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Frequently Asked Questions for Landlords about Accepting State Funded Rental Assistance

As a landlord, get answers to questions about accepting state funded rental assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Table of Contents

How much funding is available through State Funded Housing Assistance programs?

And what are the differences between the programs?

UPDATED January 2020

There are now two options for renters and homeowners. In response to sustained needs, DHCD has combined "regular" and "COVID" RAFT programs, extending the $10,000 maximum benefit to all households eligible for RAFT. This change ensures all income-eligible households can received up to $10,000, based on need. In order to find out which one might best help with your rental situation, please contact a regional housing agency. 

  • The Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT) program offers up to $10,000 per household for rent or mortgage. RAFT can cover back rent, future rent, utilities, moving costs or a combination. DHCD has removed the requirement that landlords guarantee at least six months in order to receive the maximum benefit to increase flexibility for tenants and landlords to prevent evictions. RAFT income eligibility requirements remain the same, an applicants household income must be at or below 50% AMI, and the rental payments go directly to the landlord or to the bank in the case of mortgage payments. 

  • The COVID Emergency Rental and Mortgage Assistance (ERMA) program also offers up to $10,000 per household for rent or mortgage assistance. The inability to pay rent or mortgage must be related to a COVID-19 financial hardship. The tenant or homeowner must have a household income between 50% and 80% Area Median Income (AMI) in order to receive ERMA assistance. ERMA payments go directly to the landlord or mortgage servicer. 

Can a landlord apply for RAFT, COVID RAFT, or ERMA?

Any income eligible homeowner in Massachusetts can apply for RAFT or ERMA assistance with their own mortgage payment if they are at risk of falling behind.  

NEW December

Now, landlords who own up to 20 housing units can apply directly for RAFT/ERMA on behalf of eligible residents. For more information about how to apply, please visit our landlord page.

If I am a landlord who agrees to accept funding, do I lose my right to evict the tenant?

A landlord who accepts RAFT, or ERMA funding does not lose the ability to file for eviction due to lease violations that may occur in the future. In all cases, the landlord enters into an agreement which provides that, so long as the tenant is paying the agreed upon monthly tenant share of rent and not violating other clauses of the lease, the landlord will not initiate an eviction.  The landlord may file for eviction under the following situations: 

  • During (or after) the RAFT period of agreement, the tenant violates a lease clause that is unrelated to payment of rent. 

  • During (or after) the RAFT period of agreement, the tenant does not meet the monthly rent payment obligation that is stated in the agreement. 

  • After the end of the RAFT period of agreement, the tenant does not pay full contract rent or otherwise violates the lease. 

If accepting $4,000 or less in assistance, the landlord may not file for eviction due to non-payment during any month that the subsidy covers, provided, however, that if the subsidy only covers a portion of the rent and the tenant does not pay the rent share that is stated in the signed RAFT/ERMA agreement, then the landlord may file for eviction for non-payment of rent based on the portion of rent that the tenant did not pay. 

 

Does a landlord have to agree to a proposed settlement that would involve forgiveness of arrearages?

Or acceptance of reduced rent for the period of the RAFT agreement?

No. In order to receive any RAFT/ERMA, landlords must sign a RAFT/ERMA owner contract. The landlord may choose to reject a proposed settlement and opt for summary process eviction.   

What happens if a tenant moves out of the unit before the RAFT agreement ends?

The RAFT agreement includes the following line: “If the Participants’ tenancy is terminated prior to the period for which any monthly rental stipend payments were made, I agree to return the unused balance of said funds to the RAFT Agency.”  

The onus is on the landlord to report a move-out to the Regional Administering Agency.  

If a tenant’s income increases, does the RAFT agreement change?

No, the agreement signed by the tenant and landlord remains in effect for its stated term, unless the parties agree to amend it.   

What if a tenant loses income and can’t afford the rent they agreed to pay in the agreement?

The tenant should contact the landlord and RAFT Agency. If both parties are amenable to changing the RAFT agreement, the tenant would not have to reapply but they would need to execute a new RAFT agreement.  The new agreement would still need to comply with all RAFT requirements.

If the tenant is unable to pay their share and defaults on the RAFT agreement, then a landlord can begin eviction proceedings, by issuing a Notice to Quit.  

NOTE:  In some cases, the CARES Act may require a landlord to give 30 days’ notice for nonpayment, depending on the type of financing that the landlord has and whether the landlord has sought mortgage forbearance – consult an attorney for guidance.   

Can a tenant apply for up to $10,000 in COVID RAFT if they have already received up to $4,000 ...

... in RAFT, ERMA or HomeBASE benefits over the last 12 months? 

UPDATED January 2020

Yes.  Households may be eligible for up to $10,000 from the RAFT program. DHCD has removed the combined limit on HomeBASE, RAFT, or ERMA. 

Last updated: November 2, 2020
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