5 Reasons Why Buying Property in Koh Samui, Thailand Might Be Easier Than You Thought

We’ve all fantasised about it before; living on a tropical Island. Perhaps it was when you were sat on the bus on your way to work, squashed between a tired nurse and an arrogant teenager; picturing your very own slice of paradise in your minds’ eye. Then as the bus comes to a sudden stop, you’re snapped back into reality and sink further into your bad mood because you convince yourself that it is something that will simply never happen.And why shouldn’t it happen for you? Why should you not be allowed to live on a luscious tropical island? As it turns out, there are ways in which you can make this happen, if that’s your wish. The question is though, where?Well, how does the heart of South-East Asia sound? More specifically, Koh Samui, in Thailand. Of course, you’ll have to work incredibly hard for it, save as much money as you can and focus on a career that can be continued in Asia (or a retirement plan); though that’s not to say its impossible.In this article I am going to list a few reasons why moving to and buying property on Koh Samui is well within the realms of possibility. If moving to an Island is what you’ve always dreamed of, then why not? After-all, we are the architects of our own reality, right?1 – Because You CanIt really is as simple as that: because you can. Yes, there are complications and a number of laws in place that make it quite difficult, though it’s not impossible. The problem is that there are always horror stories and rumours that float around, shattering everyone’s dreams. Yes, you can buy property in Thailand – no, it’s not impossible.


The only thing is that you have to do your research and know your rights. That being said; there are plenty of experienced legal aids in Thailand who will be able to guide you through every step of the process, including a wealth of Real Estate Agencies who will put your needs and desires first so as to ensure the smoothest transaction.It is worth putting in the extra effort, believe me. Read on and we will explore some of the things that make Koh Samui so special!Thailand is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the World, and expatriates from all over the World have long been flocking to its shores to start a new life. In the same breath; Koh Samui is one of the larger islands and has grown in popularity over recent years, thus contributing towards it booming economy and real estate industry – do you want to be a part of that? Because you can.2 – Because Koh Samui is MagnificentKoh Samui isn’t one of Thailand’s most popular tourist destinations by accident. It has gained such a reputation because of its unparalleled beauty. Koh Samui is truly one of the most beautiful locations in the entire World, rich with a cultural tapestry that will rend you awe-struck and inspired.The local Thai community are wonderful and accommodating too, welcoming all who flock to their shores with bright smiles and open arms.From the hustle of Chaweng Beach, to the tranquility of the Lamai side of the Island; Koh Samui has something to offer everyone. The island boasts a wealth of magnificent landmarks and activities, including the Ang Thong National Marine Park, Bophut’s Fisherman Village, the Secret Buddha Garden and the World-Famous Scuba Diving that Samui’s neighboring island, Koh Tao has to offer.3 – Because the Weather Doesn’t SuckWho doesn’t want to walk around in a vest and flip-flops all of the time? Some people (crazy people) like the cold, I for one could not think of anything worse. In Koh Samui you can enjoy the benefits of living in one of the most wonderful climates in the World.Sure, you’ll have to weather the occasional tropical storm during the rainy seasons, though even they come with their own unique set of charms. Yes, the power of mother nature can be rather intimidating, but there is something inexplicably remarkable about sitting on your balcony and watching as the storms rage and the skies light up in a grand display of electric artistry.4 – Because the Food in Thailand is far SuperiorOK, so this point may be a little biased and of course there are many who will disagree. But for the most part, anyone with great taste will know and understand that the Thai’s truly know how to eat! If you want to get away from the Fish and Chips and the Microwave Ready meals, then look no further than Thailand. They are known the World over as having some of the most magnificent food in the World.


But don’t worry, for those of you who aren’t too adventurous with their food, you will still have access to all of the western cuisine that your hearts desire. With plenty of local supermarkets selling everything you could possibly want for a slice of home.5 – Because the Properties are Worth Every PennyIt’s no secret that money goes much further in Thailand. For what you would spend on a 2-bedroom terraced house in elsewhere, you could instead buy a villa with your very own private swimming pool! The Real Estate industry in Thailand is booming and there is a wealth of quality and experienced Real Estate Agents in the market who will be able to help you find your dream home without straying over your budget.In fact, even if you were to simply rent a property in Thailand, (which is entirely viable) to compare – rent prices in the United Kingdom are 96.83% higher. In a nutshell, your money will go much further and you’ll be able to live a much better quality of life. Stop dreaming and make it your reality.

