support the claim that HCV tenants are more problematic than non-HCV tenants. AND… HCV participants risk of being terminated from the program if they are evicted, owe money to an owner, or if they have a history of serious and repeated lease violations.
While PHAs do conduct background checks during the eligibility process, it is the landlord’s responsibility to thoroughly screen any and all potential applicants however they see fit.
3. Landlords who accept vouchers won’t get paid.
This is one of my favorites to bust because the truth is actually the opposite of the perception.
Once the HAP contract is signed, compliant landlords will receive timely payments directly from the PHA every month as long as the participating family remains in the unit.
Even when an HCV tenant’s income changes, the portion of rent paid by the agency is adjusted to reflect this change. If an HCV tenant’s income decreases, there is a process for the PHA to pay a larger portion of the rent to the landlord, so they continue to receive a full rental payment.
This provides a level of financial protection to landlords they can’t get in non-HCV tenants.
4. Voucher families are just trying to work the system.
Many HCV tenants have had to wait sometimes years to receive their voucher. They are required to go through a rigorous eligibility process, including a background check as well as income and asset determination and calculations, and adhere to strict program requirements in order to remain eligible.
Each PHA is accountable to thoroughly investigate fraudulent circumstances and any person found guilty of fraud is persecuted in accordance with the law.
5. It’s too much work for landlords.
We don’t deny there is a lot to know and learn about how the program works, but if you are willing to learn it, you can reap the benefits of low tenant turnover and stable income.
Program landlords receive regular annual unit inspections at no cost. This can result in identifying maintenance needs that may have otherwise gone unnoticed for some time. Landlords that own or manage multiple properties tend to appreciate the value in having a routine, objective inspection of their rental units
6. You can’t treat HCV families the same as regular renters.
Not only is this 100% false, it is actually illegal to treat assisted tenants differently. What this means for landlords is whatever criteria they apply to non-HCV applicants and renters, they must apply to voucher-holders as well.
This includes any background checks, rental history checks, required references, security deposits, fees, or lease terms.
All criteria and requirements MUST be applied equally to all tenants, and landlords are encouraged to do so.
7. You can’t evict voucher families or enforce the lease.
A lease agreement is between a tenant and a landlord,. tThe PHA does not have a part in that transaction. Once both a landlord and tenant sign the lease, the terms are legally enforceable by either party, same as with a non-assisted tenant.
Both tenants and landlords are encouraged to be familiar with the terms of their lease, so they can are able to take appropriate action if necessary.
8. Landlords can’t charge as much rent for voucher families.
Landlords can ask for however much rent they would like to for a unit. While it is true that the rental amount for the first 12 months must be approved by the agency, every PHA does its research to make sure the rental amounts requested are within reasonable limits for the unit size, amenities included, and the area where the unit is located. This is for the protection of all parties involved. PHAs want to make sure landlords are being appropriately compensated for their properties, ensuring the rent requested falls within Fair Market Rent amounts, and also making sure they are using their funding responsibly.
What a lot of landlords don’t know is that after the first 12 months, a request for a rental increase can be made which is not subjected to the same affordability parameters as an initial lease term.
Landlords can also submit rental increase requests once per year after the first 12 months.
You can learn more about how this works by checking out our informative article: Rental Increases: What it Means for Landlords and Tenants of the Housing Choice Voucher Program
9. PHAs will take the family’s side in a dispute.
PHAs do not get involved in tenant/landlord disputes. If there is an issue with the payment from the agency, that dispute would be between the landlord and the agency however, any disputes between the tenant and landlord are handled the same way the landlord would handle a dispute with any other tenant.
This is where both tenant and landlord need to make sure they know and abide by the terms of their lease. Both parties are within their right to take action if the other is in violation and that action can be whatever is allowed within the confines of the lease term and the law.
10. Landlords are not allowed to turn down a voucher family.
Any landlord anywhere is allowed to choose their tenants based on equally applied screening criteria. Keeping in mind any and all discrimination laws, landlords are not required to rent to voucher families. Even in some of the more progressive cities in which there are laws that require landlords to rent to HCV families, landlords are allowed to disqualify any tenant based on the application process.
Landlords are encouraged by agencies to keep meticulous records on all prospective tenants throughout their application process.
As a landlord, every tenant, HCV or not, poses a risk. Whatever objections there might be to not rent to HCV families, each one can be resolved with an open mind and a little research.
For more insight into this topic, check out our previous blog, Section 8 Stigmas – Myth vs. Reality