San Jose Considers Law to Prevent Sec. 8 Discrimination

Low-income renters and homeless people struggling to find a place to live that accepts housing subsidies may soon find some relief.

The San Jose City Council on Tuesday plans to review a law that would bar landlords from discriminating against renters with subsidies such as Section 8 vouchers.

“The adoption of the Housing Payment Equality Ordinance will enhance housing stability for tenants by providing increased access to housing options for low-income residents who receive rental assistance subsidies,” San Jose Housing Director Jacky Morales-Ferrand and Budget Director Jim Shannon wrote in a memo. “It will achieve this by prohibiting rejection of prospective tenants who receive rental assistance.”

According to a 2018 survey conducted by San Jose’s Housing Department, only 5 percent of landlords on Craigslist and apartments.com said they’d accept subsidized vouchers. Some 39 percent said they wouldn’t accept them, 27 percent flat-out advertised that they wouldn’t accept them and the remaining 29 percent were not reachable for the survey.

The new law would apply to all rentals including single family homes, duplexes, multiple-unit dwellings with three apartments or more, co-living developments, granny cottages and mobile homes. The only exclusion would be if the room for rent is in a single family home where the landlord currently resides.

The law also identifies what a landlord can’t do, like imposing certain terms on the rental unit, advertising that they don’t accept housing vouchers or using an income standard that’s not based on the portion of rent paid by the tenant.

The law also outlines a number of enforcement options, such as the city attorney’s office filing a civil action suit against the landlord.

Since the council’s push for the new ordinance last December, the city has done extensive outreach with both renters and landlords. Before Tuesday’s meeting, a few dozen property owners sent city officials a standardized email imploring them to reject the law, calling it “complicated and problematic.”

In another letter from the California Apartment Association, Vice President of Public Affairs Anil Babbar wrote that while they supported the “mission” of housing vouchers, San Jose’s proposal is too broad

“Accepting a voucher most often requires property inspections and government reviews that can take anywhere from two to four weeks to complete, time that an owner may not be receiving rent on the unit,” Babbar wrote. “Then upon clearing all the hurdles with the Housing Authority, it can take up two months to receive the first rent check. It’s that kind of bureaucracy that discourages owners from opting into the program.”

Ferrand and Shannon wrote in their memo that many landlords expressed the need for education and that first-time offenders shouldn’t be harshly penalized. Renters, on the other hand, were worried that landlords would continue to discriminate, “resulting in wasted energy and expectations for voucher holders seeking housing.”

Council members Johnny Khamis, Pam Foley, Dev Davis and Lan Diep took some of those recommendations and incorporated them into a memo released Friday afternoon. In it, they requested that enforcement for the law would take effect one year after its adoption, giving landlords enough time to fully understand the ordinance. It would also modify the rules to protect property owners by giving them a 30-day “right to cure period” before the prospective renter could take any civil legal action.

Lastly, Khamis, Foley, Davis and Diep asked that the city tweak the law to make it clear that while it does create equal opportunity for voucher-holders, that doesn’t mean a landlord is under the obligation to rent to them.

“It is in the public interest, as well, for us to ensure that rental housing providers accept applications from all applicants, that they are treating all applicants fairly, and they are not disseminating advertising that is discriminatory against Section 8 recipients,” the councilors wrote. “The city also has an interest in ensuring that we are not overburdening rental providers with onerous mandates in which they are not educated [and that] we do not discourage their participation in the rental market.”

Mayor Sam Liccardo, Vice Mayor Chappie Jones and Council members Magdalena Carrasco and Sylvia Arenas put out a memo asking housing officials to give the council updates on the progress of the new law. In particular, they were curious about an increase in the number of landlords entering into contracts with the Santa Clara County Housing Authority, as well as the city’s enforcement results.

They also asked for an update on how they could incentivize landlords to participate in the program. Councilors originally requested that information at a meeting last December. Morales-Ferrand and Shannon said they would be exploring incentives such as speeding up when a landlord receives that first rent check from the voucher program.

The San Jose City Council meets at 1:30pm Tuesday inside the council chambers at City Hall, 200 E. Santa Clara St. in San Jose. Click here to read the agenda. 

Grace Hase is a staff writer for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Email tips to [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @grace_hase.

18 Comments

  1. How can you require a landlord to accept a tenant that requires the landlord to take extra steps to participate in a government program and potentially provide the person with a couple of months of free rent?

    • The proposed ordinance does not require a landlord to accept a tenant, it requires them to accept their application.

      • > The proposed ordinance does not require a landlord to accept a tenant, it requires them to accept their application.

        Well, if the landlord KNOW he’s not going to accept a Section 8 tenant, this is just a ridiculous, dishonest charade at the expense of the tenant.

        The landlord knows., the gubmint housing bureaucrat knows. Only the low income tenant is in the dark AND being played for a sucker by the politicians and the housing bureaucrats.

    • Absolutely, when it comes to business there is no room for empathy !!! I would rather want to keep my house vacant then allowing the rent to fall. Until the pitch forks come that is :-)

  2. “Low-income renters and homeless people struggling to find a place to live that accepts housing subsidies may soon find some relief.”