How to Find a Quality Halfway House in the United States

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT HALFWAY HOUSES*

The first thing you need to know is that most halfway houses are NOT regulated. Many operate without a state license. Most halfway houses, regardless of whether they are licensed or not, do a great job at helping a person stay sober, and can assist a person in reconnecting with family, and also becoming a contributor to society. Many Halfway Houses operate without a license simply because the licensing agency and/or the zoning commission prevent halfway houses from operating in their neighborhoods by restricting census (total amount of residents in any single location or house). Few halfway houses can stay open when a licensure agency and/or zoning department tell them they can only have 4 residents in a large 4 bedroom house. Few places can keep their doors open with these unfair and illegal tactics due to the large overhead incurred (lights, electricity, heating, cooling, insurance, mortgage payments, staff, etc.). What is most important is how they go about helping people to stay sober and keeping residents on track- what is their main focus, making money or helping people- this is typically the main difference between a quality run halfway house and a poorly run facility. There are many questions to ask to determine the difference between the two. Are they staying on top of their resident’s sobriety? How do they maintain a clean and sober environment, etc.? Do they have rules? What are the rules? How do they enforce them? Always ask to see a copy of the rules!!! Are they a coed facility? Typically, a male or female only halfway house has better odds at maintaining sobriety and dealing with length of stay issues. You will want to know what happens if you come home drunk at 2 A.M. on a Friday- do they just kick you out of the halfway house into the neighborhood? Do they have protocols for dealing with this and many other possible scenarios? Find out how they deal with situations before moving in. You should definitely be given a complete tour (especially visiting exactly where you are going to be placed), along with explaining all the rules and regulations, as well as a residents responsibilities. Note: Most Halfway Houses require, at least initially, a resident to have a roommate, as this helps make sure a person is accountable by at least one other person besides the House Manager and the General Manager/Owner.

You should take note of how the place looks. A few years ago I was involved in property assessments for a program helping mentally ill patients. One of the first things we would take note of is whether there was grass growing in the cracks of the concrete. Another item was the condition of the landscaping (was the grass mowed, the bushes trimmed, the trees pruned, etc.). We would then move on to how the paint looked, the roof, whether the windows were clean, etc. With this same approach, you should be looking to see how clean the house is. Are the grounds well kept? Is the roof showing signs of possible leaks? How does the entire exterior look? What shape is the room you will occupy, etc?

Another issue you may find at halfway houses are the managers. Most, if not all, are in recovery themselves. There is a big difference between what is called a General Manager and a House Manager. It is very typical, and normal, for a house manager to have only a few months clean and sober. This does not mean the halfway house has poor management. It is not so much time clean, but the quality of clean time that matters most. It is typical that a House Manager will move on to getting their own place by the time they get 6 months to a year clean, so this makes sense why House Managers have little clean time. On the other hand, the General Manager typically has years of sobriety. What’s most important is how many years the General Manager has running a halfway house system as opposed to how long the House Manager has clean. A General Manager that has both years of sobriety coupled with years of experience running a halfway house is a winning combination.

One of the most important factors in whether a halfway house is of good quality is how the General Manager and/or Owner deal with the overall handling of each and every resident. They should be forever vigilant, and firm. They should be able to tell you how often they are around the residents and the house, and if they run more than one house, they should be able to tell you how they stay on top of all their houses- what system is in place so that residents and houses are not left unattended for any length of time. A quality run house should require a length of stay commitment from the potential resident prior to moving in (this is usually anywhere from 3 months to 1 year- the longer the stay, the higher the success rates). All facilities should be set up so that every resident MUST report to the General Manager or House Manager, and that the House Manager reports directly to the General Manager or Owner. A quality run halfway house should have sign in/sign out sheets designating why a resident is going off grounds including where they are going and what time they will leave as well as when they will be back- make sure there is a system in place that checks and verifies this information both before a resident leaves and how they appear upon return. This includes going to work, a job search, (this should include a separate list of places they are applying at and how long they will be at any one given employment office/business), 12-Step Meeting attendance (this should state which meeting, time of meeting, and any other important information), visiting family, (who, where, etc.), visiting a friend (This should be looked at by the General Manager/Owner and not just the House Manager- keeping in mind that certain people and places are off limits), as well as any other reasons and times for leaving the house- responsibility and accountability are important components at a good halfway house- look for this.

Money is another issue. If a person will be tempted to drink/drug, a quality house should have a safe place to hold a residents money. If, for instance, a resident has another person (family member, case worker, etc.) paying for their stay at a halfway house, this money should go directly to the company/Owner, and not to the resident. Employment may be required as part of a residents stay, and there are certain high-risk jobs that should not be allowed by management. These include driving a cab, working at a bar, graveyard shifts, and working too many hours that the resident does not leave time to engage in their recovery effort. More information on typical fees can be read further down on this article.

