Buying an Occupied Section 8 Rental? Here’s the Docs You’ll Need

I love to buy properties that are already occupied with Section 8 tenants. Usually, the rents are low and the tenants are anxious to have a landlord who takes care of the property (it’s rare that landlords sell a high performing rental that’s been immaculately maintained – at least, not at the price I’m willing to buy!). 

This means I can come in and quickly raise rents through the Housing Authority’s process and improve the return on the property without any rehab, turnover or fuss from the tenant – which is nearly impossible to do with market rentals.

But, there are some documents you’re going to want to collect from the current landlord while under contract and I request these documents in the Purchase & Sale Agreement.

Here’s what I request and what I’m looking for

1. The Lease

I review this document to make sure it’s executed properly, has all of the necessary tenant information (if it doesn’t, I know what I’ll need to collect ASAP), and I look to see per the lease, who pays for what utilities. I also look at the dates.

2. The HAP Contract and/or the most recent Notice of Change

These documents tell me which Housing Authority & caseworker I’ll be dealing with, who pays for what services & utilities (landlord or tenant & does it match the lease), how much the rent is (does it match the lease), the breakdown of how much of the rent the tenant pays and how much Section 8 pays, and when the recertification is (important because rent increase requests are usually time sensitive and tied to the recert date).

3. The Ledger (for both the tenant AND the Housing Authority/Section 8)

I want a ledger for the last 2 years.  Or a minimum of 12 months if the landlord claims not to have it.  (If I can’t even get this, I may still do the deal but I go in knowing there will be surprises).

I check the ledger against the lease and the HAP/NOC documents to see if everything lines up.  For instance:

  • If the landlord says he bills the tenant for sewer, are the sewer charges & payments in the tenant’s ledger?
  • Do the rent payments for both tenant and Section 8 align with the NOC or HAP document?
  • If someone’s paying rent late, who is it (probably the tenant), and if so, how often and how late?  Are late fees being charged per the lease and paid by the tenant?

My experience is that tired landlords are terrible record keepers and possibly liars (I’m an eternal optimist so I prefer to believe the former) so very often, things happen like this:

  • The tenant should be paying the landlord for sewer & trash but the landlord’s never charged it to them
  • The landlord says the tenant’s always on time but they’ve been 10 days late 6 out of the last 12 months
  • The landlord’s never asked for a rent increase and the renewal just occurred so I can’t ask for one for 11 months.

None of these things will kill a deal for me necessarily, but they do affect how much I’m willing to pay for a house and how I need to plan for cash flow and management purposes.

As always, if you’re interested in starting, growing or accelerating a rental portfolio with Section 8 rentals, reach out to me here or by email at

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