Social Question

Skippy's avatar

People who receive Section 8 housing - why do they not respect what they are being provided?

Asked by Skippy (2166points) October 21st, 2009
41 responses
“Great Question” (4points)

No matter how you as a landlord try to accommodate their problems and quirks, why can they not seem to take some “ownership” of the housing they are receiving?

I just cannot understand after being provided subsidized housing, food stamps, medical coverage, people seem to feel entitled to want more and expect the landlord to continue to provide.

Is there no incentive for the recipients to try to make their lives better?

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KatawaGrey's avatar

Actually, there is very little incentive. Once you have upgraded from below the poverty line to working poor, your benefits disappear and you are worse off than before. Someone in the working poor class is making more money than before but has to pay for food, housing, healthcare, childcare, etc.

Also, I am really sick of this whole idea that people below the poverty line like being dirt poor. Being on welfare is about survival, not convenience.

tedibear's avatar

This is an off-the-cuff answer Skippy, so take it for what it’s worth.

When I have to work for something, I value it more. I’ve been through post-secondary education 3 times. The last two, I have had to pay the tuition or the loans for the tuition. I’ve been a straight A student both times. The first time, right out of high school, my parents paid for a chunk, the rest was student loans that we’re taken out in my name. At that point, it didn’t feel like real money that I was responsible for. I graduated in the middle of my class with barely a B – average. I look at it now and think, “Fool! You could have done better.” I believe, for me, it was because I didn’t put enough value on it because I didn’t pay for it immediately.

So, maybe there’s not as much value to something that you don’t have to work for.

PS: You realize you’re going to take a certain amount of hassle for this question, right?

gussnarp's avatar

This is a seriously flawed generalization. Many, perhaps most, recipients of Section 8 housing are elderly and are not bad tenants at all. Another large set are mentally ill or disabled, and some are and some are not bad tenants. Even those that are simply poor are not all bad tenants. Certainly some are, but what exactly do you mean by taking “ownership”? There have been lots of studies of low income housing, and in some tenants who were given some ownership were quite ready to take it. If a person has no permanent stake in their housing, there certainly is little incentive to care about it.

The question I would ask is why section 8 landlords why some section 8 landlords who do have ownership of their property don’t do basic maintenance and upkeep that they are required to do, but I know the answer – because it’s cheaper.

KatawaGrey's avatar

@gussnarp: Good point about the landlord’s upkeep. I didn’t even think of that.

tedibear's avatar

Just as not every section 8 tenant is a bad tenant, not every section 8 landlord is a bad landlord.

gussnarp's avatar

@tedibear39 Of course, you’re right. I’ll edit my comment accordingly.

tedibear's avatar

@gussnarp – not necessary, but I appreciate the effort and consideration involved. :~)

Judi's avatar

My sister worked her butt off to raise 3 children alone. She began working for little over minimum wage, and was eligible for section 8 housing. She also got food stamps. She couldn’t buy groceries after work because she would get dirty looks for using food stamps while dressed for work.
Every time she would get a raise, her rent would go up, and her food stamps would go down, often times, more than her raise. She had a few raises she refused because after deductions she just couldn’t afford the hits.
The system punishes you for making efforts to better yourself. My sister is an exceptional and very strong person.
Someone who is not as strong or amazing as my sister would have just given up and stopped trying.
She is now a homeowner and a hospital administrator. She and her childern suffered a lot to get off the system.
An average person would never have been able to do it. They would probably give up in dispair and just not give a shit any longer.

Judi (39914points)“Great Answer” (12points)
Skippy's avatar

@tedibear39 I know I’ll get grief for this, but as a Landlord, I take pride and care with the properties I’ve invested my money into.
What rags my but is the tenant that is receiving benefits, not working with NO plans to work now that they are getting ‘the good stuff” and doesn’t even care for the home that they are being provided. I’ve been sure all mechanicals are in working order, and if there’s a problem, acted as quick as I can to get it straightened out, even when it’s been caused by their neglect.
I’ve been good enough to take their rent every other week for the past year based on when they get unemployment and assistance checks, yet they still want more.

When I see someone that is trying for their family, I’ll do what I can to help, but in this case, it’s getting old. The lies that are being spewed to tap dance until the next month are getting out of control. and @Judi that’s what it looks like your sister was doing and that is so respectful that she was able to make it!

