Renters residing all around the United States have been affected by the COVID-19 Pandemic. Chances are, you are one of them, too!
Our hope is that this article will assist you in navigating the resources, policies, relief and assistance opportunities available to you, as well as general information regarding COVID rent relief.
CDC Ban on Evictions During COVID
Unless you are living under a rock, you know about the Coronavirus pandemic. It has been a topic of discussion on every news and media outlet since this national emergency began in March of 2020.
Even with this general knowledge, many people are unaware and misinformed about some of the policies that have been put in place to help struggling individuals and families.
One important policy, that was implemented last September by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control), was a ban on Eviction during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Initially, this order was to end in December of 2020, but has been extended through January of 2021.
It is highly likely that this order will continue to be extended while the virus continues to spread, and impact individuals and families, across the nation.
In order to see if you or your family is eligible for this protection, you must sign a declaration form, and meet certain criteria.
Please go to https://www.hud.gov/coronavirus/renters for the necessary documentation and eligibility information.
Cares Act Eviction Ban
The CARES Act is not part of the CDC’s ban of evictions, but it also includes an eviction ban, which was signed into law in March 2020.
Although the 120-day window for this order has expired, it is still important to note the policies involved, in the case that you were violated by your landlord.
According to the CARES Act, you should not have been evicted for non-payment through the deadline of July 25th (2020). During the 120 period, you should not have been charged any late fees, penalties, or any other type of non-payment fee.
It is also important to remember that this section of the CARES Act did not, and does not, excuse you of paying your rent. All this means is that you cannot be evicted during this time period.
HUD Assistance for Renters
One of the major misconceptions is that renters do not have to pay rent. This is far from the case. In fact, one of the first rules of thumb that resulted from these policies was that if you are able to pay your rent, pay it.
However, in many cases, struggling individuals and families find themselves unable to do so. This is a common dilemma that many people are still struggling with. Luckily, the HUD can help.
The HUD (The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development) along with the PHA (Public Housing Agency), and other private partners, have been working to alleviate and reduce some of the hardships that many renters have faced.
If you are an HUD-assisted renter, you are eligible to report any losses in income or work hours, so that if you are in an income-base rent payment program, you can get a temporary reduction in your rent agreement.
Speaking to your landlord to work out payment options, if you are struggling for income or work, can also pave the way to find solutions during financial hardships.
The main goal of the HUD and PHA is to keep individuals and families housed, so make sure you use every resource you can at your disposal when navigating assistance if you are a HUS-assisted renter.
Eligibility Temporary Rent Relief
To see if you qualify for any temporary rent relief in the state you live in, please click here.
Once you have determined if and what you qualify for, you will proceed to contact your state’s HUD office using the link above, or you can call 877-542-9723 and speak with an HUD housing counselor to see if you are eligible for temporary rent relief.
And remember, if you are able to pay your rent, pay it! If you cannot, rest assured. If you are struggling financially due to loss of income or work hours, there may be help you can qualify for.
In most cases, it is recommended to begin any relief process with speaking directly to your landlord first, to see if there are any options or arrangements that can alleviate your rent requirement.
Temporary Mortgage Relief During COVID
Much like the relief that has been made available to renters during the COVID-19 pandemic, there have also been policies implemented for homeowners that are backed by a federally insured or GSE mortgage.
Like we recommend to renters, a simple rule of thumb for a homeowner of a federally backed or GSE mortgage is that, if you can afford to pay your mortgage, pay it.
That being said, if you have been financially impacted during the pandemic and cannot afford to pay your mortgage, you can request that your mortgage payments be temporarily paused.
If this is the route you feel you need to take, click here before making the call to your servicer.
If you would like to learn more about the recent mortgage relief options and protections that have been implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic click here.
Please keep in mind, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there are deadlines for foreclosures on federally backed mortgages.
The lenders or servicers cannot foreclose on any federally backed loans until after February of 2021. The same is true for any loans backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac until after January of 2021.
It is important to reach out to your servicer if you cannot make your mortgage payments.
If you reach out before the aforementioned deadlines, you will be able to avoid a foreclosure according to the new policies and orders put in place.
Emergency Housing Assistance During COVID-19
If you are having trouble affording your rent, mortgage, or cost of living during the COVID-19 pandemic, you are not alone. This has been an extremely difficult time for many individuals and families across the nation.
Financial hardships have plagued a multitude of individuals and families leaving people struggling to have their basic needs met.
There are two things to keep in mind here: one, you are not alone; and two, there is help out there for you if you know where to look.
Rent relief in Massachusetts
If you or your family are struggling to pay your rent or mortgage due to the financial hardships associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, and you live in the state of Massachusetts, you may qualify for some sort of relief.
The Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) have implemented programs to help low-income households combat the threat of eviction or foreclosure.
Programs in Massachusetts:
In the state of Massachusetts, the two main programs that are available to help low-income families during the COVID-19 pandemic are The Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT) and Emergency Rental and Mortgage Assistance (ERMA) programs.