Responsibility- Most halfway houses require residents to attend what is called “House Meetings.” House Meetings should occur on specific days at specific times, for the purpose of reviewing how a resident is doing, if they are attending 12-Step meetings, counseling sessions (if offered), and any other issues that may have come up during their stay. Most good halfway houses require residents to attend either or both inside and off grounds 12-Step Meetings (Typically 12-Step attendance is a minimum of 1 per day initially, and at least 3 meetings per week as a maintenance level- most quality houses require a resident to have a sheet signed by the meeting chairperson stating the name of the meeting, day, date, and time). It is very important how a halfway house handles a residents free time (at least for the first 30 days), as new residents should only be allowed off grounds with a stable resident to go with them, and it should be noted if they are utilizing this privilege without abusing it. Typically, a new resident may be restricted to the unit for the first few days. After between 1 week and 30 days, if a resident has shown responsibility and accountability, a resident will be allowed more freedom, but keep in mind that a quality house should always have curfews in place regardless of length of stay. Most will have specific wake-up times. It is also important to find out how they handle visitations (family, friends, case workers, etc.) Free time includes going to off grounds 12-Step Meetings, working with a 12-Step Sponsor, working the 12-Steps, etc. Free time is extremely dangerous for a newly recovered person, so a good run house should have programs and activities to keep them occupied. Most require a resident to do chores (gardening, sweeping, cleaning, cooking, etc.) and these are usually done without pay. If a resident has a vehicle, it should be either paid for or they are making payments on it- these payments should be verified as being up to date. A resident must be properly and currently licensed to drive it, and the tags should be current as well.

On another note, the level of care at a halfway house can vary greatly. Some offer the bare minimum- a bed with a roof over it. Others provide counseling, 12-Step Meetings, guidance, true random drug testing of their residents, food, and transportation to/from outside meetings, job coaching, training, placement, and many other services. The key is to find a halfway house that is run well, as well as one that meets your needs. Keep in mind that many who choose, or are placed into, a halfway house do get better and can stay sober, but this requires a combination of resident dedication and good management. Also keep in mind that halfway houses are not treatment centers, not a place of luxury, and definitely not responsible for a person’s sobriety. Be aware of so-called “flop houses” which are just places to sleep without any supervision or accountability- these usually have high rates of failure/relapse. Some houses deal with dual diagnosis issues (substance abuse and mental health problems). Most provide a safe place, depending on the quality of the program, a facility manager and/or owner to oversee it, and some basic needs for the person living there. Please don’t start checking out various halfway houses with the expectation of going to a country club, or more importantly, that everybody who is there is happy, healthy, and mature individuals- remember, they too are trying to get their lives together; some for the first time after decades of abusing alcohol and/or drugs- in other words, there is no perfect fit. If you are in need of detox services, this should be done with medical supervision- withdrawal can be deadly without the proper medical care in place- you may need to go to a separate place to detox safely before moving into a halfway house. If a halfway house provides detox, they should have qualified medical staff to deal with this issue- make sure you verify credentials.

It helps to keep in mind why you are going to live at a halfway house… and that reason is, to be at a place that is alcohol and drug free, to be surrounded by people trying to build a better life for themselves, and a place that will keep an eye on you until you start to get on a successful path to making your life better. Keep this on your mind the whole time you are in a halfway house!!! Besides the basics provided, at a typical halfway house, be grateful if they provide anything else for you- remember your purpose for being there (to get a good shot at sobriety) and don’t expect extras. There are many resources within each state to help you obtain a list of halfway houses near you (see resources below this article). Keep in mind that the lists provided to you contain mostly licensed facilities- a licensed facility does not mean they are better- just that they do a good job at paperwork and at paying licensing fees.

A CASE IN POINT

I had a very, very, very dear close friend named Bob (actually he was the best friend I ever had in my 50+ years on earth) and he had been sober for 6+ years. He took a relative, (who was actively using drugs) into his house to help him get his life back in order. As time went on, this relative and his influence took my friend Bob down the dark path of relapse. I worked as best I could with Bob, being that I was in Southern California and he was in Mesa, Arizona. Bob decided he had enough, and wanted to get clean again. Bob checked into a licensed halfway house and 1 day into staying at the house he had to pick up his last paycheck, so he could pay his rent at this halfway house. The halfway house let him leave alone, to get his check- a bad move on the managements decision to allow him to go by himself to do this (all they were concerned with was getting rent money from him) and so he picked up this large check and immediately got a hotel room, drugs, and proceeded to get high. Bob died in that hotel room. A quality run halfway house, licensed or not, would never have allowed him to do this, considering the risk, as a quality run halfway house would have arranged for the employer to mail the check, or that the House Manager or General Manager would have escorted Bob to the company and made Bob accountable and would never have permitted him to cash it and be left to his own devices- alcoholics/addicts are impulsive, especially early in their road to recovery- and Bob would have returned to the halfway house and the manager would have held his money to pay rent and also, hopefully, given him money to live on, but not enough to get high on. It is, in large part, the halfway houses part to intervene and assist a newcomer in making sound decisions instead of an impulsive weak moment that eventually lead to Bob’s death. I continue to place a large amount of blame on this halfway house for playing a large role in my dear friends death. Had Bob been in a quality halfway house, licensed or not, he would still be alive today. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t miss my best friend. This article is dedicated to him in the hopes it doesn’t get repeated.