    Meanwhile, non-subsidized renters will see their rents skyrocket even higher as owners raise rents above the HUD limits to exempt themselves.

    Stupid! But that’s what we expect from SJ socialist housing department. They never think of the the unintended consequences.

    • agree with Mr Balboa

      rents will go up, as demand will grow and some property owners will crank rent above HUD levels

    • Sec. 8 Housing pays a market rent. The problem is the inspection time, and the landlord getting their first check. The process is too slow.

  3. I think we need this law. I have several friends on housing vouchers, and I am relieved they have landlords that accepted them. I have a Section 8 tenant and the program involves far less risk than the last (non-voucher) tenant I had previously.I don’t think that landlords need a years’ time to adjust to this. Give them a month to figure it out. And landlords who accept a Section 8 tenant for the first time, receive a bonus (I did not because I has a Section 8 tenant in 2006).

  4. Listen, I get the homeless need housing. BUT, from a landlord’s side someone in our city council needs to understand that NOT ALL landlords are wealthy! Yes, I said it! Not all landlord’s are wealthy. Meaning this…I recently had a terrible experience with a worse than average tenant. I had to pay out of MY POCKET to get them “legally evicted” because I, as a landlord and homeowner, could not do it myself because…A) it’s the law! I also had to spend lots of money that I DID NOT HAVE because…b) the tenant didn’t pay for months, squatted and guess what? I, as a homeowner and Landlord, couldn’t do a thing about it…want to know why? Because the law is written in FAVOR of the TENANT and NOT the Landlord! Such bull! Now I am applying for a credit through the Property Tax Assessor – hoping to recoup some of the LOST money that I had to fork out because of terrible, horrendous tenant. Call it what you want, but it is NOT fair for you to tell us who we can and can’t rent to. IT IS MY HOME. IF I WANT TO RENT TO SOMEONE THAT IS NOT ON SECTION 8 THAT SHOULD BE UP TO ME AND ONLY ME! NOT YOU AND NOT THE COUNTY AND NO ONE IN BETWEEN. GIVE US LANDLORDS A FRICKING BREAK. AS IT IS, THE LAW IS WRITTEN IN FAVOR OF THE TENANT..Oh, by the way, I also had my PG&E shut off for over a week because the nightmare tenant did not pay the bill but if the homeowner wanted to pay it they would turn in on right away…BUT, if I wanted to prove I was the homeowner, it would take at least a week or so, meaning no power until they approved that I was legally the homeowner. Yeah, okay. You go ahead and pass that stupid bill. We will ban together. You will see!

    • I’m sorry that happened to you, but I disagree that the laws give more favoritism to the tenant. I worked as a Tenant Landlord Counselor and Mediator for the Housing Service Center for many years. While I did work with some wonderful Landlords, for free, I also worked with some real slum Lords who got away with really disgusting behaviors, and code violations.

      This law would NOT take away your right to choose your own tenant. More importantly, any Sec, 8 tenant who damages your rental, looses their Sec, 8 Voucher. As far as PG&E goes, a tenant looses their Sec, 8 Voucher, if they do not keep the PG&E on at all times, until they move.

      Sec. 8 protects BOTH the Landlord and tenant because THEY have rules to abide by that regular tenants do not, so look into it before you get angry about it.

      BTW- You can sue the tenant who took advantage of you in small claims court and recoup your looses. Take photos of the damages, and keep all your receipts!

      Good luck, and again, I’m so sorry you are going threw this.

  5. It sounds as though you were renting out a room in your house. This law does not apply to rooms rented out in a private home where the landlord lives. Sounds like you should have moved sooner on evicting this tenant. And yes, I am a landlord, but I am not rich. I am retired and live modestly. And I support anti-discrimination laws against tenants just because they have housing vouchers.

  6. Section 8 housing I’ve seen both side of that coin, My advice to any people thinking about getting into this and you are going to get rich quick renting to section 8 tenants, Don’t ! That’s a game for very experience land lords with lots of extra places to rent.
    I saw one place destroyed in the first 48 hours by the tenants son who was smoking in bed, then flooded the place trying to put out the fire. He ran away leaving the hose on and the house still burning.

    On the other hand the house next to my wife’s house was rented out by a slum lord. That house was condemned 22 years ago by the city of Sunnyvale and boarded up after an explosion. Last I heard he was still trying to sucker people into renting it .

  7. Even if the rent is the same, there is a BIG DIFFERENCE in renting to RESPONSIBLE PEOPLE versus renting to IRRESPONSIBLE PEOPLE.

    Before all the property managers and landlords explain what the difference is, the section 8 tenant partisans should take a shot at explaining HOW a property manager should determine whether a prospective Section 8 renter is “responsible” or “irresponsible”.

    Would the Section 8 housing rental bureaucracy accept a note from a landlord saying: “I’ve rejected your Section 8 tenant and YOUR section 8 money because your tenant is no damn good.”

    Tell me how this is going to work.

    • Thank you Mr. Bubble that’s kind of what I was trying to say, but also a warning that these government agency’s are on the side of the tenant. There not going to warn you that their client is the Manson Family!

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