I guess what has my dander up is the entitlement that has become so prevalent in society today.

judochop's avatar

When you enable the person or persons why would they want to work harder to improve anything? I have lived in Section 8 housing after a job loss in 2001 and several months of not being able to find a job. It sure was not a struggle having the government pay for everything and I doubt I’ll have any sympathy for those who do, ever. There is nothing hard about having the govt pay your way. Actually I was quite surprised at how easy it was to get. And how hard it was to get out of that neighborhood. The place was kinda nice.

walterallenhaxton's avatar

It is your responsibility to care and take care of your property. They know that when you accept the government money for the housing you are no longer in control of the property. The government is sitting in the middle. They do not have to listen to your concerns. They have their big bully on their side. If you wish to control your property and do your job as a landlord you need all of your authority. Property that is not controled by the landlord 100% is not controlled by him at all.
Nobody is forced to live on anyone piece of property so an absolute dictatorship is both appropriate over it but necessary. What controls what the landlord can do is his need to sell the tenants on renting from him and staying a long time there so that he can do his job and make money too.
Sticking an 800 pound gorilla in the room to guard his tenants from the consequences of breaking the rules he finds it necessary to make is certain to make problems. The results are what you are experiencing.
Someway needs to be found to evict that gorilla or your property will become worthless.
I won’t let it into my property. I would rather leave it with no tenants.

Judi's avatar

@Skippy ; as a landlord as well, I don’t accept section 8, but not because to the residents. I can still screen people in Section 8. I don’t have to just take anyone with a voucher.
I don’t take Section 8 because they make you leave an apartment vacant for a month while they do the inspections, and then they make you fix things on the annual inspections that should be a resident charge.
@judochop ; you must have been in a very unique area. In my city the waiting list for section 8 is at least a year long, sometimes longer. (Are you sure you weren’t in Section 42 housing?) That’s part of the problem in my opinion. People are afraid to be creative and do things to better their position because their afraid they will fall out of line, and when things change they will loose their place and have to start all over again.

dpworkin's avatar

They are too busy beating their wives.

poofandmook's avatar

@pdworkin: I’m sorry, but for someone who’s supposedly so well-educated, that is awfully ignorant, and unfunny, considering there could very well be people here on welfare who have lived in Section 8 housing who were just trying to get on their feet again, like Judi’s sister.

dpworkin's avatar

@poofandmook Are you suffering from an irony deficiency? I was attacking the question. “When did you stop beating your wife” is a famous question that assumes that you have been beating your wife. The OP made the same error, assuming facts not in evidence, so I used a one-liner to point that out. Get it now?

poofandmook's avatar

@pdworkin: Yes. Sorry. I read it pretty quickly and didn’t stop to think. I humbly apologize. Generalizations are contagious.

drdoombot's avatar

Just to show you the other side of the spectrum, I happen to have a great deal of hate for the landlord of my mother’s Section 8 apartment. The super takes his sweet time fixing problems in the apartment and the only way to get him to come within a reasonable time frame is to report directly to the landlord. Even after reporting directly to the landlord’s office, a number of issues have been waiting to be fixed for years: missing screens on windows, windows that don’t close correctly, broken doors/doorframes, faulty heating units, a broken fence on the terrace, etc.

To add insult to injury, whenever the Section 8 payments come in late to the landlord, they add the balance to my mother’s rent bill, freaking out the poor old lady because she doesn’t have the money to pay what they’re asking. Trying to deal with this gave me the biggest runaround I ever experienced in my life. When I called the landlord, I was told that their policy was that if Section 8 didn’t send payment, the tenant was responsible. I called Section 8, who claimed that checks had been sent long ago. When I asked them for some sort of proof to show to the landlord, I was informed that Section 8 doesn’t provide this information to tenants. However, I was given a special “landlords-only” phone number to pass on to the landlord to clear up any problems. When I spoke to the landlord, they told me that they would not be calling anyone; it’s the tenant’s responsibility to work out any problems with Section 8. I tried calling the hotline myself, but they kicked me off the line once they knew I wasn’t a landlord. The person I spoke to at the landlord’s office got snippy with me, claiming I was wasting her time when all I wanted was some help in figuring out how to clear up the mess. Worst customer service experience I’ve ever encountered.

