Help for Renters During the Coronavirus Crisis
What if losing a job, even temporarily, means you need rent relief? As states attempted to slow the spread of the coronavirus by imposing lockdowns or stay-at-home orders, paying the rent became more difficult. Even after many states lifted lockdowns, economically impacted renters wondered what relief they could have to help pay the rent or avoid eviction.
Programs for homeowners that prevent foreclosure and eviction or provide mortgage payment relief are available from the federal government, states, municipalities, and private lenders. Many programs also offer help for renters. Here’s what’s available, how it works, and how to get help.
- Federal eviction protection offered under the CARES Act has expired.
- However, several federal, state, and local acts still protected some renters from evictions as of August 2020.
- Rent forbearance is available through some of the same programs that have suspended evictions.
- Various social service agencies, states, and local governments offer additional rent assistance.
- Legislation offered indirect help via $1,200 checks to many adult U.S. citizens, and more money could be on the way.
CARES Act Eviction Protection
The CARES Act, signed into law Mar. 27, 2020, provided 120 days of eviction relief for tenants in federally-backed housing, which has since expired. Specifically, you could not be served with an eviction notice until July 25, 2020. Furthermore, the notice had to give you 30 days to leave the property (Aug. 24, 2020).
During the 120-day eviction moratorium, your landlord could not charge you late fees, penalties, or other charges for paying your rent late. It is important to note that the eviction moratorium did not relieve anyone of the obligation to pay rent. It merely prevented your landlord from evicting you during that period for late payment.
Rental Housing Covered by the Eviction Moratorium
The temporary moratorium on eviction filings pertained to any rental housing that was one of the following:
- Covered under section 41411 of the Violence Against Women Act of 1994 (34 U.S.C. 12491
- Covered by the rural housing voucher program under section 542 of the Housing Act of 1949 (42 U.S.C. 1490r)
- Had a Federally backed mortgage or multifamily mortgage loan
CARES Act Tenant-Based Rental Assistance
In terms of direct assistance with rent, the CARES Act provided the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) with an additional $17.4 billion in funding. It included money for rent assistance, housing vouchers, public housing, and housing for the elderly. For help, contact HUD Rental Assistance
Other Financial Assistance
The $2.2 trillion CARES Act and other programs also provide financial assistance that could help with housing costs, since how you use the money is not specified.
Recovery benefits of $1,200 per adult individual ($2,400 for couples filing jointly) and $500 for each child age 16 and under were automatically sent after April 2020. To receive the full $1,200 ($2,400), your AGI for 2019 or 2018 must be $75,000 ($150,000 for couples) or less. The amount you get goes down as income rises above those levels, and it disappears entirely at $99,000 ($198,000).
There was broad agreement among policymakers that a second round of stimulus checks should be issued. However, disagreements on other issues prevented the passage of new direct payment legislation as of August 2020.
Expanded Unemployment Benefits
After CARES Act provisions offering extended unemployment benefits expired, an executive order providing additional assistance went into effect. Under the order, the federal government was to supply $300 toward an additional $400 per week unemployment benefit, with the rest paid for by state governments. However, many legal and practical questions continued to delay the implementation of the order as of August 2020.
Under the CARES Act, eligibility for unemployment insurance was expanded if you lost your job during the coronavirus pandemic. After regular state benefits expired, the unemployed were eligible to receive up to an additional 13 weeks of benefits. Furthermore, they were eligible for another $600 per week.
The government also expanded these unemployment benefits to include people not ordinarily eligible, such as independent contractors, part-time employees, or participants in the gig economy.
Fannie Mae Disaster Response Network
Fannie Mae’s Disaster Response Network has published a guide for renters affected by the coronavirus (COVID-19). Through the network, HUD-approved housing advisors provide:
- Personalized recovery assessment and action plan
- Help working with your housing situation
- Financial coaching and budgeting
- Access to Clearpoint’s Project Porchlight Online tools and resources
- Ongoing check-ins to help ensure a successful recovery
211.org Social Services Search
The United Way sponsors the website 211.org, which provides an easy-to-use search bar. You can search by ZIP code or by community and state to find sources of help with rent and many other essential services. Fill in the required information, then click “search” to get data about available help.
State by State
Many states have taken action to pause or suspend renter evictions, at least temporarily. The table below lists those states that have halted evictions and the date the suspension ends if known. The list will be updated as it changes.
Cities and Counties Also Offer Help
Even in states without statewide assistance, many cities and counties have programs of their own. Check local and state government websites for information about coronavirus-related eviction moratoriums, rent forbearance, or rent assistance.
Advice From the National Apartment Association (NAA)
The National Apartment Association (NAA) reminds all renters who have suffered financial distress during the coronavirus crisis to reach out to landlords to explain their situations. In addition to government programs, many landlords have plans to help deal with the financial impact of the crisis.