SEPTEMBER 2015 LANDLORD ADVOCATE
This Months Video Topic:
Do You Accept Section 8 Vouchers? – YES!
New law affecting landlords goes into effect October 1st.
Last month, we sent a bulletin to all Landlord Advocate subscribers and LLF Clients regarding a new law that goes into effect on October 1st regarding fire
sprinkler systems. The long and short of the new law is that as landlords, you will soon be required to disclose the existence and maintenance history of a
fire sprinkler system in your rental agreement with your residents. As mentioned, the law goes into effect on October 1, 2015, so please make arrangements to have your leases revised before that date.
There is no indication what you are supposed to do with existing residents and their leases, nor is there any indication what the penalty will be should you
fail to comply with this requirement.
As a matter of caution, we don’t suggest that you become the test case for the consequences of violating this new requirement. It will surely be more costly than making this simple lease revision.
Contact your landlord attorney promptly should you have any questions and be sure to and get your lease updated prior to the new law date.
Do You Accept Section 8 Vouchers? – YES!
Here is a simple way to avoid the expense and countless hours of frustration and emotionally-draining time spent defending yourself and your company from a
Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (“CHRO”) complaint when it comes to Section 8 programs – always answer “yes” (no more, and no less) when asked by a prospective tenant if you accept Section 8 vouchers, and simply move directly to the application process.
Landlords and property managers are in both a product and service business of providing housing, and our experience is that the professionals in this field
are very caring individuals who try to “do the right thing” for their tenants and prospective tenants. They do not like seeing prospective tenants spend time and money in a pre-ordained losing battle to get an apartment when they have experience with “Section 8” being unwilling to approve the required rent.
Section 8 programs generally have limits on the maximum rent that they can approve, and landlords are not obligated to reduce their rent demand to those
levels, so many landlords whose rent exceeds the limits often have no Section 8 tenants. However, this is because the Section 8 programs are unwilling to pay
the monthly rent that those landlords can demand in the marketplace, not because the landlords refuse to accept Section 8 vouchers. This may seem obvious to
those landlords and other law-abiding members of the industry, but it is not to the prospective tenant or CHRO, who are wary of the reality that some landlords
try very hard to dissuade (or outright deny) a Section 8 voucher recipient from applying to become a tenant for discriminatory reasons.
Landlords and property managers should constantly remind themselves that their job is to provide housing at the monthly rent amount that they have decided to
seek in the marketplace to prospective tenants who otherwise pass their non-discriminatory application and tenant screening process. They must provide
access to that housing to those who can pay that rent on their own or through a Section 8 program that approves and subsidizes the demanded rent according to
the Section 8 program’s rules and regulations.
Landlords and property managers do not work for any Section 8 program, and need not spend any time or energy trying to help prospective tenants navigate the
system. In fact, Section 8 program administrators often refer to the voucher holder as the “client,” and view the landlord as a vendor with which it
contracts to provide subsidized housing for its client. Let the Section 8 program staff assist a prospective tenant through the complex web of Section 8
Moreover, there are two (2) different Section 8 voucher programs operating independently of one another in Connecticut – a federal and a state program –
each with its own rules and regulations, which are not static. As time passes, things can change, and change quickly, in one or both programs.
For example, the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”) is looking to consolidate the multitude of subsidy programs into the Section 8 model. This does not bode well for the low-income public housing model that has existed for decades, where the federal government owns and operates housing
complexes. Instead, the government is indicating that it wants to be out of the owner-operator business, and instead just provide the housing subsidy to private
landlords who otherwise handle the ownership and operating requirements. From a practical standpoint, this will mean that HUD and, by extension, the local
housing authorities that administer the federal Section 8 voucher program, will have the funding and/or program flexibility to approve higher monthly rents to
allow Section 8 voucher recipients to penetrate more of the local housing market. Thus, your long-standing experience of not having Section 8 voucher tenants may change.
Landlords and property managers should contact their landlord attorney if they find the answer “yes” (no more, and no less) approach unsatisfying or unacceptable from a customer service perspective, so that their more detailed answer to the prospective tenant’s question does not land them under a CHRO complaint or discrimination lawsuit by a prospective tenant.
Heads up – the opposing team is busy recruiting.
As you all know, summary process cases (“evictions”) can be challenging. Even those based on your tenant’s failure to pay rent can often get time consuming and expensive. And, while this should not be the normal experience (as the law is designed to expedite court proceedings to determine possessory rights to the unit); there are always exceptions that require more time and attention to resolve.
Well readers, prepare yourselves as these exceptional cases may soon become more commonplace.
You see, an email (circulated by the legal services organizations in CT) has been recruiting volunteer attorneys to create an “Eviction Defense Army”. This “Army” of new lawyers will be mentored and trained by various legal services programs within CT to defend eviction cases brought against low income residents in the state.
What does that mean for you? That depends. If you are documenting your files (as we’ve instructed in our seminars and in past newsletters), it will mean very little. You can go about business as usual and perhaps expect an occasional skirmish with the “Eviction Defense Army”. However, if your operations are not up-to-par, and your documentation not up-to-date, interactions with this new “Army” may be more frequent than you’d think. The time to address any deficiencies is now; else expect those unwanted skirmishes to last longer, and to happen more frequently in your future.
As an update, we have seen quite a number of new faces handling cases directly with legal aid organizations and quite a number of attorneys voluntarily handling matters pro bono (without payment) for tenants around the state. Fortunately, we’ve been able to minimize the impact of more frequent and aggressive litigation, especially for those clients who have their operations in ship shape. Keep up the diligent efforts at managing your properties effectively and we’ll continue to minimize the time and money these cases will take
The reading of this newsletter does not form an attorney-client relationship. The contents of this newsletter are for informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. Nothing in this newsletter is intended to imply or predict the outcome of any legal matter that you may be considering or be involved in. The Landlord Law Firm makes no warranties of any kind regarding the information contained in this newsletter.