In the middle of all this, my mother received an eviction notice. She almost had a heart attack (she’d been living in the building for 25 years and never missed a single payment). Then I had to start calling all those same places again, to be turned away again because the landlord’s office “could not give legal advice.” Luckily, Section 8 connected me to a lawyer who reassured me that there would be no evictions, just a pointless court appearance. He was right. My mother and I went to court, showed all the check stubs for her side of the rent and the judge, without batting an eye, claimed my mother didn’t owe anything and ordered the landlord to figure out why they didn’t receive payment from Section 8. The only great moment I experienced in the whole debacle was the look on the lawyer’s face when the judge sided with my mother.

galileogirl's avatar

@Skippy Pretty broad statement and not verifiable in my experience. My only close up experience with section 8 is that a handicapped relative lives in a section 8 building and every year the housing authority makes an inspection to insure both the tenants and landlord keep the place in good order. For many years the house next to my parents was rented under Section 8 and no one would have been able to tell by the appearannce in the average suburban neighborhood.

I have rented all my adult life at full market price and have seen other renters who have been complete slobs. After living in my current apartment for 18 years it looks a little shabby because it hasn’t been painted in that time and the flooring and most of it’s fixtures are original 1970’s. Is that on me or the landlord?

There are Section 8 renters who are slobs like some non subsidized renters, there may be some who are too young or have too many family members for the space (which is hard on houses). On the other hand there are probably landlords who skimp on maintenance because they know section 8 renters are limited in their choices. The property is often in less desireable neighborhoods and with Section * tenants they know they will be paid for most of the rent which might not happen with unsubsidized tenants. It is up to the landlord to use due diligence, not just keep looking for the govt money

Supacase's avatar

My parents rented out the house next to theirs (they bought it to sell to my sister when she moved down a couple of years later) to a single mother with three daughters. Their portion of the rent was $17 per month and they never managed to pay it on time. They also never took out their trash. Instead, they stuffed it under the porch. My dad discovered it after they moved out.

So, while I agree it is a serious generalization, I do understand the frustration from a landlord’s point of view in some situations.

On the other hand, I have lived by some flat out slobs in apartments that were not Section 8. That is just as bad, but it is easier to be annoyed with someone who only has to pay $17 a month for a 3 bedroom house who appears to be doing pretty much nothing all day every day.

Judi's avatar

I can testify that some Non-section 8 residents are just as bad. I had an attorney for a resident that had several inside cats and no litter box in sight. When he moved we took all kinds of pictures and got a lot of people to see and witness the disgusting mess before we sent him the bill. Of course he tried to fight it until we sent him copies of the photos. We had a check within a month.
Pigs come in all economic brackets.

Makes me think of this “Quote of the day” on my Google home page today:

The mind of a bigot is like the pupil of the eye. The more light you shine on it, the more it will contract. Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.

galileogirl's avatar

Anecdote vs anecdote I worked for a grocery delivery company with a client who lived on Russian Hill in an upscale building. The delivery guys said you could smell the cats as soon as you stepped off the elevator. Some people are nasty or crazy. It’s what is going on in their heads, not in their wallets.

This thread is drifting toward poor-bashing. The evidence (rather than anecdote) is that poverty can hit anyone, just ask the people who got caught in this recession or trusted Bernie Madoff. Many are just a serious illness away from Section 8-think about it!

RedPowerLady's avatar

First off this is a stereotype. Not all people on section 8 treat their houses poorly. Perhaps all the people you have met but that does not include all people on section 8.

However to answer your question the reason would be multi-part:
1. Educational Gap: Probably the foremost reason for what you are observing is the educational gap that exists between people who are low-income and those who are not. Those who are low-income simply do not get the same education that others do. Therefor they simply do not know how to live appropriately in a rented house.
2. Survival Method. The second reason you will see happen quite often is that people who are low-income are often living in what is called a “survival method”. They are focusing so hard on surviving that most of the ‘smaller things’ in their lives get overlooked. This includes cleaning their houses. They simply do not have the presence of mind to focus on such things.
3. Professional Communication Difficulty. You should also consider that many people who are low-income have not had the same amount of experience communicating with professionals as those who are not low-income. This means they lack the skills often to communicate to their landlords where there is an “issue”.

