Section 8, Renter’s Advantage, and other programs
There are a whole variety of rental assistance programs mandated by the federal government, the State of New York, and the City of New York. New Jersey has similar programs. They all, in some way, pay or or part of a renter’s monthly rent by guaranteeing payment directly to the landlord.
In order to participate in these programs, landlords have to sign up and be approved by the City, State, or H.U.D for the federal government. Likewise, the renter has to sign up for the programs. There is a long waiting list of people waiting to be approved for these programs and not sufficient funding to fill the need. As a result, the wait for approval can take several years.
The details of each program are not important for the sake of this discussion. Although there are numerous programs, I may refer to the programs by the name of the largest program, “Section 8”. Section 8 is generally for the working poor, where the assistance is capped and the renter must pay at least 1/3 of the rent from their own income.
The two issues that are most frequently discussed with RDNY.com Advisors are:
- How do I find a landlord who will accept government programs?
- Why do landlord slam the phone down when call to ask about their vacant apartments?
Let’s take them one at a time:
New York recently passed a law that says all landlords must consider any lawful income source in qualifying a renter. Lawful income includes the money you are granted under the government rent assistance programs.
So theoretically, New York landlords are not supposed to discriminate against renters who are receiving a rent assistance program. But the reality is a bit different.
However, this doesn't mean that a landlord has to approve your application. If you are using housing vouchers you must still meet any employment, income, credit worthiness, and security requirements that the landlord uses to approve rental applications. As of this time, the criteria that landlords use varies widely and there is no uniform way of knowing how a landlord will qualify you financially.
Landlords are skeptical about accepting the programs because of their fears of bureaucracy, government mandates, and the constant fear that funding for the programs will be short-changed and they will be left holding the bag with tenants who cannot afford to pay the rent. Both New York City and New York State have dumped on building owners in the past, saddled them with restrictive mandates, and then been late with the rent. Landlords are justifiably fearful.
On the other hand, many landlords will accept government programs, but they want to find the “best qualified”, with the least dependence on the programs.
Now, you can begin to understand the key to successfully getting a response from the landlord.
First - You will have fewer problems finding your rental if your credit is good, even if you are on an assistance program. Good credit is ultra important.
Second - You will have fewer problems if one or more members of your household are working.
Third - Your chances improve if you can present yourself in a business-like way, both in your voice, your attitude, and the way you organize your search. Create a cover letter for your applications.