Applying for a rental with a section 8 voucher… There are strategies that can help increase your chances of being accepted.
I just completed a post on FINDING A RENTAL WITH A SECTION 8 VOUCHER – click on the link to see it, but now I want to focus on how to get your application approved.
I am assuming you’ve done this first step: You have asked “Will you consider tenants with Section 8 Vouchers?” before ever going to see the property. If not, back up and refer to the above referenced post. Otherwise, you’re wasting your time.
UNDERSTAND QUALIFYING CRITERIA
So you have found a property you like… and you want to submit an application. Ask the listing agent or landlord IN WRITING for the selection criteria and process. You’re going to find that many private landlords don’t have it. If it’s a rental community, they probably do. If it’s a professionally managed property they hopefully will. But most private landlords just plan to see what they get and make a decision based on gut instinct. Then, review and understand the criteria. It should look a little like this:
Income: Min 2 years stable verifiable income. Applicant to supply w-2s and 1 month’s pay stubs to verify. May or maynot include requirements about overall debt to income ratio, but should at least include a requirement of gross income of 3-4 times the rental amount. For low income households, significant assets can offset lack of income. This is more common with households headed by retired folks. Yes, people with vouchers can have significant assets. Yes, people with vouchers still have to be able to afford to pay their portion of the rent, and landlords SHOULD require proof of this.
Rental/Housing: Must have previous (good) mortgage payment or rental payment history, including overall good rental history if one is available. (May or may not include a visit to the current home .) No evidence of previous filings, evictions or derrogatory rental history of any type. Some landlords will let short sales or foreclosures slide with a letter of explanation.
Credit History: May have minimum score, or might use the old fashioned personal review of credit reports.
Here is what I heard today on the phone “As my Section 8 worker says, even though I don’t have good credit history, the county does.” Um, wrong attitude. Later I will create a post about whether I recommend my landlord clients should consider households with vouchers, but it suffices to say that there is no automatic assumption that your rent will be paid by the county or that you will take care of the property if it’s rented to you. If you have a voucher, do not think it’s a pass on your credit report. Your credit matters.
MAKING THE APPLICATION
Here is where the strategy comes in… If you have a voucher, or ANY THING that might make you think some landlords will not consider your application, be proactive. Application fees are expensive, especially if you have to put in several. They are as much as $50 per adult. I don’t know about you, but if I am going to be told no, I would much prefer to be told no for free than to pay someone $50 to say it. So here’s what I recommend….
Fill out the application TRUTHFULLY.
Have a copy of your credit report (you can get one at AnnualCreditReport.com), your w2s, bank statements if you’re using assets to qualify, your paystubs. Get it together.
WRITE A LETTER
Review the package as if your home was being rented out… would you accept you?
Identify ALL weaknesses, and write a cover letter explaining them. Now I will be honest… I am straight shooter. I don’t even want to hear the sappy sob story… but I am in the minority. Most landlords (including my clients) are willing to consider your story, so tell it to them. Tell them about the boyfriend you left you at the alter, the layoff in Detroit, the unexpected pregnancy that resulted in tripplets. Tell them whatever you want. Try to make it so *anyone* could identify with you – anyone could feel that they, too, might find themselves in that situation if circumstances were different. Then ask for them to give you a chance, despite how it might look on paper. Make promises (only if you plan to keep them) about the things you think might be important to them (getting the rent on time, taking care of the property, etc).
This is not a time to use your Urban Dictionary thesaurus! Make sure the letter is well thought out, check spelling and grammar. You are trying to get someone to trust you with an asset that’s likely worth a quarter of a million dollars or more! This is not about the $15,000 rent for a year – this is about the $250,000 asset they are trusting you with. Be serious, and respectful. Do not sound entitled.
Then, submit your application PACKAGE in its entirety, without an application fee. Ask the landlord to review the application package and provide feedback. There are landlords who will require the application fee and a full processing without doing that. If the property is listed, push (respectfully) and tell the listing agent that it is a serious offer to rent, and you would like them to present it to the landlord and get feedback before proceeding. Be prepared that some just won’t. Some will say “yes, proceed with the application processing” , some will just say YES without further verifications. You don’t know until you try.
If your application has weaknesses (lets be honest most do have *some* weakness), then be prepared to compensate with money. If the typical deposit is 1 months rent (usually the case for private landlords) be prepared to offer up double that if necessary.
Hopefully you have found this information helpful if you’re trying to find a rental and you have a Section 8 voucher. I used to work in affordable housing, and we had lots of people with vouchers. I have seen it all – or at least I think I have. I know there are voucher holders who make good money, who have good credit, and great rental history. I know there are many great people who are lacking in some of those areas and have a voucher, but they are still reasonable risks for a landlord. I am sorry that is not true with all voucher holders, and as a result, many landlords make a “no voucher” policy, which makes it harder for you to find the home you’re searching for… but not impossible. I wish you the best!