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Section 8 housing is a nightmare for landlords

Public HousingChicago Housing AuthoritySection 8 (housing)

In a recent letter to the editor, Johns Hopkins professor Stefanie DeLuca recently suggested that many landlords refuse to rent to people with Section 8 housing vouchers because they are unfairly prejudiced against those prospective tenants ("Mossburg misrepresents research on vouchers," May 8). My guess is that Ms. DeLuca has never dealt with Section 8 as a landlord.

The prejudice of landlords is directed not against the people but against the nightmare bureaucracy that Section 8 rentals entail.

First, a landlord new to Section 8 is going to lose two months' rent just getting the necessary approvals. As a landlord, one can skip Section 8 and have less frustration and quicker rental income.

Then there is the frustration involved with Section 8 inspectors. A property owner I knew shared her story about a Section 8 inspector who went through all eight newly remodeled apartments in her small building without finding any violations to write up.

He then circled the building without finding any problems outside either. So he went into an apartment — newly remodeled, remember — for a second time and was thorough enough that time to finally discover a small gap around a drain pipe going through the wall under the sink that was — in his opinion — a bit too large.

That was enough to allow him to write her up — and he did so.

Finally, I personally witnessed a Section 8 inspector do a mid-lease inspection and discover that a plastic burner knob on the kitchen range was broken. The tenant had not told us about it because she considered it "not important."

But we could not find a replacement knob locally and had to special order it. Which we did the same day of the inspection.

Our thanks for that speedy action? We were docked two weeks rental income because it took that long to receive the knob, plus 60 seconds to install it.

Would I be prejudiced against the idea of accepting a Section 8 tenant if I currently had a property to rent? Absolutely. But the prejudice is toward the Section 8 bureaucracy, not the people holding the vouchers.

Anyone wanting to help people have more housing opportunities with Section 8 vouchers needs to start by working toward having the Section 8 inspectors be a lot more landlord-friendly.

James W. Gatton

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