Additional Information

A special amount of attention should be paid to the weekly costs and up front monies a particular halfway house charges to their residents. Typical average charges at halfway houses from state to state in the USA run from $90.00 to $150.00 per week. Some will take anybody in without upfront monies as long as the facility is reasonably confident the resident is either employed or employable and will be able to make their weekly rent payments and be able to make up for back rents. Some houses require up front monies prior to admission, a security deposit, and rent paid in advance. This may be a barrier to getting into certain facilities. There are no insurance companies that cover halfway house rents, unless the house provides specific treatment, counseling, etc., and even at this, it is difficult to get insurance companies to commit to extended periods of coverage. Also of concern, is if the resident is able to work- A Halfway House is a business, and overhead plays a big part in whether or not they can keep their doors open. It doesn’t do much of anything if all the right pieces fall into place at a quality house, if they can’t pay the bills. Many facilities go under, not because they don’t care or want to help, but simply because they have too many residents who are not working, not enough residents, some who can’t work, or are unable to cover and/or pay back the rent payments owed and/or the initial move in costs.

So what can you expect for the amount of money you pay to a halfway house? This varies greatly. For some houses it is all-inclusive, meaning they provide everything from phone service, food, counseling, job seeking assistance, etc. For others, they may offer some or none of these services. Much has to do with whether you are going, or sending someone, to a 1/2 way house, or to a 3/4 house, or a sober living environment, recovery home, etc. (see additional information concerning this factor below). Typically, a Halfway House is for those just starting to get their life in order. A 3/4 house, sober living house, recovery home, etc. does not provide the intense monitoring of their residents. The residents pretty much go and do as they please, without meetings, UA tests, or signing in and out, as opposed to a quality run halfway house that should monitor all activities and services. It is best to check out what type of house you NEED and are interested in- this includes going to the possible house, talking to current residents, and checking out the outside as well as how the internal accountability (both for residents and managers/owners) factors are carried out on a daily basis.

An additional word should be mentioned about the differences between a halfway house and a ¾ house, sober living home, recovery homes, etc. There is a distinct difference in all of these compared to a typical halfway house operation. First off, a halfway house is typically the place to go to, or be referred to, when someone has been actively using drugs, drinking alcoholically, or has been discharged from a treatment center or a prison for a non-violent drug offenders. It is not a detox ward, (unless they state this service is provided), as detox should be handled only by a medical facility run by professionals, (doctors, nurses, etc.).

So, how do you know you are going to a quality run halfway house? This requires research, asking many, many, many questions directed to the owner and/or halfway house manager. NOTE: If they don’t answer their phone calls or emails, don’t return phone calls or emails, will not give you a tour, or have an attitude of indifference towards you for asking so many questions, it is best to find another place and start the process of finding a quality run halfway house all over again- keep in mind that you are literarily placing your very life into their hands, so you don’t want to get this wrong.

Finally, It should be noted that a good halfway house needs to run successfully- this means not only helping people, but also, meeting the bottom line financially. Residents must meet their full monetary obligations- paying rent (on time and in full) and be actively involved in their own recovery, as this resident accountability factor plays a major role in success or failure. Sometimes a person fails/relapses, so find out what the procedure is for re-admittance- some will never take back a resident who relapsed while in their halfway house program, others may require a period of time clean before accepting a person back. It is the responsibility of the resident to know what happens if they relapse- where will they go, will the halfway house assist them in securing a place to live, what are the options available to them. The bottom line is to ask, ask, ask… Read the full article with more resources at nicd.us

*This article is written by Stephen J. Murray, NICD Director for use by individuals, family members, referring agencies, (Treatment Centers, Detox Facilities, Social Workers, Case Managers, Courts, etc.), Halfway House Managers/Owners, and Other Professionals who are looking for a quality halfway house.

