Rent

Applying for pandemic rent relief: Here's what you need to know

By Emily Myers | June 1, 2021 - 12:30PM 

Eligible New Yorkers will get a one-time subsidy that will go directly to their landlord. 

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If you've been waiting to access money from New York State's Emergency Rental Assistance Program, applications are now being accepted for qualified tenants. The Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance is the agency in charge of distributing the funds and there are a dozen community organizations offering free assistance for those who need support in order to apply. 

Approximately $2.7 billion has been allocated to the rental assistance program, which is designed to help low- and moderate-income households that are at risk of eviction or homelessness due to unpaid rent and mounting utility bills. Eligible New Yorkers will get a one-time subsidy that will go directly to their landlord. 

As well as money for the unpaid rent, funds have been set aside for community groups to help New Yorkers with their applications and there's also a call center offering assistance every day from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. at 1-844-691-7368. Information about the paperwork you need is available in several different languages via the agency website. 

Eligibility requirements

To be eligible for the program, you need to show that your household gross income is at or below 80 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI). This varies by county and household size; for example, a family of four with a household income of $95,450 or less (including unemployment and Social Security benefits) would qualify in New York City.

You also need to show that on or after March 13th, 2020, as state lockdowns were mandated, a member of the household received unemployment benefits or experienced a loss of income or financial hardship as a result of the pandemic. In addition, you need to show you are being asked to pay rent or that rent is overdue at the apartment where you live. 

There are no immigration status requirements to qualify for the program—so you can still apply if you are undocumented and you don't need to provide a Social Security number unless you have one. 

Until July 1st, priority is being given to very low income households where the gross income is 50 percent of the AMI. That means a family of four where the income coming into the apartment is $59,650, or for a couple, the household income is $47,750. Priority will again be given if a member of the household is currently unemployed, a veteran, experiencing domestic abuse, has an eviction case pending, or lives in a zip code that was disproportionately impacted by Covid-19. (Many but not all New York City zip codes qualify). 

Paperwork and information

In order to access the funds you'll need to provide a photo ID, passport, EBT/Benefits Issuance card, birth certificate or school registration for everyone living in the apartment. Anyone with a social security number will have to provide it.

To prove the rental amount you owe, you'll need to present your lease, even if it's expired, or a rent receipt. If you don't have the paperwork, your landlord will need to get involved to show some kind of evidence that you've been living in the apartment without paying rent. You also need to prove that you currently live in the apartment you are claiming the rent for, whether that's with a lease, utility bill, bank statement, or driver license. 

Documenting your income is also a requirement and can be done through pay stubs, bank deposits or tax forms. If you don't have these, there may still be workarounds and you should reach out to one of the designated organizations or the call center for support. If you're applying for help with utilities, you will have to show a copy of your bill. 

Once you have the information it can be uploaded digitally via the application portal. If access to the internet or with uploading information is a problem the city organizations are there to help. 

Benefits

If your application is approved, your landlord will receive up to 12 months of unpaid rent accrued since March 13th, 2020. You will also get up to three months of additional rent assistance paid to your landlord if your household is rent burdened (ie: spends more than 30 percent of income on rent). Up to 12 months of electric or utility payments will also be paid back for those who are approved. 

The money will go directly to the landlord or utility company, although tenants will be notified about how much was paid on their behalf. The funds will be held for 180 days (six months) to make sure a landlord who is difficult to locate can be found. 

In accepting the funds, your landlord must also agree to waive any late fees accumulated during the period in which you are eligible for relief. A landlord must also agree to certain protections for tenants including not increasing your rent for a year and not evicting you for a year based on an expired lease or a holdover tenancy. (The exception here is if you are renting an apartment in building with four of fewer units and the owner has a family member who wants to live in the apartment full time.)

Landlords and property owners

Your application has the best chance of speedy approval if you are working with your landlord. Landlords can help by providing information, including a completed W-9 tax form, evidence of the tenancy in the form of a lease, documentation of rent due from the tenant, plus details of the bank account in which they want the direct deposit to be paid. 

 

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