Collins: Rent relief still available for eligible tenants and housing providers
A longtime apartment complex in South San Jose is pictured in this file photo. Photo by Lorraine Gabbert.

If you are a tenant or a housing provider, this is a must read.

California has set aside $5.2 billion in rent relief for those negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Eligible housing providers and tenants can apply for 100% of all unpaid back rent that accrued on or after April 1, 2020. Housing providers with tenants who make 80% of area median income (AMI) or less are eligible. Tenants making at or below 50% AMI will receive first priority for rent relief financial assistance.

It is important to note that, for the purpose of this program, eligibility is not based on the tenant’s income when they rented the unit, but rather what their income is when applying for assistance. So, those who lost their job or had reduced hours during the pandemic should apply, as they are also eligible for assistance.

A tenant can apply for rental assistance to clear past debts, even if they no longer reside in the unit. The application must be filled out by both the property owner and the tenant. Applicants will not be required to show proof of citizenship and the application is offered in several different languages. The rent relief program is aimed at keeping tenants housed and making property owners whole again. The awarded funds will be distributed directly to the property owner on behalf of the tenant.

I understand there may be a level of skepticism with programs that distribute funding, and rightfully so. In fact, the state and local agencies have struggled mightily to distribute rent relief funds. Only about $241 million out of the $5.2 billion has been distributed so far. Some of the early struggles involved a very cumbersome process and confusing paperwork. Recently, the state drastically simplified the application, and it should take most applicants less than an hour on average to complete.

There are times when tenants and property owners are at odds with each other. This should not be one of those times. It is in the best interest of all parties to come together and apply for this funding as quickly as possible. Since a portion of the funding is provided by the federal government, they could claw back a significant amount of this rent relief if it goes unclaimed. This is a further incentive for tenants and property owners to work together to apply for rent relief funds as soon as possible.

Realtors have been actively engaged with our elected officials at the local, state and federal level to secure this relief. The clock is ticking so please help spread the word. For more information, please visit the state’s website at www.housing.ca.gov or call (833) 430-2122. You can also check out this blog post on the Santa Clara County Association of Realtors website that has more specifics on the statewide eviction moratorium and rental assistance.

San José Spotlight columnist Neil Collins is CEO of the Santa Clara County Association of Realtors, a trade association representing more than 6,000 real estate professionals in Santa Clara County and surrounding areas. His column appears every fourth Thursday of the month. Contact Neil at [email protected] or follow @neilvcollins on Twitter.

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