Need rent help? L.A. city residents can now apply for help from $235-million fund
Los Angeles opened applications Tuesday to its $235.5-million rent-relief program, an effort to keep city residents housed and allow landlords to pay their bills after a challenging year.
The program, called the 2021 COVID-19 Emergency Renters Assistance Program, is funded through the December federal stimulus bill and distributed under state rules that seek to eliminate rent debt that lower-income tenants have accumulated over the past year.
A lot rests on the money being distributed correctly.
Tenants with pandemic-related financial hardships have protections against eviction under a patchwork of regulations passed by the federal, state and local governments. But rent is still due, and people have to make payments eventually.
Many tenants have racked up big debts that threaten to force them from their homes and ruin their credit. Some landlords, particularly those with only a handful of units, say they fear losing their properties as less rent comes in and bills like property taxes and mortgages come due.
If you’re like most people in Southern California, you live in a rental.
Here’s what you need to know
- To qualify for L.A.’s rent-relief program, you must be a city resident, and someone in your household must have a pandemic-related financial hardship.
- You must have annual household income that is at or below 50% of area median income. A family of four, for example, would be eligible with an income of $56,300 or less.
- Tenants can apply on the website of the Los Angeles Housing and Community Investment Department or by calling (833) 373-0587.
- Renters are eligible regardless of immigration status, and landlords can apply on behalf of their tenants.
- You must apply by 11:59 p.m. April 30.
The city expects there to be more demand than there is money available and will pick applications at random, while prioritizing those with incomes at or below 30% of area median income. If the money runs out before everyone gets help, there is additional rent-relief money on the way from the federal American Rescue Plan, which was signed into law this month. But details on applications for, and distribution of, those funds have not yet been worked out.
- Under the city program, if a tenant is chosen, they could see all the rent debt they accrued from April 1, 2020, to March 31, 2021, wiped away. For that to happen, a landlord must agree to forgive 20% of the debt. The city would then pay the landlord the rest.
- If a landlord does not forgive 20%, tenants can receive funds to pay 25% of their rent. Under a state law, tenants must pay that amount by June 30 to avoid eviction. The remaining rent is still due, but landlords can never evict for it and, to collect, would have to go to Small Claims Court.
- Los Angeles tenants could, under an existing city ordinance, take longer than June 30 to pay back their entire pandemic-time rent, but paying the 25% by June 30 limits the amount landlords can evict for, according to the city attorney.
- If you currently are not behind on rent, you can apply for help with future payments, but the city is prioritizing those who owe money to their landlords.
The city attorney’s website has additional information on what the city and state eviction rules mean for tenants and landlords.
If you live outside the city of Los Angeles, there are other rent-relief programs that might be able to assist you. Tenants and landlords can visit the state’s Housing Is Key website for information on how to apply.
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