Letter to the Editor: Should Landlords Be Mandated to Accept Housing Vouchers?

Karen Levenson reminds residents that there is a meeting tonight about a proposed ordinance, which would prevent a landlord from refusing to rent to a tenant solely based upon the applicant’s use of Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers.

Dear Editor:

So tonight, many may be unaware of the meeting at city hall.  It is at 7:00pm and goes to 8:30 in the Peter Kirk Room.  Address of city hall is 123 Fifth Avenue Kirkland.  The last meeting had 23 attendees who were reported as out-of-town advocates for subsidized housing and only two Kirkland residents.  The minutes of the meeting seemed to be indicative of the lopsided representation. 

Many misperceptions have been circulated.

One misperception is the claim that if landlords don't want to participate they can find a way to opt out.  That is not consistent with the information provided by King County Housing Authority.  If Kirkland makes it mandatory for landlords to accept vouchers then it is completely mandatory. No funny business or tricky way to get around the issue.

Which rentals will be subjected to new mandatory requirements on landlords?  Let's see if I can accurately do the math (the KCHA portion and ratio of payment is from KCHA website):

1 bed KCHA pays $1,100 and total rent can be $1,571 or higher (if voucher holder pays more)

2 bed KCHA pays $1,330 and total rent can be $1,900 or higher (if voucher holder pays more)

3 bed KCHA pays $1,760 and total rent can be $2,514 or higher (if voucher holder pays more)

4 bed KCHA pays $2,320 and total rent can be $3,314 or higher (if voucher holder pays more)

5 bed KCHA pays $2,530 and total rent can be $3,614 or higher (if voucher holder pays more)

6 bed KCHA pays $2,860 and total rent can be $4,086 or higher (if voucher holder pays more)

Prior blog commenters have identified the numerous inspections and required repairs that KCHA can mandate within a 7-14 day repair timeframe.

Here's some other concerning things from the KCHA website:

A)    You [landlord] must not receive any payment other than tenant rent. (So what about payments for damages, reimbursement if they break HOA rules and a fine is charged to the owner of the unit, etc?)

B)   You [landlord] must make sure that only the tenant and family members listed on the lease live in the unit. (KCHA must approve all room-mates, so does this mean a landlord is required to do a daily "bed check?")

C)   If you [landlord] wish to raise the rent, you may not do it during the first year and you will only be able to do it if you follow three steps 1) Notice the tenant AND KCHA 60 days in advance, 2) Allow KCHA to determine if new rent is reasonable, 3) Wait 30 more days while KCHA processes the rent increase (by the way since KCHA is paying the rent, are they really likely to be objective in deciding if a rent increase is reasonable?)

D)   Damage Repair - You [landlord] inform the tenant in writing of the items they must fix and you send a copy to KCHA.  You [landlord] will be notified as to whether KCHA agrees with you. "KCHA will work with you to determine who pays."  You [landlord] are responsible for seeking legal judgement if damage exceeds normal wear and tear (you cannot just charge for the damage, you must go to court... great use of attorneys)

E)   If tenant moves out and still owes the landlord money, you [landlord] take them to court and receive a judgement (more attorneys... whoo-hoo!!)  KCHA has limited ability to help with the collection of money owed (aka: You are on your own)

F)    KCHA cannot cover unpaid utility bills (aka: You are on your own)  


