Profile picture for homebuyer925

Landlord experiences renting in low-income areas?

I'm thinking of becoming a landlord in a low-income area of Washington DC. I was wondering if anybody could share their experiences renting in low-income areas? Has it been possible to keep your house free of crime? How do you screen for tenants who merely are low-income, but will actually pay rent? Could anyone share their good and their bad experiences?
  • January 20 2012 - Anacostia
  • 0
    0Yes

  • Report a Problem

    Please enter a valid email address.

    Content flagged

    We will review this content. Thanks for helping make the site more useful to everyone. To learn more, read Zillow's Good Neighbor Policy.

    We're sorry. This service is temporarily unavailable. Please come back later and try again.

Be a Good Neighbor. Be respectful and on-topic. No spam or self-promotion! See our Good Neighbor Policy.

Answers (10)

I ABSOLUTELY disagree with this idea of accepting rent in cash. Thats a terrible idea in my opinion, and in fact we specifically do not accept cash for rent, security deposits, etc. Thats just a terrible, terrible idea. You need to have a paper trail for everything you take in and put out, thats very important if you ever have an argument with your tenant that winds up in mediation or court. Require a certified check if you must (we do when a tenant is moving in within a few days of giving us the first months rent and security deposit to be sure it clears before they move in). Accepting cash makes it your word against theirs, and in court the landlord is automatically at a disadvantage.
  • February 06 2012
  • 0Yes

  • Report a Problem

    Please enter a valid email address.

    Content flagged

    We will review this content. Thanks for helping make the site more useful to everyone. To learn more, read Zillow's Good Neighbor Policy.

    We're sorry. This service is temporarily unavailable. Please come back later and try again.

Profile picture for sunnyview
I also disagree with the statement about collecting rents in cash, but some agents are more concerned with their contribution count that providing quality answers.

Thumbs up to all the professionals on this thread that took time to give a professional, reasoned answer!
  • February 01 2012
  • 2Yes

  • Report a Problem

    Please enter a valid email address.

    Content flagged

    We will review this content. Thanks for helping make the site more useful to everyone. To learn more, read Zillow's Good Neighbor Policy.

    We're sorry. This service is temporarily unavailable. Please come back later and try again.

I disagree with the statement about cash. While cash may be king when buying properties, cash can be a nightmare when collecting rent. With cash it's pretty easy to have the argument of "I paid you" "no you didn't" with a tenant.  With checks, cashier's checks, money orders, etc. there is always a document trail. It's difficult to document cash, so I rarely accept cash from tenants. Most of my tenants pay by check. If they bounce one check it's written into their lease that I will require cashier's checks or money orders from that point on. 

  • February 01 2012
  • 1Yes

  • Report a Problem

    Please enter a valid email address.

    Content flagged

    We will review this content. Thanks for helping make the site more useful to everyone. To learn more, read Zillow's Good Neighbor Policy.

    We're sorry. This service is temporarily unavailable. Please come back later and try again.

Always collect your rent in CASH! Cash is king!
  • February 01 2012
  • 0Yes

  • Report a Problem

    Please enter a valid email address.

    Content flagged

    We will review this content. Thanks for helping make the site more useful to everyone. To learn more, read Zillow's Good Neighbor Policy.

    We're sorry. This service is temporarily unavailable. Please come back later and try again.

It can be difficult. In addition to helping people buy and sell homes in and around DC we also do Property Management and have many clients who do just what you are looking to do, including several who own small and large multi-unit buildings. This is something you really need to have a property management company help you deal with unless you're willing to make it a full time endeavor for yourself. There are lots of tricky ins and outs to the licensing, keeping the property free from fines for compliance from the city, and making sure you get good tenants without crossing the boundaries of fair housing.

I have LOTS of stories I could tell you...but many of them can't be shared on a public forum, lets just put it that way! In all seriousness I can help, even if its only some free advice. Feel free to contact me through my profile...
  • January 30 2012
  • 1Yes

  • Report a Problem

    Please enter a valid email address.

    Content flagged

    We will review this content. Thanks for helping make the site more useful to everyone. To learn more, read Zillow's Good Neighbor Policy.

    We're sorry. This service is temporarily unavailable. Please come back later and try again.

