Relief Bill Includes Rental Assistance

If you’re a renter who’s struggling to make payments or if you’re a landlord whose tenants are unable to pay rent because of the pandemic, the new federal coronavirus relief bill will provide some welcome relief. Within the $900 billion Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 is a rental assistance program that will provide $25 billion for rental assistance.

“Notably, the bill includes dedicated federal emergency rental assistance for the first time — a critical measure that helps housing providers pay their bills and keep our nation’s 40 million renters in their homes,” said the National Apartment Association in a Dec. 22 post. 

Here’s a summary of the rental assistance program and eviction ban extension that was also included in the bill:  

Rental Assistance

The bill provides $25 billion in rental assistance and is administered by the U.S. Department of Treasury which will dispense the funds with each state receiving a minimum of $200 million.

After states receive the funding, those in need will apply for the assistance through designated state or local relief organizations. 

“Eligible renters would be able to receive assistance with rent and utility payments, unpaid rent or utility bills that have accumulated since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, and other housing expenses that were incurred due, directly or indirectly, to the pandemic,” according to a summary of the rental assistance program from the U.S. House Committee on Financial Services. 

Households are eligible for up to 12 months of assistance or 15 months “if it is necessary to ensure the household remain stably housed and funds are available.”

To be eligible for assistance, a renter must meet the following qualifications: 

The household cannot have a household income of more than 80% of the area median income. 

The household has one or more members who are at risk of experiencing homelessness or housing instability.

The household has one or more members who qualify for unemployment benefits or have experienced financial hardship because of the pandemic.  

Those households that will receive prioritization for funds include those whose incomes don’t exceed 50% of the area median income and those who are currently unemployed and have been unemployed for 90 days. 

After a renter qualifies for assistance, the payment will be sent directly to the landlord. If the landlord declines to receive payment from the administering entity, the payment will be sent to the renter who can make the payment to the landlord directly. 

Earlier this year, Utah had a similar housing assistance program at rentrelief.utah.gov, which was administered through local housing agencies. Although that program has now expired and details about the new program are unknown at this point, Utah could potentially use a similar process to distribute this new federal funding. 

Those who need help should watch for updates from the Utah Department of Workforce Services at jobs.utah.gov/covid19. Those who need help can also call the United Way’s 2-1-1 information line.    

Eviction Ban

The bill also extends a federal eviction ban through Jan. 31, 2021, as states get their assistance programs up and running.  

To qualify, a renter must submit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declaration form to their landlord saying they’ve had a substantial loss of income, have used best efforts to qualify for government housing assistance and don’t earn more than $99,000 per year (or more than $198,000 if filing a joint return).

It’s also important to note that the ban is not rent forgiveness and evictions can still occur for reasons other than not paying rent. Tenants must continue to abide by all the terms of their lease as the eviction moratorium doesn’t cover other contract violations. 

 For more information about the CDC order, visit cdc.gov. 

To learn more about other real estate issues related to the pandemic, contact a local Realtor. Find a directory of Utah Realtors at MyRealtorStory.com.

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