A number of new laws have gone into effect in 2020, and while the rent control and just cause eviction laws are getting most of the attention, there’s also a Section 8 bill that affects almost every rental property owner in Oakland and throughout California.
If you haven’t already changed the way you advertise your property and screen your tenants, now is the time to do so to ensure you aren’t violating the new law that protects Section 8 applicants when they’re looking for a home.
Understanding Senate Bill 329
Senate Bill 329 expands a protection that California already had in place regarding source of income. Before the new law, landlords were not permitted to disqualify applicants based on how or where they made their money. With the new legislation, federal housing vouchers like Section 8 are to be considered income, meaning landlords cannot deny an otherwise qualified applicant simply because that tenant has Section 8 benefits. It counts as income, and it has to be considered when evaluating an application.
Advertising Your Oakland Rental Property
This law impacts the way you advertise your Oakland rental property. In the past, if you didn’t want to rent to tenants with Section 8 vouchers, you could simply advertise that you wouldn’t consider them. “No Section 8” was a common phrase to see in online listings and physical yard signs.
This is no longer acceptable. Make sure your marketing reflects the new laws, or you can face serious fines for being out of compliance.
Screening Your Oakland Tenants
Your screening process will need to be adjusted as well. When applicants report their income, your Section 8 applicants will be able to offer the amount of their voucher as money that’s been earned and needs to be considered as income during the screening process.
You can still reject Section 8 tenants if they don’t meet your other criteria. If they were evicted two years ago and your standards say no evictions in the last 10 years, you can deny their application. If you have minimum credit standards that need to be met and an application from a Section 8 tenant falls short of your credit requirements, you can deny the application. However, if all other criteria is met, you have to approve a Section 8 tenant or face a claim of discrimination.
Working with Section 8 Tenants
Many landlords in the past refused to rent to tenants with housing assistance because of the stigma attached to Section 8 or fears that they weren’t qualified as good tenants. There are also a lot of bureaucratic hoops that need to be managed when engaging with the Section 8 program. If you do approve a tenant with this voucher, you will have the benefit of guaranteed rent. You will also be more likely to retain the tenant for more than a single lease period. There are advantages to having this new pool of tenants applying for your properties.
We’d be happy to help you come into compliance with this Section 8 law if you haven’t already. Feel free to contact us at California Pacific Realty with any questions or concerns.