How to Sell Your House Privately

To sell your house privately can be an exciting challenge for most people but can also be a daunting task especially if you’ve never done it before. While selling your house privately is never as easy as you think, it’s certainly a feasible way to avoid paying thousands of dollars in commission to a real estate agent. If you’re confident you can do it or just want to give it a go, you’ll need to know the ways in which you can market your house so that you receive a quick hassle-free sale as well as achieving the best sale price possible.

Here are several ways that you can market and sell your house privately…

Sell Your House Privately – Tip # 1: Internet
The Internet is probably the most utilised form of contact for buyers looking for a house so you should have your house listed on the Internet, but on probably no more than two websites (any more than two is unnecessary). Unfortunately the major sites realestate.com.au and domain.com.au don’t allow private sellers to list their houses for sale. However there is a loophole…several private listing real estate websites actually subscribe as members to the above websites. So if you list your house with these private listing sites they’ll automatically list your house on whichever of the major two sites that they’re subscribed to (for a price). Otherwise you can simply list your house for sale on a private sale website such as PrivateSales.com.au.

Sell Your House Privately – Tip # 2: Flyers/Leaflets
According to statistics, something like 80% of homebuyers buy a house within 5km of where they currently live. This being the case, it’s a great idea to create your own flyers using Microsoft Word or Microsoft Publisher and have them printed professionally by a printer. Flyers are usually dirt cheap so shop around for the best deal. You’ll probably need around 5000 to make a splash in the area (in metropolitan areas) and something like 15,000 flyers would create a good coverage of your local area.

You can deliver them yourself (if you have the time), or you could use a mailbox distribution company such as Salmat or PMP Distribution (These are Australia’s two largest distribution companies). Your cost of delivery will probably be a minimum of 5 cents per flyer under a certain delivery amount (say 30,000). This is quite cheap when you consider that you’d either have to deliver them yourself (you could probably only deliver a few hundred per day) or have to pay a commission to a real estate agent.

For ideas on how to design your flyers, simply copy the best ones that you receive in the mail from the larger franchised agencies such as Ray White, LJ Hooker etc. Remember to use a ‘catchy’ headline at the top of your flyers eg. ‘HUGE family house on a BIG 1200sqm block’. Expect a 1% response rate on your flyers eg. Deliver 5,000 flyers and you likely receive around 5 calls.

Sell Your House Privately – Tip # 3: Newspaper
Newspapers are the most traditional way of advertising a house for sale. There are two ways you can advertise in the newspaper. You can have a ‘display ad’ which is simply a ‘picture ad’ along with a certain amount of text allowed (these are the most expensive ads but you can specify the unit size of the display ad from a small one unit up to an entire page depending on your budget).

The other type of newspaper ad is a ‘classified ad’. A classified ad is a text-only ad that allows headings, bolding, underlining, bordering and even some coloured text to make the ad stand out. All of these features come at an additional cost but classified ads are the cheapest types of newspaper ads available. Prestigious and/or expensive houses usually work best as display ads since this is where your target buyer is looking for these types of houses.

Sell Your House Privately – Tip # 4: Magazines
Advertising your house for sale in magazines is a more niche way of advertising your house simply because magazines usually have a specific niche that they’re targeting their publication to eg. ‘Country Property Magazine’. This is not necessarily a negative; in fact it can be very positive because you have more qualified homebuyers looking in these publications for a house. Most magazines will have display ads as well as classified advertising available; again it depends on your budget as to what ad you’ll use.

Sell Your House Privately – Tip # 5: Word of mouth
Word of mouth is often overlooked as a possible way to market a house. You can spread the word through family, friends, workmates, business colleagues, schools, membership clubs that you’re involved with, sporting teams. You could create some flyers and hand them out, send out a broadcast email for friends to forward or even organise a private open house for friends and friends of friends.

Sell Your House Privately – Tip # 6: Signage
Signage is a great way to attract local interest in your house. It’ll create a stir in the neighbourhood and may even help you achieve a sale if one of your neighbours friends wants to move to the area. You can have a sign made by most printers; the material or product to ask for is a ‘corflute’ sign to advertise a house for sale. Most printers are probably involved with a local real estate agency and create them often. It may set you back a few hundred dollars but shop around and see what you can do.

Sell Your House Privately – Tip # 7: Open House
Your end goal with all of your marketing is to get potential buyers to inspect your house and one of the most common ways for buyers to inspect houses for sale is through open houses. They offer buyers a somewhat anonymous way of inspecting a house without any sales pressure. It’s a great way to screen buyers to see which ones are ready-to-buy so that you can spend the most time with those buyers. Create your own Inspection Register and get the names and contact numbers of everyone who inspects your house. This is not only good for the sales process but also for general security of your house. Have a set presentation for when you first meet potential buyers to let them know about some of the features of your house. It’s a good idea to have brochures or flyers on hand to give to buyers.

