Lifestyle real estate

Can San Diego Landlords Refuse to Rent to Section 8 Tenants?

If you’re unfamiliar with the Section 8 program as a new rental property owner, you may not know how it applies to you. Section 8 is a federally funded program that provides up to 70% of the cost of the tenant’s monthly rent. It allows the renter to choose where they live as long as they meet the qualifying requirements. 

What does this mean for the property owner? It’s important to know how this will affect you as you search for new tenants. Even if you use property management in San Diego to help you attract tenants, knowing how the Section 8 laws apply to you is essential for avoiding penalties.

Section 8 Status Cannot Be a Consideration

Prior to 2019, any landlord in the city of San Diego could choose whether to consider Section 8 applicants for tenancy. In other words, participation in Section 8 was entirely voluntary and at the discretion of property owners.

In 2019, however, the San Diego City Council passed an ordinance that removed the option for participation. The new law made it illegal for an owner to refuse to accept a tenant based solely on their Section 8 status. 

Property Owners Can Still Consider Other Factors

Essentially, the new ordinance means that property owners must consider any candidate who has the ability to pay their monthly rent. As a result, they can no longer disqualify applicants solely because they will pay using Section 8 vouchers.

Whether you’re reviewing candidates yourself or using third-party property management in San Diego, you can still make determinations about other qualifying factors. For example, you can still conduct background checks and interview personal references when you’re considering an applicant for tenancy. 

If an applicant with Section 8 vouchers does not meet your requirements on those other measures, you can refuse to rent to them. For instance, you might find that the tenant previously damaged another landlord’s property or that they have a violent criminal past. It is still perfectly legal to turn them away based on those factors.

Why Did San Diego Make This Change?

While this new ordinance may not be popular among property owners who don’t want to accept Section 8 vouchers, the San Diego City Council adopted the ordinance for a good reason: to ensure that at-risk individuals and families could find housing that provides safe and sanitary living conditions.

Low-income families, elderly individuals, and disabled persons are those who most often qualify for Section 8 vouchers. Since people in these groups tend to have limited income levels, they are often forced to accept unsatisfactory living conditions. Section 8 vouchers make it possible for this group to find more satisfactory housing.

Additionally, the federal government does not include any protections for Section 8 participants. While the law does issue vouchers to qualifying applicants, it does not require landlords to accept them. The San Diego ordinance adds that stipulation, providing protection for low-income individuals and families.

San Diego Still Supports Landlords

When you use third-party property management in San Diego, you’ll have informed and professional assistance with finding qualified tenants for your property. The property management firm will help you locate tenants who are low-risk and likely to stay in your units long-term. 

When you don’t use a third-party service, it will be up to you to ensure you’re meeting local and federal fair housing laws. To help you remain compliant as the property owner, the San Diego Housing Commission set up the Landlord Partnership Program. 

The new program provides information and assistance to property owners who are unfamiliar with Section 8 vouchers. Additionally, the program offers incentives to landlords who rent to Section 8 applicants. The program is also working toward setting up a fund of $1 million to help pay for property damages caused by Section 8 tenants.

You Can Still Choose Good Risks

When you rent out your home or apartment building, you’re taking a risk by trusting that the new tenant will keep up with their rent payments and respect your property. You can still do your due diligence in renting to a Section 8 applicant. 

For instance, you should look into each applicant’s rental history. Doing so can help you determine which applicants will take good care of your property.

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