Crackdown on Landlords Who Rebuff Section 8

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Not an uncommon criterion on Craigslist.

Not an uncommon criterion on Craigslist.

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New legislation proposed by a Brooklyn congresswoman would make Section 8 recipients a protected class under federal housing law and slap steep fines on landlords who neglect their apartments in order to force voucher holders to leave.

“In every borough and practically every neighborhood, we are hearing of landlords abusing the Section 8 program,” Rep. Nydia Velazquez, a Democrat, told reporters on the sun-drenched plaza in front of City Hall on Tuesday. “This is a concerted effort and part of a plan to make money at tenants’ expense.”

The federal government issues Section 8 vouchers to low-income people, who use them to rent private apartments. Tenants pay 30 percent of their income toward rent and the feds make up the difference between the tenant payment and the actual unit rent, up to a cap.

“The catch is that it’s on the renter to find an apartment,” Attorney General Eric Scneiderman said at City Hall. Finding an apartment is hard for anyone, but when it comes to finding an apartment that will take Section 8, “Some landlords aren’t satisfied with it being difficult,” Schneiderman said. “They want to make it impossible.”

In New York City, as in Westchester County, Long Island a few other areas of the state, it is illegal to discriminate against a tenant who wants to pay using Section 8 (although it’s unclear how often violators are caught).

But that’s not the case elsewhere in New York and across the country. “Many people don’t realize that in 2016, discrimination against tenants is legal in large parts of New York,” Schneiderman said.

Velazquez’s bill, the Landlord Accountability Act, would change that, making Section 8 voucher holders a protected class under the Fair Housing Act, which already prohibits discrimination by race, gender and other means.

Her bill would also impose fines to discourage landlords from letting their apartments deteriorate in order to fail Section 8 inspections and be able to get rid of low-income tenants and bring in higher paying ones.

In addition, the bill would create a tax credit to help fund repairs to Section 8 housing, establish a Multifamily Housing Complaint Resolution Program to address tenant problems and fund local agencies working to prevent tenant harassment.

NYCHA oversees the bulk of Section 8 units in New York City and says it currently covers 87,000 apartments housing 206,000 people. Another 147,000 families are on the waiting list to get Section 8.

It’s unclear how Velazquez’s bill will fare. The GOP controls the House, but Section 8—which, unlike public housing, has a rural and suburban footprint as well as an urban one—has enjoyed more bipartisan support than other federal housing programs (though that didn’t stop sequestration from severely wounding the program a few years ago).

Section 8 figures prominently in many ideas to alleviate the city’s housing crisis. NYCHA has experimented with a couple methods for moving developments from the cash starved public-housing subsidy to the more generous and reliable Section 8.

But discrimination and other barriers mean that some families have a hard time actually using their Section 8 voucher. When a family is forced from a Section 8 apartment by bad conditions, Kerri White of the Urban Homesteading Assistance Board said, they have to find a new apartment in a relatively short time span or risk losing their benefit.

Around the country, increasing attention is being paid to Section 8’s role in perpetuating residential segregation. Shekar Krishnan of Brooklyn Legal Services Corporation A said that “source of income discrimination,” which basically means blocking Section 8 tenants, is a big reason why “New York City is one of the most segregated cities in this country.”

  • native new yorker

    Section-8 tenants are the absolute bottom of the barrel. No one wants them because they are disruptive and bring criminal activity with them. One couple in my neighborhood bought a home next to theirs and rents it to Sec-8 losers. They have an illegal apartment in the basement of the house. They also did not register the property with HPD as they are required to. These infractions have been reported to the nycdob and nychpd.

    I also think the NYC law is unconstitutional. A landlord should have the right to refuse a source of income.

    • RIKKI

      i have NEVER EVER HEARD nice things about renting to section 8 tenants.. its not about discrimination for being poor its about discrimination because you are a horrible tenant.

      its time for city limits to GROW UP and realize behavior matters no matter what color you are

    • thunk

      Just as a baker or a photographer should have the right to refuse service because of religious belief? Just as men should not be allowed into a restroom or a locker room shower with little girls? We are descending into 1984.

    • Mrs. smith

      Who the hell rents a place out without doing background checks or asking previous landlords for a character reference or rental history ? Please don’t put us all in the same boat … I keep my place spotless and pay my rent EVERY month. I have never been aressested in my life and always respect my neighbors. I cannot find a bigger place because of landlords who think like you!

      You know I could do the same thing here and say that landlords who rent out to Section 8 tenants are greedy slum lords who never keep up with their property and never fix a thing ! But I don’t… although some are I do my research before moving in somewhere, something you should be doing with tenants as well. Shame on you. !