RAFT is a program that is designed to keep families in their homes or help them find new housing. This program is specifically implemented to help families who are struggling financially to not only pay for rent, but for cost of living as well.
The RAFT program is intended for struggling low-income families with incomes of up to 50% of the AMI, or 60% in special cases.
Families can qualify for up to $10,000 per household based on their Area Median Income (AMI), and this money is intended to help struggling families maintain stable housing during the pandemic.
In order to see if you qualify based on your AMI you can click here and search the eligibility based on your area. There are eleven regional agencies throughout the state of Massachusetts where you can apply for the RAFT program.
ERMA is similar to the RAFT program; in that it helps struggling low-income families with financial assistance up to $4,000 in order to help maintain stable housing.
The ERMA program is intended for struggling low-income families within the 50%-80% range of the AMI and who have not already qualified for RAFT. Families who DO NOT qualify for RAFT because of the AMI may qualify for ERMA.
In order to see if you qualify based on your AMI you can go to https://hedfuel.azurewebsites.net/raa.aspx, and search the eligibility based on your area. There are eleven regional agencies throughout Massachusetts where you can apply for the ERMA program as well.
By going https://www.mass.gov/doc/erma-area-median-income-information/download, you can also determine if you are eligible based on the regional income level, as well as provide important income guidelines.
Both the RAFT and ERMA programs can be significantly helpful to help maintain stable housing during this crisis.
Rental Assistance Program in Maine
If you are living in the state of Maine and have been impacted financially by the COVID-19 pandemic, you may be looking for some help at the state level for any type of rental assistance program that they may offer.
The most recent Rent Relief Program in Maine ended on December 30th, 2020.
However, do not worry yourselves. The state of Maine is working on a new program in January 2021 but needs more time to work out the funding aspect of the program.
If you need any more information, or have any questions, about the program in Maine you are encouraged to send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
COVID Rent Relief in New York State
If you or your family live in the state of New York are struggling to pay your rent due to the financial hardships associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, there may be help available for you as well.
New York State has set up a COVID Rent Relief Program to assist low-income families whose rent has become an issue during this crisis.
This program provides assistance by supplying families with a one-time payment to cover rent associated costs for up to four months.
To see if you qualify for this type of rent relief, go here: https://hcr.ny.gov/system/files/documents/2020/07/hcrcovidrent.pdf.
Once again, this type of program is designed to help families who have suffered a loss of income due to the pandemic, and if you qualified for this special relief program then the payment would be made directly to your landlord.
If you have not suffered a loss of income, it is advisable that you continue to pay your rent as regularly scheduled. The link provided above will give you a clear indication of whether or not you are eligible for rent relief in New York State.
How to Ask Your Landlord for Rent Relief
It is important to know what protections are in place if you are struggling to pay rent during the current crisis.
If you are having trouble paying rent due to financial hardship, the first thing you should do is to talk to your landlord. With your landlord, you can possibly come to certain agreements, or participate in programs, that allow you to work together.
If your landlord is unwilling, or unable to accommodate your request, you have other options.
To see if and/or what you qualify for in terms of rent or mortgage relief, you can find further information on HUD.gov (https://www.hud.gov/coronavirus/renters).
Should You Still Pay Rent During the Pandemic?
The short and long answer is YES, but only if you are able to.
As we’ve tried to mention, without stuffing it down your throats, the rule of thumb is that, if you can afford to pay your rent, pay your rent. The policies and orders that have been signed into law in no way state that you do not have to pay rent.
In fact, this is a common misconception among renters and homeowners. The laws protect you against being evicted due to rent non payment, it does not mean you don’t need to pay your rent.
However, if you have suffered financial hardship, loss of income, reduction in work hours, you may qualify for some sort of relief, including bill payment assistance.
List of Rental Relief Programs by State
The list below will provide you with the Rental Relief Programs available by State.
This information is particularly beneficial to those who are having trouble navigating the resources and programs available to you at the state level.
If you are unable to pay rent because you lost your job, this guide can help you get started on looking for a new job.
“Navigate Affordable Housing Partners, Inc, 500 Office Park Drive, # 300 Birmingham, AL 35223
“Arizona Department of Housing, 1110 W. Washington Suite 280, Phoenix, AZ 85007
“Southwest Housing Compliance Corporation, 1124 South IH 35, Austin, TX 78704
(Southern) (800) California
“Los Angeles LOMOD Corporation, 2600 Wilshire Blvd, Suite 3136, Los Angeles, CA 90057
(Northern) (801) California
“Affordable Housing Initiatives, Inc. 505 14th St., Suite 650, Oakland, CA 94612
“Colorado Housing and Finance Authority, 1981 Blake Street, Denver, CO 80202 – 1272”
“Navigate Affordable Housing Partners, Inc, 500 Office Park Drive, Ste 300, Birmingham, AL 35223
“Delaware State Housing Authority, 26 The Green, Dover, DE 19901