It is no secret that for the past several years the prices of real estate and rents have been rising not only in Massachusetts but across the country. Since March 2020 there have been several emergency rental assistance programs created that are available to families to help to be able to pay their rent, and as homeowners, to help pay mortgages, and several types of other deferment and delayed payment packages available.
Since 2020 we have seen a lot of changes in the programs. Over the years we’ve assisted several of our landlord clients to collect tens of thousands of dollars from these government programs and help keep families in their homes. As time goes on and the threat of a worldwide pandemic diminishes, we are seeing the window of opportunity slowly start to tighten and in time, we think we will eventually see this opportunity decline.
But there is still hope! There is still assistance available but you must take action immediately to take advantage of all that is still available.
We have been watching the availability of funding change over time. At the beginning of The pandemic there were programs that would pay rent in arrears all the way back to March 2020 with an advance rental stipend paying up to three months in advance to help families and renters. We have seen families reap the benefits of 10k up to 20k to even as high as $30,000 to pay rents in arrears and keep families in their homes.
Within the last month we have seen a new wave of revisions to the current assistance packages and programs. While there is still money available to help families who may be falling behind in rent, the coffers are not as generous as they once were. But they are still available for families in need.
At the time of the writing of this article the current Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT) package covers the following parameters.
- Up to $10,000 per household
- Within a 12-month period
- One month pre-paid advance rent stipend
The program will now offer rental assistance up to $10,000 within a 12-month period per household. However, the three month advance rental stipend has gone away. They will now only allow one month of an advance rental stipend but there is a catch. You actually “have to ask for it in writing” or they will not offer it to you. If you are filling out a RAFT application be sure to ask for the extra advanced rent stipend in writing or you are not going to get it.
There are other assistance packages out there available but right now RAFT seems to be the most popular option. A quick Google search for rental assistance in Massachusetts will get you some other options available as well. For the RAFT program there are a few hurdles to jump through but you may easily apply for the assistance online.
A landlord can fill out the online application as a “tenant advocate” or, the renter themselves may go online to initiate the process. It is illegal for a landlord to refuse a tenant access to these funds. If you are a renter, you need to go onto the website and file the application to get it started. Then a caseworker will reach out to the landlord to get the rest of the documents needed for the approval process.
If you are the renter, you will need to draft a brief letter explaining the hardship. You may have just received a rental increase of $200 to $300. You may have seen increases in other bills with the most recent inflation numbers. You may have medical bills which have knocked your budget totally off the rails. Or you may have worked hard your entire life now just to find your retirement benefits are not enough to meet your needs.
Whatever the case may be, if you are in need there is help available. You can still submit your hardship statement online and upload it to start your case file. The state will then reach out to the landlord and request a list of documents to complete the application process.
Some of the documents your landlord will need to provide are:
- The deed to prove ownership
- An ACH direct deposit form
- A W9 IRS form for the stipend recipient
- A copy of the rental agreement or lease
- A rent ledger showing arrears
- A resident agent form from your property manager if applicable
- Sometimes a valid photo ID is required from the landlord or property manager as well
Once the RAFT application is filed and the process is started then any attempts by the landlord to evict a tenant are put on an automatic freeze. The courts will not allow a landlord to evict a tenant once there is a RAFT application on the table. If your landlord does bring you to court for nonpayment of rent all you have to do is file the RAFT application and they will continue the case. At that point the courts will get involved to fast track the RAFT application for the tenant and the landlord to be made whole.
It may take as many as 6 to 8 weeks for the application to be completed. Then the checks will be sent directly to the account designated in the rental application. The rent checks cannot be paid to the tenant. They must be paid to the landlord or the property manager. That’s how the system works.
Again this is not a one time shot. At the current time within a 12-month period there is a $10,000 allowance per family household. But if you fall behind again, then you have to start the process all over again. The landlord, I repeat, cannot evict you if you are applying for the RAFT rental assistance and they must work with you to fill out the assistance application.
Below are some of the online links to the government assistance pages where you can get the rental assistance application process started.
Applying for Rental Assistance
Emergency Housing Payment Assistance during COVID-19
Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT) program
Homeowners can continue to access the federal Homeowner Assistance Fund (HAF)
Free legal aid is available to assist low-income tenants with referrals, legal information, and legal representation for evictions statewide.
On our company website we have also compiled scores of other types of websites and assistance programs for families in need. These links cover a range from fuel assistance programs, EBT food cards. Senior care and housing programs, other state venues and programs, and a host of other non-profit associations and assistance programs with a heart to help families in need.
Belaire Property Management LLC – Links
The links on these pages will be a good start to help your family. It’s going to take some work and some effort, but there is help available. You do need to ask for it and there may be a level of hard work involved to fill out the application process.
But at the end of the day it is everyone’s goal to keep families in their homes.