Profile picture for Bruce Cadden
A good tenant is a good tenant, no matter what their income is or what area the housing is in. If you do your due diligence, you can eliminate a lot of grief. As always, the right property can make all of the difference. The idea of low income tenants being somewhat lesser  that higher income tenants is a complete fallacy.

And I would seriously consider hiring an experienced property manager. A problem can occur at any time and with any property.
  • January 23 2012
  • 1Yes

  • Report a Problem

    Please enter a valid email address.

    Content flagged

    We will review this content. Thanks for helping make the site more useful to everyone. To learn more, read Zillow's Good Neighbor Policy.

    We're sorry. This service is temporarily unavailable. Please come back later and try again.

We own and manage a few rental properties. One of them is Section 8 (low income - rental assistance). I will say the low income property is definitely a little more work and a bit of a headache at times. Although, the low income property cashflows better than the others. 

We have a scoring system for our tenant screening system that factors in credit scores, debt to income ratios, rental history, job history, etc. It seems to work fairly well. We've had a few tenants that have done damage, but we've had that in the higher end properties too. We use Mrlandlord.com to help with tenant screening and credit checks.

With any tenant you have to find the right balance of being friendly and helpful vs hard nose strict landlord. You really have to be careful to treat everyone equally, and give a little when appropriate, but not let anyone take advantage of you.

One of our properties is out of state and managed by a management company. The rest of our properties we manage ourselves. I will say, if you are capable of doing the property management yourself, do it. Nobody cares more about the outcome of your property than you do. I just haven't had great luck with management companies (I'm sure there are some great ones though).

It's a great investment if you have the tolerance for it. Go for it. Just be conservative when estimating your numbers and cashflow. Things always cost more in the end then newbies plan for. 



  • January 21 2012
  • 3Yes

  • Report a Problem

    Please enter a valid email address.

    Content flagged

    We will review this content. Thanks for helping make the site more useful to everyone. To learn more, read Zillow's Good Neighbor Policy.

    We're sorry. This service is temporarily unavailable. Please come back later and try again.

If the area is low-income try looking into making your properties section 8 eligible. Many believe that will only get you poor tenants, but that just is not true. What it will get you is a hassle free rent check every month usually early if not on time!

Also, enlist the help of a property management company. Most property management companies have their own methods for finding good tenants just make sure to ask those questions when you search for a property management company.

Tenant screening services are also wonderful! Use a third party service to do this. They usually charge a fee which you will charge the potential tenant directly. The screening usually costs around $50. If a tenant knows they will not pass then they will not spend the money to be told that you will not rent to them, that alone will eliminate many potential "problem tenants". Once you get the screening back you should look for criminal background, credit and previous landlord history. Base your decision off this report. Remember that there are many great renters out there that may have lost their home to foreclosure which means that you may need to be a bit lenient on their credit score. Just because they went through foreclosure does not mean they are a bad person or that they will not pay their rent. 

These things help us tremendously! We are not familiar with the specific area you are interested in; however, these should be very universal solutions. Hope this helped!
  • January 21 2012
  • 2Yes

  • Report a Problem

    Please enter a valid email address.

    Content flagged

    We will review this content. Thanks for helping make the site more useful to everyone. To learn more, read Zillow's Good Neighbor Policy.

    We're sorry. This service is temporarily unavailable. Please come back later and try again.

It sounds to me like a very risky idea at this time in our economy.
  • January 21 2012
  • 1Yes

  • Report a Problem

    Please enter a valid email address.

    Content flagged

    We will review this content. Thanks for helping make the site more useful to everyone. To learn more, read Zillow's Good Neighbor Policy.

    We're sorry. This service is temporarily unavailable. Please come back later and try again.

According to a friend of mine that has owned and managed rental property for over 30 years, if you are a nice person who likes to treat people fairly and take people at their word, DON'T DO IT!
  • January 20 2012
  • 1Yes

  • Report a Problem

    Please enter a valid email address.

    Content flagged

    We will review this content. Thanks for helping make the site more useful to everyone. To learn more, read Zillow's Good Neighbor Policy.

    We're sorry. This service is temporarily unavailable. Please come back later and try again.