Questions to ask potential buyers are:
Have you been looking for a while or are you just getting started? (if they’ve just started looking they will need to be educated about prices in the area. They can potentially be time wasters as they don’t have any reference points to compare your house with others. In addition to this, the type of house they think they’re looking for could be completely different from the one they actually buy after they’ve completed some research.

Are there any features that you particularly like about the house?
How does this compare to other houses you’ve seen?

Sell Your House Privately – Tip # 8: Investor Groups
There are always investor groups or buying clubs that have a database of members that are constantly on the lookout for investment opportunities and could be suitable for you to approach to sell your house. A few downsides to these groups is that they’ll want to buy the house for the lowest possible price and generally won’t be emotionally driven to buy the house which can affect your end selling price or even negotiating power. If you have a particular urgency in selling your house then this option could be for you. A lot of these types of clubs promote the fact that they buy houses for cash with a quick settlement period. Several of these groups include WeBuyHouses.com.au and The Investors Club

Sell Your House Privately – Tip # 9: Postcards
Postcard marketing is a more unique and modern way of promoting your house for sale. They work the same as flyers except that your ad is printed on postcards that are then distributed to letterboxes. It’s best to have them distributed by companies such as Salmat and PMP Distribution.

Sell Your House Privately – Tip # 10: Publicity
Publicity is probably THE most underutilised way to sell a house privately (or through an agent). Publicity is great for a number of reasons; first of all, its free, and secondly and most importantly, publicity promotes your house from a third party perspective. Instead of you saying ‘my house is so great…’ you have a third party saying ‘this house is great, you should go and see it!’.

Some of the top real estate agents have connections to local newspapers and publications and use them regularly if they have a house to sell that has some unique aspect to it. To gain publicity for your house you’ll need to stick with local publications as they’re the ones looking for local news, stories, people, business info etc. Here are several points of interest that you can exploit (write a press release about) that may get you’re house into the local paper:
Unique house
Quirky
Odd colours or features
Unique street appeal
Amazing gardens (rare flowers or plants)
Famous previous owners
Well-known street
Local businessperson owns the house
Award winning house

Here are some catchy headlines to give you an idea of what to write a press release about:
‘How this house went from being an asbestos health hazard to a dream house in 37 days’
‘For Sale…the cleanest house in (suburb)’
‘Why this is the most quirky house on (Smith) Street…’
‘Why I painted one room of my house seven different colours…’

Try to think of weird and wonderful things about your house and really hone in on one specific point that makes your house newsworthy. Email, post or fax your press release into a specific person that writes about property related matters in your local paper. Include a photo as a teaser.

Everything You Need to Know About Section 8 Housing

For years, you’ve worked persistently for long hours yet your pay is just not enough to take care of your expenses. Health care, utilities and rising food prices are barely covered by your wage. Pretty soon, your take-home pay won’t be able to keep up with your family’s growing expenses.

This distressing scenario plagues millions of American families today. Their salaries just can’t be stretched enough to adequately provide for housing expenses. If you are a legal United States resident and don’t earn enough money to cover rent or mortgage payments, you may want to consider applying for the federal government’s Housing Voucher Program, which is also referred to as section 8.

What is Section 8?

The Housing Act of 1937 provided for financial aid to be paid by the federal government to local housing agencies or LHAs to make the living conditions of low-wage earning families better. Section 8 of the Housing Act of 1937, usually just referred to as Section 8, mandates the payment of federal housing assistance to landlords for the benefit of about 3.1 million families with low income. It makes housing assistance possible through various programs, with the Housing Choice Voucher program being the largest, which subsidizes most of the rent and utilities payments of about 2.1 million families.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) manages and funds the Section 8 programs. There are about 2,400 public housing agencies (PHAs) that administer the program locally.

A Brief History of Section 8

Section 8 housing had its beginning during the Great Depression. The passing of the U.S. Housing Act by Congress constituted the start of federal housing assistance in the country. It furnished the money to build quality yet affordable low income housing apartments for financially-challenged wage earners. These units are administered and maintained by local authorities.

The U.S. Housing Act was revised in 1961 to give way to the Section 23 Leased Housing Program which allowed low-income earners to take up residence in private low income housing apartments leased by local authorities. Tenants agree to pay a certain percentage of the rent, while the difference between the tenant’s payment and what the landlord would have normally received in the open market. Building maintenance were also performed by the local housing authorities.

In 1974, the Act underwent another revision which provided for the creation of Section 8. Rather than build and manage public housing, it aimed to assist low-earning tenants who were allotting the greater part of their earnings on rent payment. Federal funds were now used to pay a portion of the rent in housing units chosen by the renters on the open market. Since then, several more legislations were passed to amend and refine the Section 8 program.