Karen Levenson

Karissa J February 26, 2013 at 11:55 PM
Kirkland is not making it mandatory to accept Section 8. They are making it illegal to deny based *solely* on that criteria. I wish you would stop using incorrect and inflammatory words to "make your point". It isn't necessary. Two families, both with jobs, decent credit, one child come to rent your home. One is on Section 8, one is not. ALL THINGS BEING EQUAL, you cannot say "i don't take section 8" or "no section 8 allowed". Odds are, as a landlord in Kirkland, you will not face this decision very often. If you have a decent home, in good condition, renting at a reasonable and market rent, you should have no problem having *multiple* potential renters to choose from. Your rent calculations are a little misinterpreted. The range is based upon what is the average rents within the areas, and is a combination of that market rent, the voucher holders approved amount (size of family, etc), calculations for utilities and the tenants portion of income applied to rent. You cannot receive payments from the tenant in addition to the voucher. The section this is in means you cannot collect under the table rent, charge them for things you are required to do under your lease, or through the Landlord-tenant law. It means you can't get kickbacks and profit from the system. NOT that you have zero recourse for violations of the lease (such as late fees, HOA fines, etc)
Karissa J February 27, 2013 at 01:10 AM
Have you never seen a lease agreement? Do they not all contain language about how long guests can stay, who can live there? Your "daily bed check comment" is ridiculous. No, they don't expect that. Here's how rent increases work. Several months in advance of the leases expiration, the housing authority sends the re-certification packet to the tenant, schedules the annual inspection and SENDS THE LANDLORD A LETTER so they can apply to raise the rent. MONTHS before the lease expires. It is based on comparable market rent. So unless the economy is very bad, or you are trying to rent your 3bd home for $4000 when every other 3bd in town is only renting for $1500, this is bound to not be a huge issue. Unless you believe it's legal under the current Landlord-Tenant law or that is should be for landlords to hold their tenants hostage by raising rent without notice for any amount they want at any time. Damages. This does NOT mean you cannot collect for normal damages under the law. If your tenant punches holes in walls or whatever nightmare situation you seem to believe all Section 8 recipients will do to your home, you will not be charged for that. If it's the hot water heater that you failed to repair or replace for 20 years, your tenant will not be charged. JUST LIKE THE LANDLORD TENANT LAW ALREADY REQUIRES YOU TO DO FOR "REGULAR" RENTERS. Standard practice of a responsible landlord who collects damages, past rent, is through small claims court. Which doesn't allow attorneys.
Karissa J February 27, 2013 at 01:12 AM
KHCA, or any housing authority, does and will remove tenants from the program who owe landlords' fees and damages. "Normal tenants" don't have third parties pay for unpaid utility bills either, so they are "one their own" anyway.
Karen Levenson February 27, 2013 at 01:19 AM
Karissa: We have different interpretations about all of this. You have your sources that think this is a great thing and I have mine who have tried to be landlords using Section 8 and describe the pitfalls. My calculations are based on what was provided on the King County Housing Authority website. You mention "regular" renters and non-discrimination. Let's talk for a minute about non-discrimination. No one should discriminate against anyone, ever. That being said, lets consider ethnicity, religious background, immigration status, age, sex, sexual orientation, disability. None of these groups have the government stepping in with pre-rental inspections, annual inspections, veto rights on the amount a landlord charges, approvals for additional people to occupy the unit etc. I guess this is about whether we want to create a super protected class that has government involvement more than others who are protected against discrimination. Also, do we really want government dictating the way landlords operate their business (only allowing annual rentals, not monthly, etc). You and I seem to be seeing this very differently and I'd imagine there are hundreds of different perspectives on this issue. I'd love to hear them all. I'd love the city of Kirkland to hear all the perspectives. My biggest concern continues to be lack of NOTIC. It is not fair to make changes without opportunity for folks to have their thoughts considered.
Karissa J February 27, 2013 at 01:33 AM
I disagree your biggest concern is lack of notice. Because it's the thing you've mentioned the LEAST in all your letters and comments here, on Kirkland Views and elsewhere. I would suggest you do some historical research and the broader range of demographics on why the Section 8 program even exists. They are NOT a super protected class of people. They have more government involvement because the government helps them afford safe housing! For goodness sake. They fill out 20+ pages of documents every year, their income is verified every year. You are entirely unwilling to even allow for the possiblity that a landlord could benefit from having GUARANTEED rent for year long leases (i'm sorry, how many landlords, homes and apartments do you REALLY know who ONLY do monthly? ), their homes inspected to ensure BOTH parties are following the Landlord-tenant laws. The "government" isn't "dictating" anything. Your paranoia and hysterics are embarrassing. A landlord who accepts a Section 8 voucher do so knowingly and willingly. LET GO OF THE IDEA THAT IT IS FORCED. IT IS NOT. I won't reply to you any further. But just as the residents of Kirkland deserve notice (I'm not sure why you think there wasn't any notice. I received emails from the City, saw their website updates, noticed news articles for months) they also deserve accurate information from people willing to put aside their own bias in ways you seem unwilling to do.
Karissa J February 27, 2013 at 01:35 AM
Bellevue, Redmond, unincorporated areas are all years ahead of us in this regard. It would be embarrassing to live in a city that took the stance of "get out poor people, we don't want your kind here". Which is exactly what you are really saying by twisting all this into government mandating and conspiracy theories of your rights being trampled. This ordinance is simple. Don't discriminate.
Kelley March 02, 2013 at 02:00 AM
Why is it that we need the government giving us MORE limitations on what we can do with property that WE OWN?? Plus, I believe that as it stands, you can not legally discriminate due to Section Eight, so why do we need more government regulations? How about if the City of Kirkland minds it's own business and let's me mind mine?


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