DARLENE HIGA (RA), RMP
The Realty Company, Ltd.
Past President, Oahu Chapter
National Association of Residential Property Managers
Q. I have recently had a couple of tenants ask me if I will rent to Section 8. What does this mean? What is Section 8?
A. Section 8 is a program that assists families and individuals with subsidy funding from the federal government to rent a home. Low-income renters may apply for a Section 8 housing voucher, which is a program run by the Department of Housing and Urban Development but administered by local public housing authorities. In the State of Hawaii we have a State Section 8 Housing Assistance Program and a City & County Section 8 Housing Assistance Program.
However, currently the State Section 8 Housing Assistance Program and the City & County of Honolulu Section 8 Housing Assistance Program are not accepting new applications due to the long waiting lists.
Although no new applications are being accepted, if an individual or family is on the waiting list their name will not be removed. When funding becomes available and their names come up for assistance, they will be notified and the assistance process for that individual or family will commence.
The Section 8 program interviews the applicants and makes a determination of how much assistance they will receive. This is based on income and family size. The applicants are then informed what type of unit, noting bedroom count, they qualify for and the maximum amount of rent they can pay for a unit, which may or may not include utilities. With that information, the applicant will proceed to look for a unit that (1) accepts Section 8; (2) is within the allowable rent approved by Section 8; and (3) meets the Federal HUD quality standards.
If you elect to have a prospective Section 8 tenant, prior to their taking occupancy an inspector must inspect the unit to certify that it meets the Federal HUD quality standards. Once that has been completed the unit is ready for occupancy and rental assistance will commence on the date that is agreed upon between the local public housing authority and the landlord/owner.
The tenant selection process of a landlord/owner who accepts Section 8 assistance should not be different for Section 8 tenants and non Section 8 tenants. The only difference in the terms of the rental agreement is that the entire rent or part of the rent will be subsidized and the tenant will only be required to pay the balance. However, during the tenancy, if the tenant is notified that the assistance they are receiving will cease, the owner/landlord must understand that the tenant will then be responsible for the entire rental payment with no further subsidized assistance and a new lease must be executed.
It is not unlawful nor is it discrimination not to accept or inform prospective tenants that you do not accept Section 8. There are many who gladly accept prospective Section 8 tenants as they know that while the tenant is on the assistance program full or part of the rent will be paid; many consider it to be a payment guarantee. Then there are those who feel that working with governmental regulations, whether it is State or the City and County, is much too time consuming and elect not to participate in the program.
Answers to questions in Landlord Tenant Q&A are provided by members of the Oahu Chapter of the National Association of Residential Property Managers (NARPM), an organization that supports the professional and ethical practices of rental home management through networking, education, and certification. The Oahu Chapter, founded in 2004, has become the largest in the nation with 175 registered members.
Disclaimer: The answers provided in this column by Realtors address individual cases and should not be construed as interpretations of the law. For specific information on Hawaii State Law, go to http:// hawaii.gov/ dcca/areas/ocp/landlord_tenant or contact an attorney.