jca's avatar

I used to work for the county Section 8 office and it was all landlords calling with tenants living there that are not supposed to, tenants breaking things, and the tenants would call: their income went up, their income went down. we used to say if their income went up they would take a month to tell us, if their income went down they would call us the next day (because when their income went down their share of the rent would go down). in our county the waiting list for S8 is years long unless you go to a homeless shelter or you are handicapped or elderly.

my mom worked with a woman who made a great salary working for the state. the woman had lived in Section 8 before she got hired. She quit her job and said it did not pay for her to work because she had to pay such a large share of the rent, it was more profitable for her to stay home, not work and have a very small rent share. that’s the nature of that beast – no incentive for people to improve their lot.

jca (36059points)“Great Answer” (1points)
KatawaGrey's avatar

I think the broader issue here is that once you hit that line between poverty and working poor, you get nothing. If the government could ween people off welfare such as gradually increasing rent as opposed to just putting it where it normally is, maybe more people would get off welfare. the same goes for healthcare, childcare, food, etc.

RedPowerLady's avatar

I think the broader issue here is that once you hit that line between poverty and working poor, you get nothing

Tell me about it! That’s where we are at right now.

jca's avatar

i just remembered another thing i wanted to say: people’s obligation was to come in once per year for about a half hour interview and to sign forms. then in addition they had to be home for the inspector to come, that would take about 15 minutes for his inspection. that was their only time taking obligation and many people did not come in for their interview. they got one more chance and then they were discontinued. we that worked there used to marvel that in exchange for having ⅔ their rent paid, all they had to do was the half hour interview and the inspection, and they could not do it. we would say how happy we’d be to have ⅔ our rent paid and would definitely come in for anything we were asked if it were us. it was amazing that the recipients took it for granted.

jca (36059points)“Great Answer” (0points)
Judi's avatar

The few experiences I have had renting to section 8 were wonderful people (But I screened them properly.) The problem was with the administrators of the program. I had missing money too like @drdoombot said. I never evicted the resident, but I lost money because Section 8 lost a check.

RedPowerLady's avatar

You have to know that many low-income people do not have cars and have to rely on public transportation. To top that off they have child-care and other emergency issues that pop-up all the time. I remember being a child and my mom having to take us on the bus all the way to the other side of town for her annual meeting. It was awful. Then when you talk about the 15 minute inspections well I’m aware of these too as I work on a different side of low-income housing. Just last week a resident came in concerned because his Section 8 inspection was coming up. They told him they’d be there from 8am-5pm, sometime. How can someone be expected to be home all day and wait? Especially on a weekday. Should they just not earn money that day, not run errands/pay bills, not pick up their kids from child-care. I’m not saying this is the fault of Section 8 as I know this is all complicated. But it simply isn’t as cut and dry as people just not wanting to abide by the rules.

jca's avatar

@RedPowerLady : we gave them a second chance. my advice to anyone taking public transportation would be to leave early to allow for the bus being late. most did not take their children with them because it was not possible to do the interview with all the forms with a small child standing nearby. i guess most had their kids in school i think where i worked the inspector would give them a “half day” period that he would be coming. it’s only once a year, so it’s not like it’s very invasive on someone’s life, and if their income went down their rent went down so there would be an allowance made. i agree with you that an 8 hour period would be a lot to have to stay home for.

jca (36059points)“Great Answer” (0points)
jca's avatar

from the admininstrations point of view, you have to understand there have to be rules to abide by. if 99% of the recipients would abide by them, then it has to be assumed that the other 1% was just looking to get over or not trying hard enough.

jca (36059points)“Great Answer” (0points)
KatawaGrey's avatar

It sounds to me like this has become a debate about whether or not some tenants are bad tenants whether or not they are section 8. Yes, some tenants are bad. Some of those bad tenants are on section 8. I don’t think this is a symptom of section 8 tenants but people like to blame the poor for being poor.

I’m sure there will be a flurry of people telling me I’m wrong and then give me a bunch of reasons as to why poor people are poor and why it is their fault.

Judi's avatar

@KatawaGrey ; and some Landlords just rent to someone with a section 8 voucher because all they’re looking at is the dollar signs. They don’t bother to properly screen their residents like a professional landlord who might be renting without government subsidy.
They took some seminar on how to be a landlord and get the government to pay your rent.
If a person goes into landLORDING with some sort of superiority complex , then they can expect to be about as successful as a boutique owner who despises their customers because they can’t afford the more expensive dresses that you don’t even sell. The most successful businesses really like their customers, and that includes landlording (or as I call it, land servanting) as well.

