Q: I own a small rental property in Queens. The tenants of an apartment owe me several months' rent and have made no attempts to set up a payment plan. As long as the eviction moratorium persists, my hands are tied. But I can't afford the legal fees it would cost to file an eviction lawsuit against them – I've used up my savings paying mortgages, taxes, and other costs of running a building. Would they qualify now that rental facilities are available? Would I see the money if they did?
A: Depending on your tenants' income, they may be eligible for a rent reduction through the Emergency Rental Assistance Program, a government fund that has been receiving applications since June. If your tenant qualifies, all payments will be sent to you so you can get paid in full. (Landlords who accept the fund are not allowed to cancel the eligible tenant for a year, although there are some exceptions.)
Eligible tenants could receive relief for up to 12 months of unpaid rent and up to three months of future rent. The program is only available to tenants who earn 80 percent or less of the median income in the region. In Queens County, that's $ 95,450 for a family of four.
The fund, currently over $ 2 billion, could help you and your tenant. "This program will be extremely important in saving tenants' homes and paying landlords and getting people through this dire crisis," said Ellen Davidson, an attorney for the Legal Aid Society who represents tenants. As of June 13, more than 81,000 applications had been submitted, according to the state.
Although the renter needs to fill out and sign the online application, you can start the process by filling out the landlord section now. Your tenants will be notified that an application has been opened so they can complete their section. (Currently, work cannot be saved once an application is launched, so have all of your information ready to complete your section in one sitting.) With your tenant's consent, you can fill out their section on their behalf, according to Anthony Farmer, a spokesperson spoke for the State Office for Temporary and Disabled Aid.
So this is a good time to resume communication with your tenants. They have "overlapping interests," said Nicholas Schmidt, program director for the civil and housing court at the New York Peace Institute, which provides free mediation services to New Yorkers. “The landlord wants to keep the apartment in good condition,” and the tenants want to keep their own home.
If either you or your tenant needs help, call 311 and ask to connect with a community-based organization who can help. A state helpline is also available at 844-NY1RENT (844-691-7368). The TTY phone number for the hearing impaired is 1-833-843-8829.
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