Working in Chicago with Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) for section 8 tenants can be a very lucrative strategy for your investment portfolio. If you’re specifically a first time landlord to a section 8 program in Chicago, you’ll need to learn more about this process, especially if you are going to take your investment properties and generate income working with a HUD Housing Choice Voucher recipient. In addition, there are many positives and negatives to setting up your portfolio with this type of income, and I will go through some of them in this write-up.
If you are managing the property yourself, you’ll need to make sure you connect with local property managers or owners that understand this process in order to take advantage of this real life experience. If you hire a property manager, you must make sure the manager can prove their extensive knowledge of the process, especially before you consider working with them. Don’t let you new property manager learn on your dime.
Before I explain any further, I want to ensure you understand that this is specifically only related to the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA). Depending where you are in the area of Chicagoland, there are multiple housing authorities like Dupage Housing Authority, Housing Authority of Elgin (HAE), & Housing Authority of Cook County (HACC). Since we have extensive experience in each of these housing authorities, feel free to reach out to us to ask any questions. The Chicago Housing Authority only has coverage in the City of Chicago city limits.
Chicago Housing Authority Benefits - Before I discuss the nuances, there is a need to explain the positive benefits.
Tenants will not suddenly leave - Typically, because of the slow process of residents moving out, landlords can usually see any upcoming vacancy anywhere from 15 to 45 days in advance. This allows you, the landlord, to prepare for the vacancy and address any issues with the existing tenant.
Tends to have longer tenancy - Because the process is longer and more daunting, a CHA resident will tend to stay in a place longer if they are happy with their current manager/landlord.
You can file for eviction and still get paid - In the rare instance you need to file for eviction against a CHA resident, CHA will continue to pay the landlord until the tenant is moved out. Further penalties can be accrued against the tenant from CHA in the aftermath of the eviction, but this rarely happens unless extreme effort is put out by the landlord.
Things to watch out for with Chicago Housing Authority - Below are just a few items to look out for. There is also more depth to understand in each category to learn beyond my brief explanation. Take this information as a simple guideline and proceed forward from there.
Residents with children under the age of 6 - Inspections will be far more strict with children under the age of 6 because of the increased risk of chipped or peeling paint. This may include paint issues inside the home, in the common areas, and on the exterior of the building.
Getting a tenant to move is difficult - At times, you will want your tenant to move out because they aren't a good fit for your property or maybe because the tenant is a problem to the neighborhood. Sometimes in these situations a tenant will prolong the process, delaying the move. That’s why you must be aggressive with a tenant for them to relocate to a new place in order to maintain an accurate timeline for your upcoming vacancy.
Tenants can cause a failed inspection - Tenants will say and do spiteful things to the inspector to cause a failed inspection. A tenant may not agree and become spiteful when the landlord is trying to do what is right when it comes to the operation of the property. That is why we find it crucial to have a maintenance tech at every inspection to make sure we can control the flow.
CHA can stop paying you - If you fail an annual inspection twice, your income from CHA will be abated, which means they stop paying you until you fix the failed items and get the property passed on a third inspection.
Tenants payment will fluctuate - When you sign up a tenant, CHA may pay 80% of the agreed on rent and 20% comes from the tenant. If a tenant’s income increases or decreases at the annual income review of the tenant, then that specific portion can fluctuate. Typically the tenant’s portion increases, thereby leaving you, the owner, having to collect more every month.
Tenant’s voucher can change - We all know tenant’s vouchers are based on bedroom size, so sometimes tenants may have people move on or off their voucher. Both of these can become the landlord’s problem. If a tenant’s voucher increases in size, they may want to go look for a larger home, which can lose you a tenant when their lease is up. When a tenant’s voucher is reduced in size (ex. 3 bdrm to 2 bdrm), the monthly rent will not decrease, however the tenant’s portion will increase. This tends to lead to collection issues, due to the tenant now having a higher required payment.
Time to collect the first payment - After the rent is agreed to and a tenant moves in, it will take 30 to 45 days to get that first months rent from CHA. This can sometimes interrupt cash flow, but often the second month you will get first and second month at the same time getting you back on track for the third month to get your payment paid on the 1st of each month..
Inspection inconsistency - If you read through the thick book of HUD Guidelines or reviewed the 8 page inspection checklist (https://www.hud.gov/sites/documents/52580.PDF), you will know that there is a lot to learn. As a landlord, you come across the issue of how the field inspectors are never consistent on how they inspect against the checklist.
Working within the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) can be a very profitable long-term strategy for your investments in the City Of Chicago. Early on, understanding how to maneuver the potholes will help you avoid many of the common issues investors experience and eventually have to learn with trial and error. Ultimately, I would still suggest you hire a local property manager that can help you learn it all by doing it right the first time.