Relief available for renters and landlords

Relief available for renters and landlords

Due to COVID-19 and the hardships that have come along with the pandemic, Rhode Island Housing is offering help to renters and landlords through the Rent Relief R.I. program, though those behind it say many people aren’t taking advantage of it just yet.

The state of Rhode Island and R.I. Housing have received about $200 million in rent relief funds from the federal Emergency Rental Assistance program, or ERA.

Carol Ventura, executive director of R.I. Housing, said that the program has two buckets with $352 million available in Rhode Island for back rent and future rent, utilities, and even internet and broadband.

Running the program is Christine Hunsinger, of R.I. Housing. She said the program was launched in late March and had the kinks worked out to be completely active by May 17.

“This (program) provides economic stability to renters and landlords,” Ventura said.

She added that Rhode Island is entering a critical time in being close to the end of an eviction moratorium, and those charged with administering the program want to reach people in need before they are evicted.

The entire state is covered, so no one particular town gets more money. It’s about renters or landlords in communities.

Ventura said they have seen interest in the program from several northern Rhode Island communities, particularly Cumberland and Smithfield.

“We are trying to take every opportunity to get the word out about the availability of this program,” Ventura said. “We know there are many more families in need of help.”

Ventura said that so far, almost 2,500 people have completed registrations, and there are more than 7,000 who have applied and are in the system but are not complete yet. They’ve seen $7 million go out the door.

“Come in now,” Hunsinger said. “We know if you get behind it’s hard to get back on top of it.”

She added, “This will help you get back on your feet from COVID, giving you money to catch up. It’s hard to stop time, but this will give you that pause.”

Anyone who has experienced hardships due to the pandemic or has been laid off can apply. Even if someone is not sure if they are eligible, Hunsinger advises to still apply and get your name in the system.

“Some people are not sure, so put in for the application or call the call center,” Hunsinger said. “We work with each applicant. We want to help everyone.”

For tenants to be eligible, their household income must meet certain income limits, which is 80 percent of the area median. They must have qualified for unemployment benefits or experience a reduction in household income because of COVID-19, and they must show they are at risk of experiencing homelessness or housing instability.

There is a chart available online as well as requirements for both tenants and landlords at www.rentreliefri.com .

Documents needed include a proof of residency, proof of income, a signed document of lease agreement, or a document showing tenancy and documentation demonstrating past due rent and or utility bills.

Hunsinger said that if documents can’t be found or tenants are not sure what they need, they should call anyway and be helped through the process.

If landlords are applying for this relief, they need to provide a W-9 form, EIN or SSN verification, past due rent notice, proof of property ownership, and contact information.

While R.I. Housing and the relief program try to keep people from getting evicted, they also have another program coming soon, a treasury program to help homeowners facing foreclosure.

For more information, call 1-855-608-8756 or visit www.rentreliefri.com .