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Renters: How to Get Rent Relief

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 have wondered what relief they can get 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.

Key Takeaways

  • On June 24, 2021, the CDC extended the eviction moratorium from June 30, 2021, to July 31, 2021, declaring it the final extension.
  • Initial eviction protection, which came from the CARES Act, expired July 25, 2020.
  • The Consolidated Appropriations Act (CAA), 2021 offered protection through Jan. 31, 2021.
  • The American Rescue Plan offers additional financial assistance to renters.
  • The FHFA extended the existing offer of forbearance to multifamily property owners through Sept. 30, 2021.
  • Some state and local governments have imposed rent eviction moratoriums of their own.
  • Various social service agencies, states, and local governments also offer rent assistance.

CARES Act Eviction Protection

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, signed into law March 27, 2020, was the first piece of legislation to provide eviction protection. It specified that tenants could not be served with an eviction notice until July 25, 2020. The notice had to give you 30 days to leave the property (so until Aug. 24, 2020).

During the 120-day eviction moratorium, landlords could not charge late fees, penalties, or other charges for paying rent late. The eviction moratorium did not relieve anyone of the obligation to pay rent. It merely prevented landlords from evicting tenants during that period for late or nonpayment.

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(a))
  • 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

Subsequent Eviction Moratoriums

On Aug. 27, 2020, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) announced that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac would “extend the moratoriums on single-family foreclosures and real estate owned (REO) evictions until at least Dec. 31, 2020.” Following that, as part of the temporary Consolidated Appropriations Act (CAA), 2021, the moratorium was extended to Jan. 31, 2021.

On his first day in office, President Biden signed an executive order extending the moratorium to at least March 31, 2021. In February, President Biden extended the order to at least June 30, 2021.

The eviction moratorium deadline has been extended several times since its initial conception. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) extended the eviction moratorium through June 30, 2021, for single renters making $99,000 or less and couples earning $198,000 or less who declare they can’t pay rent due to COVID-related hardships and would be homeless if evicted.

On June 3, the FHFA said that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac would continue to offer COVID-19 forbearance to multifamily property owners through Sept. 30, 2021. Previously, forbearance was offered through June 30th. Property owners can enter a new or modified forbearance and must inform tenants about protections available to them. They must also agree not to evict tenants solely for failing to pay rent while the property is in forbearance.

The CDC announced, June 24, 2021, that the eviction moratorium had been extended a third and final time through July 31, 2021. Previous income and other guidelines were continued as well as a reminder that the eviction moratorium was not a foreclosure moratorium.

July 31, 2021

End date for the CDC’s third and final eviction moratorium.

CARES Act Tenant-Based Rental Assistance

The CARES Act provided the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) with an additional $17.4 billion in direct rent assistance, housing vouchers, public housing, and housing for the elderly. In general, landlords cannot evict renters during any period in which the landlord has been granted forbearance.

Other Financial Assistance

The $2.2 trillion CARES Act and other programs also provide financial assistance that could help with housing costs, because how the money can be used is not specified.

The CAA extended eviction protections until Jan. 31, 2021, and provided $25 billion in rent assistance to individuals who had lost income due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The American Rescue Plan provides $21.55 billion in emergency rental assistance through Sept. 30, 2027, which is expected to help both renters and landlords when the funds have been distributed. The legislation also allocates:

  • $5 billion in emergency housing vouchers through Sept. 30, 2030
  • $750 million for tribal housing
  • $100 million for rural housing
  • $5 billion to assist people experiencing homelessness

Direct Payments

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 have been $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 for couples).

The second round of $600 stimulus checks went out in December 2020. And with the passing of the American Rescue Plan, $1,400 direct checks went out to those who make less than $75,000 per year, in March 2021.

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.

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.

The American Rescue Plan Act extended Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) benefits of $300 a week through Sept. 6, 2021. The total number of weeks available was extended from 50 to 79. Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) benefits of $300 were also extended through Sept. 6, 2021.

Some states, however, have elected to end Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Assistance (PEUC) or Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) on the theory it is preventing otherwise available workers from seeking employment.

As of June 21, 2021, Alabama, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, West Virginia, and Wyoming have suspended PEUC and/or PUA payments.

Fannie Mae Disaster Response Network

Fannie Mae‘s Disaster Response Network has published a guide for renters affected by the coronavirus. Through the network, HUD-approved housing advisors provide:

  • A 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

Call 877-542-9723 to access the Disaster Response Network.

$1,234

National average rent on a three-bedroom apartment as of February 2021.

Source: Statista March 2021.

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 graphic below lists those states that have halted evictions and the date the suspension ends if known. If a state’s eviction suspension end date falls before the CDC suspension end date (July 31, 2021), the CDC date prevails. The graphic 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.

Eviction Moratorium Plus Rent Relief

The CDC extension of the eviction moratorium through July 31, 2021, may play a pivotal role when combined with rent relief made available by various pieces of legislation.

Although recent COVID-19 relief bills, including the American Rescue Plan, provide billions of dollars in rent relief, there has been concern that that money may not be available in time to help the more than 4 million people the U.S. Census Bureau says currently experience housing insecurity.

To that end, the Biden administration announced June 24, 2021, a series of initiatives designed to promote housing stability by, among other things:

  • Urging state and local court participation in eviction diversion
  • Highlighting the use of American Rescue Plan Funds to fund eviction diversion plans
  • Convening a White House Summit for eviction prevention plans
  • Accelerating local delivery of emergency rental assistance
  • Helping homeless families gain access to assistance
  • Removing language and cultural barriers to securing emergency rental assistance
  • Creating a streamlined payment option for utility providers and large landlords to access rental assistance on behalf of multiple tenants
  • Enforcing the 30-day eviction notice requirement for federally-backed properties
  • Enforcing adherence to the Fair Housing Act
  • Publishing a list of more than 590 links to state, local and tribal government Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) programs.

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