Small Property Owners Threatened By Section 8

In 2008, the New York City Council passed Local Law 10 prohibiting landlords of buildings with 6 or more apartments from discriminating against tenants on the basis of source of income including Section 8. An amendment to Local Law 10, Int 827-A, would prohibit all landlords from discriminating on the basis of source of income regardless of the number of units in your building. So, even if you are an occupant owner of a 2 family house, you would not be able to deny tenancy based only on the fact that the tenant is on Section 8.

Section 8 is a federal subsidy that is administered through the New York City Housing Authority. Acceptance of Section 8 would impose legal and contractual burdens on small landlords that would not otherwise be present. First of all, after you agree to rent to your new tenant, your apartment will have to be inspected and approved by Section 8. Section 8 has a list of Housing Quality Standards (HQS). When I called, Section 8 operators would not disclose how long this process takes. It is also not clear whether you are required to hold the apartment pending approval.

Once your apartment is approved you will be required to enter into a one year, 12 page HAP contract with NYCHA that regulates owner and tenancy obligations. Here are just two highlights:
-Tenant must be given a one year lease. This is an additional burden since landlords of small, unregulated buildings are not required to give leases. A lease in a small property could spell disaster. You can check out my article Who Does a Lease Protect.

-If your apartment is inspected by Section 8 inspectors during the tenancy and HQS violations are recorded, you are required to certify repair, including the tenant’s signature, or be subjected to a re-inspection to verify repairs. If your tenant will not sign or allow access to the inspector, your rent subsidy will be suspended. The HAP contract does say that subsidies will not be suspended if HQS violations are caused by the tenant. It does NOT say how or by whom that determination will be made or how long it might take. So, if the Section 8 subsidy of $1200 on your two bedroom apartment is suspended how long can you wait to resolve all of these issues?

These are just two of the problems surrounding this proposed amendment. There are many other requirements under the HAP contract that could spell disaster for small property owners. If you agree that this is not an appropriate measure, please contact your Council Member and your Community Board. If time allows, I will be posting further comments on this issue.

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