The Critical Need for Housing Assistance

The 2005 HUD report to Congress stated that the almost 6 million renter families in the country who don’t benefit from public housing assistance suffer from worst housing needs. A huge bulk of these families have undergone “severe rent burden” which HUD describes as paying in excess of 50% of the wage-earners income for rent. Other households made their homes in second-rate buildings.

Groups being given priority by Section 8 are composed of low-income households with children, senior citizens and handicapped individuals. Likewise, the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs have a Section 8 program called the Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) which distributes a number of housing vouchers to qualified homeless U.S. armed forces veterans.

The Housing Voucher Program

The main Section 8 program is currently engaged in the housing voucher program. Housing choice vouchers are locally distributed and managed by public housing agencies or PHAs. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) provide federal funds to these PHAs to manage the voucher program.

A voucher can be project-based which means its use is confined to a particular apartment complex. PHAs may appropriate up to 20% of their vouchers for this. A voucher can also be tenant-based where the tenant can freely choose any housing that passes the criteria of the program and is not restricted to units within subsidized housing projects.

The tenant may choose to rent a housing unit in the private sector, is not confined to any particular apartment complexes, and can choose to live anywhere in the U.S as long as the total rent meets the standards established by HUD. This can include living in Puerto Rico which has a Section 8 program managed by a public housing agency.

Under the housing voucher program, households or individuals who are eligible for Section 8 funding are given a voucher which allows them to find and rent a unit where they will be responsible for paying 30% of the rent. The housing voucher will pay for the remaining 70% of rent and utilities.

Most families pay for section 8 housing using 30% of their adjusted income, which is a family’s total earning less the deductions for dependents below 18 years old, senior citizens, handicapped individuals, full-time students, as well as medical expenses and disability assistance.

The voucher program is currently subsidizing the rent payment for nearly 2.1 million households in the United States. What’s more, these vouchers can be used at times by low income households to pay the mortgage or purchase a house.

Prioritization of Housing Voucher

In many instances, your local public housing agency will receive more applications than it can afford to approve vouchers for, and will as a result create a waiting list of applicants. PHAs can move certain applications forward or put them way back of the waiting list, and may choose to grant priority to households who are presently without a home or are residing in second-rate housing, wage-earners who spend more than half their income in rent, or individuals who are displaced against their will. Know more about prioritizing by inquiring at your local public housing agency office.

Since section 8 isn’t actually an entitlement benefit, people who become eligible for a housing voucher cannot be 100% sure that they’ll get one. According to the latest figures, only 1 out of about 4 households who qualify for housing assistance receive it. Waiting lists can take long to be processed. In several places, eligible applicants fiercely compete with other applicants for vouchers. Due to the huge volume of demand, some LHAs have entirely ceased taking in applications.

For instance, in New York where rents are exorbitant and oftentimes beyond reach of low-income earners, many households set their sights on section 8 vouchers. Today, as the country teeters toward the reality of the sequestration cuts to the federal budget, it seems that New York City may miss out on up to 6,000 section 8 vouchers that were intended to be made available this year.

In Chicago, more than 2,300 households are on the waiting list. Recipients are picked out of the list by a lottery held every month. Only when the list is exhausted will the application process resume.

Requirements to Qualify for Rent Assistance

Putting these realities on one side, if you belong to a low-income bracket and you require rent subsidy or other support provided by the voucher program, you first need to make sure that you have what is financially required to qualify for Section 8 housing. Whether you qualify or not is dependent on certain factors which include your total household income, how much rent you are paying, the members of your household, the average income in your locality, and your assets.

Income requirements differ from place to place, but as a rule you will need to have a total household earning of not more than 50% of the average income in your locality. The program is open to all U.S. citizens and people with legal immigration status.

Another criterion is the number of your household members. Your Section 8 income limit gets lower as the members of your household gets fewer.

Other factors are also put under consideration by HUD and its local agencies when checking an applicant’s qualifications. Generally taken into consideration are homelessness and other factors that are linked to a particular location like involvement in a local welfare-to-work program. Other criteria that may help you get considered for assistance are:

  • presently living in a homeless shelter
  • working over 42 hours each week
  • being a veteran of the U.S. Armed Services (widow or widower)
  • suffering from disability
  • being a senior citizen 62 years old and over
  • having children

LHAs should also give priority to very low-income households whose total earnings don’t even amount to 30% of the average income in the area. 75% of the new applicants that get qualified for housing assistance each year must be near or at the lowest-income level.

