Dear Ask the Attorney:My property has made a decision NOT to participate in the Section 8 program. I attended a training given by HUD and it seems to me that we are opening ourselves up to a Fair Housing complaint by telling applicants that “we do not accept Section 8″. Is Section 8 mandatory now?
This question is actually quite interesting. Landlords, while required to abide by Fair Housing laws, are not required to participate in the Section 8 program. That being said, there have been legislative moves over the years to make Section 8 mandatory. These efforts have met with staunch opposition by political groups representing the interests of residential landlords, who point to the numerous (and sometimes burdensome) obligations that are placed on landlords who opt to participate in the Section 8 program.
Some states and municipalities, however, have added “lawful source of income” to their Fair Housing protected classes. This has the effect making Section 8 mandatory. Further, some legal scholars theorize that refusing to accept Section 8 tenants constitutes a race-based disparate impact claim.
Alabama law does not add “lawful source of income” to the federally-protected classes under Fair Housing. That being said, be mindful of how you communicate your property’s participation (or lack of participation) to the prospective tenant.
Some properties opt to compile a list of nearby properties that DO accept Section 8. Additionally, you may want to explain that the Section 8 program is just not something your company is set up to deal with, as most people on Section 8 do not understand what the landlord must do when dealing with the program, and may not understand why you would not participate in the Section 8 program.
As always, if you have any questions regarding this article, please contact your attorney for clarification.