  • gonewiththwind

    I’m a landlord in another state and want you to answer these logical questions. Why would landlord turn down a government check, direct deposited to their account? The answer is experience! It has NOTHING TO DO WITH DISCRIMINATION AND EVERYTHING TO DO WITH EXPERIENCE. S8 inspects these houses ..before.. they move in and everything is working and in good condition or they fail inspection and won’t rent them. I have tried repeatedly to work with the renters. A very few work out. I threw out two last week.
    The first one, in two months, the police were called to her house 3 times. The last time I know of, we were over to check a leak, only to find the mother of 6, just getting home from jail at 8am. for public fighting! My property was hardly recognizable. They had used paintball guns on the inside walls. Poured different color nail polish all over the hardwood floors. There were 3ft by 4ft holes in the walls. Wrote grafitti all over the outside of the house and inside of the garage. The front windows were broke out because she had let her kids dig up the front yard and make mud balls and throw them at the house. They were still sticking to the front of the house. She had taken all the door knobs off and replaced with dead bolts, none of which we had a key to. We were lucky she was just coming home as we couldn’t have gotten in. The house was unbeleivably filthy. She had other people also living in the house. A 400 lb thing that wasn’t on the lease, living there to watch her kids (I guess just in case of an impromptu fight and being hauled off to jail in the middle of the night). When I gave her notice to move because of the sheer distruction, she really went to work tearing the place up. They tore the doors off the stove and frig., cut the hoses to the heating and air letting out all the free onn and distroying the air unit. They took something and punched about 20-30 holes in the ceilings in each room, tore the paneling off the walls in several rooms, stuffed bottle caps down both toilets, tore the handles off the faucets, tore the front door off and destroyed the door facing to the point the whole thing had to be replaced. Then she called the police and tried to file a report on.. ME,, saying ..I.. did it. She is 2nd generation welfare.
    The SECOND one I threw out last week, hadn’t paid her portion of the rent since she moved in last August. Not once! The city called me to say that she was so nasty the trash was spilling into the street and they had cleaned it up but the next time would be on me. I sent a worker out to look and he said he wouldn’t go in because of the stinch. I went out with an employee and found the front yard filthy. Non working washing machines thrown in the yard and black garbage bags thrown in the yard. It seems the pit bulls she owned (but against the lease) were tearing the bags open and the garbage was blowing down the hill and into the road. The garage was full of black garbage bags, full and bursting. The inside of the house was the same. All she ever had to do was get off her lazy butt and take the garbage to the and street. The garbage is picked up TWICE a week! There must have been 30 bags in the house and 20 in the garage. Her bedroom was full of half gallon ice cream tubs thrown in the floor and melted candy bars all in the carpet. When I gave her eviction, she turned her two pitbulls loose which immediatly attacked the neighbors chained up dog.
    I’m a 70 yr old little female. I had a big heart, but this is what I got for my troubles. I’ve also been attacked twice by them. Once I got a black eye, and the other time, I was knocked down, flat of my back. Since then, I never go to a house alone.
    Now, after reading this, do you think it is …FAIR.. to say people who have had this kind of experiences…MUST… rent to them?

    • native new yorker

      Another thing, you can’t find a list of Sec-8 properties anywhere on the NYC Open Data website. It’s a big secret where our tax dollars are being spent.

  • WIltonguy45

    Local political hacks, eager to garner votes from the entitlement community are passing these unconstitutional laws about Section 8 all over the country.

    Currently there is a case about to hit the Texas Supreme Court about this very issue. At hand is a local government (the city of Austin) passing a law mandating that private property owners must except Section 8. The reason this law is unconstitutional is simple, Section 8 is a VOLUNTARY Federal program that does not require anyone to participate in it if they chose not to.

    In recent years, far left socialist activists have been able to influence local governments to pass these mandate laws and regulations. Such laws take away private property owners rights, basically it means that the property owner is being forced to participate in a government program on the governments terms and are held prisoner by the government.

    Obviously this in unlawful and unconstitutional. The Texas case was filed after the city of Austin passed such a law. However, the law has not been implemented due to all of the lower Texas courts finding it unconstitutional. The Texas legislature recently passed a state law forbidding any county or city from passing these mandate laws. This law is in effect now (while the case is in the courts on the other law).

    When the Texas Supreme Court finds this law unconstitutional it will probably go to SCOTUS where it would get a 4/4 split decision and the lower court rulings would stand. Then you will see cases brought up in every city that has passed these laws and they will all be thrown out.

    The other major reason landlords don’t want to take Section 8 is that it is no longer profitable for them. They don’t get the amount of money they need from the government, the fines, fees and red tape increase with each passing year and HUD no longer pays for the damages left by Section 8 tenants. The average damages to a unit by a Section 8 tenant is $7,000.00. Who can afford to pay that over and over again?

    It’s time the entire program is revamped, no more lifetime benefits and no forcing landlords to accept it if they don’t want to participate. In the meantime to avoid trouble don’t advertise your properties, use word of mouth through your social or business connections and you won’t have to deal with it. Again, don’t advertise, in this market you don’t need to.

    • shaqattaq32

      Landlords who don’t want to participate just need to require a 650 credit score. It’s not illegal (as long as you require it for all applicants) and it has the same effect as saying “no section 8” without violating the law.