If you think you have every reason to qualify for a housing voucher, you must go and get in touch with the public housing agency in your locality. You can get all the information you need on the HUD website including local office address, toll-free phone numbers, and email addresses.

Don’t get yourself fooled by professional con artists. There are fly-by-night agencies that will promise to help you to get all the Section 8 paperwork done for a certain fee. You can get all the help you need to apply for a housing voucher at no cost just by visiting your local public housing authority or your federal HUD office. Bear in mind that no person should ever ask you for money for a low income housing assistance application. Anyone who charges you for a voucher or an application can be arrested for fraud.

Obligations

Since a public housing authority approves the housing unit of a qualified household, the landlord and the family head sign a lease agreement. At the same time, the PHA and the landlord sign a contract for housing assistance payments that will run concurrently with the lease. This demonstrates that the PHA, the landlord and the tenant all have roles and obligations they must fulfill under the program.

1. Tenant

Expect some delays before you receive the final decision on your application. Many applicants can be on the section 8 housing waiting lists for months, or possibly even years.

If your application gets approved by the local PHA and you have received a housing voucher, you have to be absolutely sure that your present or future living situation meets HUD safety and health requirements. If you are renting, you’ll be asked to sign a one-year lease with a willing landlord who will be obliged to provide you with safe quality housing and fair rent.

The landlord may require the tenant to pay a security deposit. After the first year, the landlord can draw up a lease renewal contract or allow the household to reside in the unit on a monthly lease.

Know how much rent you’ll be paying. Section 8 housing requires you and your household to pay 30 percent of your monthly adjusted gross income on rent and utilities. The voucher you received will cover the rest of the cost. Visit your local PHA if you need help in determining how much you need to allocate each month.

When the household has moved into the new home, each member is expected to abide by the lease and program rules, keep the housing unit in good condition, pay the percentage of rent promptly, and inform the PHA of any changes in family composition or income status.

If you need to, you can move to another area without losing your eligibility to Section 8 housing. Just be sure to inform your local PHA ahead of time, terminate your lease according to its provisions, and look for another housing that will comply with HUD safety and health criteria.

2. Landlord

The landlord’s responsibility in the voucher program is to provide tenants with a suitable, sanitary and clean low income housing unit with a fair rent. The living space must meet the HUD’s housing quality criteria and must be kept up to those criteria for as long as the landlord receives housing assistance payments. What’s more, the property owner will extend the services that were agreed upon as was mentioned in the lease signed with the tenant and the contract signed with the public housing authorities.

The landlord cannot charge the tenant any extra money except that of the reasonable rent and cannot accept any amount of payment that is outside the contract.

Although required to follow fair housing laws, landlords are of no obligations to take part in the housing voucher program. Therefore, some landlords can refuse to accept Section 8 tenants. This may be due to several reasons such as:

  • Not desiring the government to get involved in the landlord’s business, as in conducting a full inspection by government workers of the premises for HUD’s housing quality standards and the probable redress that may follow.
  • Concern that the tenant or members of the household will fail to keep proper maintenance of the unit.
  • Finding that the program’s rent price is below the landlord’s expectation.
  • Not willing to take matters to court to evict a tenant. According to HUD requirements, judicial action is required to evict section 8 tenants, even if there were other legal procedures allowed.
  • Depending on state laws, it may be against the law to refuse to accept a tenant just because they have Section 8. Landlords have only past eviction, credit, criminal history and other general means of disqualifying a potential tenant.

Other landlords, however, seem to have no beef against accepting Section 8 tenants. This could be because of:

  • The long waiting list can provide a vast reserve of potential tenants.
  • Generally on-time payments sent by the PHA for its share of the rent.
  • Tenants are motivated to take care of the low income housing unit to avoid paying for damaged property. Owing a previous landlord money can be ground for a tenant to be disqualified from the program.

3. Public Housing Authority

The public housing program manages the voucher program locally. It provides a qualified household with housing subsidy that allows the family to look for a decent housing unit. The PHA signs a contract with the landlord promising to provide regular housing assistance payments for and on behalf of the tenants.

Should the landlord fail to comply with their lease contract obligations, the PHA can immediately discontinue sending assistance payments. The PHA will re-assess the household’s income and composition for any changes at least once a year and must conduct an annual ocular inspection of each unit to make sure that it complies with HUD quality standards.

Research appears to suggest that the section 8 program has yielded a lot of happy and productive results. It helps millions of households live above poverty level, have more money to spend on food and health care instead of rent, and improve their quality of life. It has helped families to move into safer neighborhoods and has reduced the number of homeless people. As a result, it has also lowered the incidences of anxiety, depression, and other mental and emotional problems.