Q. I am advertising my unit for rent and getting a lot of calls asking if I accept Section 8. I am not sure what this program is, how it would affect my property and me and what my responsibilities would be to participate. Can you please explain this to me and are there other similar programs I may or may not want to consider?
A. There has recently been a huge upswing in the funding of these types of assistance programs. I’ll attempt to cover the more well-known programs but please do not take this as an exhaustive list.
This normally refers to the Section 8 Voucher program. There is a State run program and a City run version as well. Voucher holders may rent housing up to a certain amount set by the government agency. People may be approved for studio, 1 bedroom, 2 bedroom, etc. units.
They normally have a short window of opportunity to find a home they like. The landlord or Property Manager must be willing to complete an application and agree to the terms of a Section 8 contract. Some of those terms could be an annual inspection requiring you to meet certain maintenance criteria, knowing the comparable rents in your area, or notifying the Section 8 office as well as the tenant about any changes in their rent.
The benefit is that you will have a sure payment every month. Most tenants know the value of the voucher and that the Section 8 office can terminate the subsidy service if they commit any serious infractions.
(Housing and Urban Development/Veterans Assistance Supportive Housing)
This program has been in the news lately with the initiative to house every homeless veteran. They normally pay the full Security Deposit and first month’s rent along with the full or partial ongoing rent. They also tailor an individualized plan for each veteran. Support services are provided to the veteran such as nursing care and life counseling.
Rent to Work
This is a city run program that requires the tenant be employed under an Individual Employment Training Plan. The program lasts a maximum of 2 years, at which time the tenant is expected to be able to financially support themselves. There is a lot of support for individuals to help them succeed in achieving their goals. They may be assisted with payment of the full Security Deposit and first month’s rent.
Private non-profit agencies
Some pay for the full Security Deposit and first month’s rent along with ongoing full or partial monthly rent help. These would include the Institute for Human Services, Steadfast Housing, and Catholic Charities Hawaii. Some pay for only the full Security Deposit and first month’s rent. These would include Helping Hands Hawaii, Waianae Coast Comprehensive, Kalihi-Palama Health Center, and various church groups.
This is a description of the many programs available to help residents find housing in our challenging market. Please use your own business practices when qualifying a tenant, whether or not they are involved in an assistance program. If you have any questions, contact your attorney or CPA.