Q: I own a small rental property in Queens. The tenants in one apartment owe me several months of rent, and have not made any attempts to set up a payment plan. So long as the eviction moratorium is in place, my hands are tied. But I can’t afford the legal fees that it would cost to bring an eviction case against them — I’ve depleted my savings keeping up on the mortgage, taxes and other costs of running a building. Now that rent relief is available, would they qualify? Would I see the money if they did?
A: Depending on your tenants’ income, they may be eligible for rent relief through the Emergency Rental Assistance Program, a state fund that began accepting applications in June. If your tenant qualifies, any payments would be sent to you, so you could be made whole. (Landlords who accept the fund must not evict the qualifying tenant for a year, though there are some exceptions.)
Qualifying tenants could receive relief for up to 12 months of unpaid rent, and up to three months of future rent. The program is only open to tenants making 80 percent or less of the area median income. In Queens County, that comes to $95,450 for a family of four.
The fund, currently with more than $2 billion, could help you and your tenant. “This program is going to be extremely important to save tenants’ homes and to pay landlords and to get people through this terrible crisis,” said Ellen Davidson, a staff attorney at the Legal Aid Society who represents tenants. More than 81,000 applications had been submitted as of June 13, according to the state.
Although the tenant must complete and sign the online application, you can get the process started by filling out the landlord section now. Your tenants will be informed that an application has been opened so they can complete their section. (Currently, work cannot be saved once an application is started, so have all your information ready to finish your section in one sitting.) With your tenant’s consent, you can fill out their section on their behalf, according to Anthony Farmer, a spokesman for the state’s Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance.
So this is a good time to restart communications with your tenants. You have “overlapping interests,” said Nicholas Schmidt, the program manager of civil and housing court at the New York Peace Institute, which offers free mediation services for New Yorkers. “The landlord wants to keep that apartment in good working condition,” and the tenants want to keep their home.
If either you or your tenant need assistance, call 311 and ask to be connected with a community-based organization that can help. A state help line is also available at 844-NY1RENT (844-691-7368). The hearing-impaired TTY phone number is 1-833-843-8829.