If you have never heard of Section 8, then it’s clear that you are neither a landlord nor one of the more than 3 million people receiving some form of public assistance and subsidized housing, because that’s what Section 8 is all about.
“In our country, we do at least try to keep a roof over the heads of millions of people who have fallen on tough times, or, through their own ignorance, lack of common sense and no idea where babies come from, are inches away from being homeless,” Ted, who owns two subsidized apartment houses not far from Fresno, told You and the Law.
His comments and observations reflect the feelings of many Section 8 landlords, often regretting having taken on these tenants.
“Section 8 is a major lifeline to these people and their children, because landlords like me are willing to accept tenants who couldn’t afford to rent a broom closet, let alone an apartment,” Ted points out.
“The government requires these housing units to meet very stringent conditions and, at least yearly, every apartment must be inspected. Our lease also calls for regular inspections and reinspections if necessary, something which most tenants understand, but slobs just don’t get it and run a risk of being evicted,” he stressed.
“Being on Section 8 is not a right, it is a privilege and can be lost if violation of house rules occur, including damage to the rental unit, domestic violence, or the tenant living in filthy conditions which attract insects and rodents,” he added.
‘They complained about crumbs on the floor’
One of our readers complained to You and the Law that the management company threatened her with eviction because “they found a few bread crumbs on the floor.”
“I have never heard of anything so silly. Could they really evict me for this?” she asked.
“This is a common problem, where apartments have been repeatedly sprayed for cockroaches, and it wasn’t a few crumbs, but the place looked as if it had not been cleaned for months. Any kind of food left around in a kitchen or elsewhere is a dinner bell, a real ‘Come and Get It!’ for insects and rodents. When one tenant lives this way, it is a direct threat to the health of others nearby and an added expense for management in sending out pest control companies.”
“And if not corrected, it indeed can be the basis for eviction,” he stressed.
“But you would be surprised at the number of Section 8 tenants who have no idea how to keep an apartment clean! Landlords who operate these rentals often become something like a social worker, teaching very basic life skills to people who are, quite literally, living on the wrong side of the tracks, and this has gone on, in many cases, for over 30 years, from grandparents to parents, then to adult children today,” he points out.
‘You can’t come in here – my home is my castle’
A number of the tenants we spoke with complained about what they felt were unnecessarily frequent inspections of “their property.” Some have been known to scream at landlords, “You can’t come in here!” That is generally not a good attitude if they want to continue living cheaply in the Section 8 unit.
“We inform our tenants that, as a part of your privilege of getting subsidized, extremely inexpensive housing, someone needs to verify that you are keeping up with your end of the bargain and so is the landlord,” Ted was quick to point out.
“For this reason, a well-drafted Section 8 lease makes it clear that the landlord will inspect rental units at least yearly and provide adequate notice. If conditions which the tenant needs to remedy are found, follow-up inspections are scheduled. It must be understood that Section 8 gives the landlord greater access and rights to inspect the rental than in non-Section 8 tenancies,” he stressed.
So are there excellent Section 8 tenants and jerk landlords? Of course. But, from everyone we interviewed, in our opinion, the scales tip far over in favor of landlords who help to keep a roof over the heads of these families who are barely hanging on.
When something is free or extremely inexpensive, often it’s only appreciated when taken away.
And that’s our read on the complaints sent in to You and the Law.