Landlords shun federal rent relief over program requirements

Aid roll-out varies state-by-state

(iStock/Illustration by Kevin Rebong for The Real Deal)
(iStock/Illustration by Kevin Rebong for The Real Deal)

The federal government wants to give landlords and tenants $50 billion to help keep renters in their homes — but some of those property owners are turning down the funding that they’re eligible for.

Some landlords have taken issue with the requirements to receive federal rent relief, including disclosing financial information, as well as limits on evicting tenants if they choose to do so, the Wall Street Journal reported.

In Boston, a tenant attorney said that a fifth of his cases involve a landlord who has refused the funds. A Houston nonprofit tasked with distributing the funds said that in 5,600 cases, landlords shunned the relief. In Los Angeles, nearly half of the tenants who received rent relief had landlords who declined to participate in the program.

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While federal requirements stipulate the money should be used to pay rent for low-income tenants, individual states have broad discretion over how the programs are implemented. Those differences can be dramatic: In Broward County, Florida, the rent relief will only make up for 60 percent of back rent if what’s unpaid exceeds a month’s rent.

Some landlords, faced with keeping a non-paying tenant and accepting a discounted rent versus finding a new tenant who may be in a better position to pay, are choosing the latter. The ban on federal evictions, which expires at the end of March, does not mandate that landlords renew current leases.

“If you have someone who wasn’t upholding their end of the contract…you’re asking the housing provider to sign up for essentially another year of this person being in this unit unable to pay,” Amanda Gill, government affairs director for the Florida Apartment Association, an industry trade group, told the publication.

“You’re really putting them in a really difficult position, because they have ongoing obligations,” Gill said.

[WSJ] — Georgia Kromrei