Emergency Rental Assistance Programs

Publicly and privately funded emergency rental assistance programs share the same goal. Administrators want to keep you in your home if you can reasonably afford to stay there.

Every program has specific eligibility criteria which vary by program as well as locale. This is important to understand, since even if you do not qualify for one program, you may meet all eligibility requirements for another. Therefore it is important to know which programs exist nearby and serve your physical location.

Most crisis rental aid programs share these criteria:

  • Household income of a certain percentage of poverty level or median income is necessary to qualify. For example, a program may be limited to households of less than 200% of the poverty level. Others though may serve a greater number by limiting aid to households earning up to 80% of the median income of your county, municipality or state.
  • You generally must be in imminent danger of eviction. This does not necessarily mean you would be homeless if an eviction occurred, though it is sometimes implied. It is possible that you may have to present an eviction demand letter from your landlord. If you have received an eviction notice, you must act quickly. It may take several days to arrange an appointment with a case manager. At the same time, your landlord may be preparing to file for an eviction to be granted by court order. Legal action can be swift depending on state law, so you cannot wait.
  • Government aid programs are primary sources of assistance. This means that many private or charitable assistance programs may require that you are first turned down by your local social services offices or other government agency prior to applying.

If you are eligible for rental assistance, it usually comes in the form of a direct payment to your landlord. Your case manager will determine what, if any assistance is warranted. It also depends on the administrative caps that are in place.

For example, assume that your monthly rent is $700 and that you are 2 months delinquent. If an agency’s cap is $1,200, then they may decide to only provide $700 in assistance, since the other $500 would still not add up to a full payment. However, if you can make a case for it, you may be able to receive the full amount. Perhaps you could come up with $200 that would allow for you to fully catch up on back rent when coupled with the rental assistance check from the agency.

Local rental assistance programs can help you avoid a sudden eviction, but only if you have a reasonable likelihood of remaining in the home or apartment with the aid. Being out of work would be a qualifying hardship. The agency expects that you are employable and will assume that a suitable employment opportunity would be attained within the next 3 months.

However, being forever unable to afford the apartment or rental home that you currently live in would not be a feasible situation. In this situation, a case manager would advise that you find cheaper accommodations, such as a subsidized or reduced rent apartment. Either way, it is important to speak with a case manager to discover what is possible as well as to find out how they can help you.