Emergency housing assistance during COVID-19
Do you have tenants having trouble paying rent because of the COVID-19 pandemic? Have your tenants lost a job or lost income during the COVID-19 health crisis? They may be eligible for assistance from the state that will send rent payments directly to you, the landlord.
Low-income tenants may be eligible to receive help with paying their rent through the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) and regional administering agencies .
The Federal Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) may provide up to 12 months of rental assistance. The Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT) and Emergency Rental and Mortgage Assistance (ERMA) programs may provide income-eligible households with up to $10,000 to pay overdue or future rent costs, and once approved, these payments are send directly to landlords. There is one application for all three programs.
Landlords and tenants who do not have a written lease can document their agreement by using a simple Tenancy at Will Form (available in multiple languages at link), or another form of written documentation.
Now, landlords who own less than 20 units of housing may apply directly for rental assistance on behalf of their tenants.
It is very important landlords coordinate with tenants before they apply for rental assistance. Landlords must obtain and submit a signed tenant consent form before applying for assistance. Landlords should also check general income eligibility for programs. Tenant income eligibility limit is 80% of the Area Median Income (AMI) for assistance. You can check AMI limits in your city/town here.
If your tenant has already submitted an application for rental assistance, please do not reapply. This could delay the approval process. If your tenant has already applied for rental assistance, you can still help expedite the review of their rental assistance application by providing requested documentation, such as a copy of the lease or a summary of the amount your tenant owes to you.
If you are a landlord and you believe your tenant may be eligible for rental assistance, you should:
- Learn about ERAP, RAFT and ERMA programs. You can find more information below.
- Find the regional agency is your area, and determine income eligibility for the metro area of your property.
- Find out whether your tenant has already submitted an application for rental assistance.
If your tenant has not previously applied for rental assistance, start an application by asking for your tenant to sign the required consent form that is available through the regional agency.
Details on the Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP)
The new Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) leverages new federal funding for eligible low-income tenants who are in need of financial assistance. With the launch of the Federal Emergency Rental Assistance Program, applicants should not notice significant changes in the application process, and may be eligible to receive funds from either ERAP, RAFT, or ERMA.
How does the new Federal Emergency Rental Assistance Program differ from RAFT and ERMA?
There are key differences in program requirements:
- COVID-19 Impact: Renters must be able to provide a statement attesting to unemployment, decreased wages, or increased expenses due to COVID-19.
- Higher Benefit and Longer-term relief: Households may be eligible for up to twelve (12) months of rental arrears (plus an extra 3 months if funding allows and need is demonstrated), as well as overdue utilities arrears up to $1,500. All rent and utility arrears must have been, accrued after 3/13/20.
- Under RAFT/ERMA, renters and landlords may receive up to $10,000 during state of emergency and up to $7,000 for six months after end of state of emergency.
- Higher income eligibility: Renters applying for assistance may earn up to 80% of Area Median Income (AMI). Visit our agency locator to determine a region’s AMI.
- For comparison, RAFT has an income eligibility limit of 50% AMI (60% for Domestic Violence); ERMA has the same eligibility limit of 80% AMI.
- Use limits: Renters may only receive help with rent and utilities accrued since March 13, 2020.
RAFT/ERMA can help with mortgage payments. Additionally, RAFT/ERMA can also provide assistance regardless of COVID-19 impacts.
Important Information for Boston tenants: The Federal government is providing funds for emergency rent and utility assistance to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and also directly to the City of Boston. The City of Boston is setting up their own program to cover Boston residents. If you live in Boston, you may wish to apply to their program.
You cannot receive assistance from both the City and the State at the same time. This is only applicable to tenants living in the city of Boston
Details on the RAFT and ERMA programs
Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT) Program
The RAFT program helps keep households in stable housing situations when facing eviction, foreclosure, loss of utilities, and other housing emergencies caused by loss of income, increase in expenses, or both. RAFT helps all kinds of households by providing up to $10,000 per household to help preserve current housing or move to new housing.
Funding can be used for a variety of needs, including rent or mortgage arrears, security deposits, or other expenses to help households obtain or maintain stable housing. Households with incomes up to 50% of Area Median Income (AMI)*, or 60% of AMI for people who are at risk of homelessness because of domestic violence, are eligible for assistance.
Emergency Rental and Mortgage Assistance Program (ERMA)
ERMA can provide rental and mortgage assistance to low-income households who have been impacted by the crisis and may not be eligible for RAFT. This program is available for households within the 50-80% range of Area Median Income (AMI). ERMA may provide up to $4,000 for eligible households to assist with rent or mortgage arrears accrued after April 1, 2020 and/or with upcoming rent or mortgage payments.
Use the agency lookup tool above to determine regional income levels to assess their eligibility. These can also be found here: ERMA Area Median Income Information.
Mediation and Legal Assistance for Landlords and Tenants
*** NEW December 2020 ***
There are now two more tools for landlords and tenants to prevent an eviction. Community mediation and free or low-cost legal assistance for eligible parties can help landlords work with tenants to avoid eviction.
Tenants and landlords can use mediation to resolve their problems without any court filing, or through court referrals.
Both programs can be used in coordination with short-term rental assistance such as RAFT, ERMA or local sources of financial aid, but it is not necessary to apply for RAFT or ERMA in order to participate.
Find more information on our website.