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June 18, 2014

Workshop schools landlords: Housing authority provides tips about Section 8 rentals

— Knowing who is living at the home and doing regular inspections are keys to success as a Section 8 landlord.

That was the heart of a message Tuesday for more than a dozen landlords and potential landlords at a Johnstown Housing Authority workshop.

“We provide renter assistance for people who are of low income,” Section 8 coordinator Yvette Penrod said. “They can go into the community and find places they want to live, close to family or close to employment.”

The housing authority screens potential renters for criminal records and previous housing violations, but landlords are encouraged to do their own screening, Penrod said.

“You do your background screening just like you would do for any other individual,” she said, suggesting credit references, former landlord references and criminal checks.

The housing authority passes out a list of interested landlords when a family gets to the top of the waiting list and is deemed qualified for the federal Housing Choice Voucher Program. It is up to the renter to find a home and work with the landlord to arrange an inspection for the Section 8 contract.

“Decent, safe and sanitary; that’s pretty much the backbone of all our inspections,” inspection supervisor Jim LaMonaca said.

Chipping or peeling paint must be addressed in case lead-based paint was used on the surface. All bedrooms require smoke detectors, and there must be a fire extinguisher clearly visible and accessible to residents and visitors, LaMonaca said.

All doors and windows must function “as designed,” he said, noting that many property owners put in new windows and doors instead of trying to restore the old ones.

Authority inspectors give new landlords 21 days to fix problems before a recheck. The landlord’s subsidy begins the day the home passes inspection.

All those living in the home must be approved by the landlord and the housing authority. Any changes in the number of residents must be reported for screening and approval.

Unless it is a child added by birth or court-approved custody, new residents require a recalculation of the rent subsidy. Renters must pay 30 percent of their income for rent and utilities, but they can’t pay more than 40 percent, Penrod explained.

Randy Griffith covers Johnstown Housing Authority for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/photogriffer57.

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