How much funding is available through State Funded Housing Assistance programs?
And what are the differences between the programs?
There are three state funded programs that can assist with paying rent or mortgage during the COVID-19 crisis. In order to find out which one might best help with your rental situation, please contact a regional housing agency.
The regular RAFT (Residential Assistance for Families in Transition) program offers up to $4,000 per household for rent, mortgage, utility, or moving expenses. RAFT payments go directly to the landlord (if the applicant is a tenant), mortgage servicer (if the applicant is an owner of a 1-4 family property), utility, or vendor. To qualify for assistance, the tenant must have a household income at or below 50% Area Median Income (AMI).
The COVID RAFT program offers up to $10,000 per household for rent only. COVID RAFT can cover back rent, future rent, or both. To access COVID RAFT, the tenant’s inability to pay rent must be related to a COVID-19 financial hardship. Also, in order to access an amount greater than $4,000, the landlord and tenant must sign an agreement that ensures that the tenancy will be preserved for six months or, in the case of a family with school-aged children, through June 2021, whichever date is later. As is the case for regular RAFT, for COVID RAFT, the tenant’s household income must be at or below 50% AMI, and the rental payments go directly to the landlord.
The COVID Emergency Rental and Mortgage Assistance (ERMA) program also offers up to $4,000 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.
If I am a landlord who agrees to accept funding, do I lose my right to evict the tenant?
A landlord who accepts RAFT, COVID 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.
If the landlord accepts more than $4,000 in COVID RAFT assistance, up to $10,000, the landlord and tenant sign an agreement that covers a period of at least 6 months (or for a family with school-aged children, until 6/30/21 or 6 months, whichever is longer). The agreement will state:
Tenant agrees to pay a specific amount monthly for rent and/or for repayment of arrearages. The minimum amount is 30% of monthly income, but the tenant may pay more if they can afford it.
RAFT is used to pay arrearages and/or a forward stipend to supplement the amount of ongoing monthly rent that the tenant is able to pay during the contract period; and
Landlord agrees to not pursue eviction for any arrearages that are:
Paid by RAFT, or
Subject to a repayment agreement with tenant, or
Explicitly forgiven, as stated in the RAFT agreement.
So long as the tenant is meeting obligations under the RAFT agreement (paying the agreed-on tenant monthly rent payments as well as any obligations under a repayment agreement for arrearages) and the RAFT stipend is being paid to the landlord, the landlord cannot evict for nonpayment, even if the sum of the stipend plus the required tenant payment is less than contract rent.
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 a COVID RAFT payment of up to $10,000, the landlord must sign a RAFT agreement that meets the requirements specified above. 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 (and violation of the 6+ month tenancy agreement, if the tenant is receiving a RAFT benefit above $4,000) 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, including COVID RAFT requirements if applicable.
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?
Yes. Households may be eligible for up to $10,000 of COVID RAFT as long as they do not receive more than $10,000 combined between all forms of RAFT, HomeBASE, and ERMA in any 12-month period.
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.
In terms of applying for rental assistance on behalf of a tenant, DHCD is working with RAFT Agencies on developing a way for a landlord to apply to RAFT or ERMA, with tenant consent. Note, if the tenant does not want to apply for RAFT/ERMA, the landlord cannot compel the tenant to do so.
|Last updated:||November 2, 2020|