Action 9

Landlords openly refuse to rent to Section 8, but it's legal

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Section 8 housing program is designed to make homes and apartments more affordable for low-income people by paying landlords a subsidy from the government.

But, many Charlotte landlords won’t rent to people on Section 8.  They openly refuse.  Action 9 found multiple examples online.  It may sound illegal, but it’s not.

Mark Poulton rents about a dozen houses in Charlotte.  He says there’s so much demand in the area, he’s gotten an average of six people interested per day for 60 days on just one of his properties.  “It’s been insane, actually,” he said.

He can be selective, so he won’t rent to people on Section 8.  He says there’s too much red tape, especially for someone like him who isn’t renting an apartment complex.

“I have to get an inspection, you know, wait two weeks, I’m not getting paid. Typically, the renter will be in the property while you’re doing all of this. They’re going to find something wrong. They always do. You got to get a re-inspection. And, you know, it’s just difficult when I’m not Donald Trump or anything, I got to carry these mortgages, I got to pay them,” he told Action 9.

Angela Hargrove and Shelly Fenley are both on Section 8 and say they’ve had multiple landlords turn them down.  In Hargrove’s case, roughly five.  In Fenley’s case, at least 15.

“It’s like I have a plague.  It’s like we have a plague,” Fenley said.  “It’s like a stigma.  It’s like we all carry a stigma.”

“If you’re on Section 8, [it’s like] you’re this bad person that needs to be put aside over here,” Hargrove said.

“I was born in North Carolina.  I’ve lived in New York most of my life.  And I really wanted to come back,” Hargrove said.  He says she moved here to be closer to family, especially her grandson.  Now, she’s giving up and may be moving back to New York where, she says, Section 8 was never a problem.

It’s called income source discrimination.  At last check, 13 states and more than 60 cities and counties have outlawed income source discrimination.  But none in the Carolinas.

“Regretfully, this is legal in Charlotte,” a Charlotte Housing Authority spokesperson told Action 9.  “This is a barrier to affordable housing opportunities within the City.”

More than 5,000 Charlotte families are on Section 8.

Hargrove and Fenley think the law should be changed.  Action 9 asked two city council members if they’d like to see this outlawed.  Both seemed to side with renters, but said they’d like to study the issue first.  “I believe that a Section 8 voucher should not preclude anybody from having a safe and secure home in the City of Charlotte,” Braxton Winston, III said.  After he and Action 9 started talking about this, Winston asked the city attorney to research the city’s legal options.

If the city tries to outlaw this, it could run up against the state.  Some experts predict the state would take the landlords’ side and see this as a property rights issue.  Experts told Action 9 you could see another situation like HB2, the “bathroom” bill which pitted the city and the state against each other.  And they’re not sure if the city has the stomach to go through that again.