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Questions about the coronavirus pandemic?

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What is rent relief and how does it help landlords when tenants can't pay rent during the pandemic?

During COVID-19, many state and local governments have put eviction bans into place to keep  tenants from being evicted in the middle of a pandemic. There have also been federal eviction bans for certain properties receiving federal funding or loans. While this provided much-needed relief for tenants struggling through no fault of their own, it also forced landlords to go without income.

To alleviate the impact on landlords, some areas with eviction bans also implemented rent relief programs. Rent relief covers a portion of the rent a tenant was unable to pay due to COVID-19. Some programs also provide relief for related expenses such as utility bills.

Will landlords receive all they are owed through rent relief programs?

Rent relief program limits vary by location. There may be capped dollar amounts, a percentage of covered rent, a limit on the number of months covered, or a limit on the amount per month.

Some locations require landlords to forgive a portion of the rent. For example, Oregon and California are covering 80% of missed rent during COVID-19. However, the landlord has to forgive the remaining 20% and waive their right to file for eviction.

Finally, many rent relief programs have set budgets. Even if landlords make claims under the payment limits, those claims may be reduced or go unpaid if the government has no more funds allocated. Some programs are first-come, first-served, while others have an application period with possible proportional or needs-based reductions if the claims filed exceed the funds available.

Are landlords paid directly by the rental relief program?

Whether landlords are paid directly depends on the relief program. Some programs ask the landlord to apply and then the program pays the landlord directly. Other programs ask the tenant to apply and then the tenant is paid directly.

Landlords may worry that if the tenant receives the funds, the tenant may use the funds for other purposes. Many of these programs still require the landlord to sign paperwork or otherwise be notified, so you will likely know when your tenant is applying for aid. Many eviction waivers also require the tenant to demonstrate that they've applied for all available relief, so you could also receive information that way.

If a tenant misuses rent relief funds, it may disqualify them from eviction protections. Further, it may also be a criminally fraudulent use of government benefits that you could report to the relevant authority.

Who is eligible for COVID-19 rent relief programs?

Eligibility requirements vary depending on the programs. For tenants, requirements often include job loss or other demonstrated financial hardship as a result of COVID-19. Some funds may also only be available to tenants who have already exhausted other forms of relief such as unemployment.

For programs directed at landlords, the restrictions are usually based on the size of the landlord's holdings. Most programs are geared towards helping small mom-and-pop landlords who otherwise wouldn't be able to pay their mortgage or meet other operating expenses.

To learn more about COVID-19 relief programs or related concerns, visit the The Rocket Lawyer COVID-19 Legal Center. If you need a Late Rent Payment Agreement to set up late rent payment plans with your tenants, or any other Landlord Legal Documents, Rocket Lawyer offers a variety of documents for your every need. For specific legal questions about relief programs, eviction moratoriums, or how to handle other rental property legal issues, consult with a Rocket Lawyer On Call® attorney for fast and affordable advice. 

This article contains general legal information and does not contain legal advice. Rocket Lawyer is not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. The law is complex and changes often. For legal advice, please ask a lawyer.

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