KatawaGrey's avatar

@Judi: That is another good point. Maybe that’s why there seems to be more bad section 8 tenants than not, because landlords don’t screen them.

RedPowerLady's avatar

@jca I certainly understand that there needs to be rules and guidelines. Oh yes I get that. I also think it is appropriate for people to follow those guidelines despite the difficulties. However I disagree that just because some people do not follow the rules means they are not trying hard enough, although I’m sure that is true for some people.

Of course you can give me as much information as you want on how people should take public transportation but that really isn’t the “issue”. The issue is that it is difficult to take public transportation when you have so much going on in your life. The people who need those tips are the ones showing up late to their appt or missing them. Also I think that a half day is also inconvenient especially if someone works, even if it is only one day a year. Again how are they supposed to go to work that day? After all missing even one day of work for a low-income individual can be very scary.

Having said that I’m not trying to start an argument or debate. I simply think that there are two equally important perspectives on the issue. Obviously admins of Sec 8 would have one perspective. And those who are low-income and living in survival mode would have another. I am just playing the role of the low-income advocate as you are coming from the other perspective to show this is a complicated issue and it is not as cut and dry as people don’t give a crap.

walterallenhaxton's avatar

I hate it when people complain about thing that they can fix easily simply because they are there for a few bucks but would cause the landlord hundreds because he would have to do a lot more work to get the job done. Also the repair man would have to come to the job an get past the tennant to see what it is. Go and get the tool in one place and go shopping for the materials. Then they would have to come back to fix the problem and get past the tennant to do it. Many times this would just be a hired man doing the job. Hired people often give imperfect service. After all they are not working for the tennant but just to make him quit. If I waS RENTING APARTMENTS i WOULD DISCOUNT THE RENT AND PUT A CLAUSE IN THAT THE TENANT WAS RESPONSIBLE FOR sMALL REPAIRS.
I hate that caps Lock. I have not disabled it yet on this keyboard.

Judi's avatar

As a landlord I say, Keep your tools away from my building. You will probably do more damage than you will fix. I will send in the professionals thank-you, and if you break something worse by trying to fix it I will charge it back to you. @walterallenhaxton, I hope you don’t live in my apartments!!

walterallenhaxton's avatar

@Judi Professionals do not do as good a job as experts do. Professionals just do it for the money. Experts do it for love. Also I can do the job for ¼ the price and it would be done right not according to what some hack building inspector allowed.
Hired help really can’t do the job better that a person who is an interested party.
I am sure you can do a good job. Your hired help is a different matter.

Judi's avatar

My hired help are on my payroll and the quality of their work is impecable. I demand it.

poofandmook's avatar

@Judi: Yes, but not every landlord does. Let me tell you a story. My first apartment had no heat in January and February. My landlord had some hackjob “maintenance” guy, didn’t speak a word of English, come in to my apartment and jiggle the thermostat. It happened to go on when he did it, so he went back and told my landlord I didn’t know how to work the controls. It didn’t matter that it was only on for an hour before it went off again… he blamed me. So then when he finally caved a month later and sent a professional from a service to check it out, and that person informed him that whenever my heat did work, I was breathing in carbon monoxide from the leak in the furnace… he had his ancient father and brother install the new one to save money.

Not every landlord hires people who know what they’re doing.

Judi's avatar

@poofandmook ; that’s true. You should see how much money I have had to pay (and charge back to the residents) to cut out and correct crappy drywall patches it would make you cry. Jut let us do it right the first time!!

elienos's avatar

If you don’t want bad tenants, then screen them. Section 8 or not, they should have good references.
Is there a way to check landlord references? That’s what I wish.

I live in a town where the average 2 bedroom is $1500 and minimum wage is $8 an hour, it is easy to see how a hard worker would qualify for the benefit. Even at $15 an hour (a decent wage without an advanced degree) that is approximately 2550 a month before taxes, childcare, food, gas, health and car insurance, etc. Most rental agencies will not rent to anyone who doesn’t make 2.5–3 times the rent payment. Imagine being a single mom of two in this world? Things shouldn’t be like this and they don’t have to be. and as the poor get poorer, the rich are RAKING IT IN! Long live affordable housing!

Don’t generalize because you have experienced a few lame folks who happen to get a rental subsidy.

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