The entire nation is feeling the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in the form of mass unemployment. Unfortunately, that unemployment has led to billions of dollars in unpaid rent for the last year.
The loss of income has hit property investors pretty hard. If you don’t have alternative sources of income, you’ve probably been struggling to pay your mortgage(s). If your tenants have been struggling to pay rent or haven’t paid rent at all, they need help.
The good news is there are several rental assistance programs that can help. However, your tenants might not be aware of their options.
If you’re a landlord in Austin, here’s what you need to know about rent relief programs and what you can do to help your tenants get some relief.
Tell your tenants about all possible rent relief options available
Don’t assume your tenants are aware of their options. They’ve probably heard the term “rent relief program” being tossed around the news, but if they’re not actively looking for program information, they probably don’t know what’s available.
For some reason, many tenants never bothered to apply for rental assistance under previous programs. Perhaps they were already too discouraged to make the effort. People tend to get depressed when times are tough, especially when money is involved. Also, some tenants may have been too embarrassed to apply for help.
Write up a letter to inform tenants of all the rent relief options you can find. Currently, these relief programs are available to Austin residents:
- The Texas Eviction Diversion Program. This is a new program created by the Texas Supreme Court and was made available to all Texans on February 15, 2021.
When a tenant faces an eviction, this diversion program requires the court to allow the tenant and landlord to apply for six months of rent relief before moving forward with the eviction.
This program requires the landlord to willingly participate in the program. Let your tenants know that you’re willing to participate and you want to help them avoid an eviction lawsuit in the first place.
This particular program will also seal the court record, so an eviction won’t show up on the tenant’s record. Letting your tenants know about this option will help them feel better and not worry about being evicted without being able to apply for relief first.
- The Texas Rent Relief Program. This program can help tenants pay for rent and utility bills, including past due bills. This rent relief program will be discussed in-depth later in this article.
- Relief programs funded and supported by Combined Community Action. This non-profit organization is offering Austin residents rental assistance on a case-by-case basis. Your tenants can visit the website for more information on this program and other opportunities to receive financial assistance.
- Meals on Wheels. Although it’s not a rental relief program, Meals on Wheels can help qualifying tenants get delicious meals delivered right to their door. Your tenant can pay the $2 per meal suggested donation or whatever they can afford. Meals won’t be denied to people who can’t afford to donate.
- The Baptist Community Center mission. This is another local non-profit organization providing assistance to people in need during the pandemic.
- The Aging and Disability Resource Center Care Connection. This organization helps older adults and people with disabilities and is currently offering rental and utility assistance, counseling, help with prescriptions, nutritional supplements, incontinence supplies, and transportation to COVID-19 testing sites.
Encourage your tenants to apply for as many programs as possible to maximize the amount of help they might receive.
There’s a new rent relief program in town – the Texas Rent Relief Program
Your tenants will be happy to know the state of Texas just rolled out a new rent relief program to cover up to 15 months of rent, including utilities and past due rent. This program was activated on February 15, 2021 and is expected to provide help to more Texans than the last rental assistance bill.
A previous relief program in Austin called the RENT program distributed $12.9 million in funds. However, it wasn’t enough. Many households didn’t qualify or didn’t know about the program. Those who got relief from that program need more relief today.
How the Texas Rent Relief Program is different
Previous rental assistance programs required landlords to sign up for the program before their tenants could get relief. Since many landlords didn’t sign up, tenants were left hanging without any options. Tenants who had a bad experience with a former landlord may be hesitant to apply for this program, so make sure to let your tenants know they can apply independently of your involvement.
The Texas Rent Relief Program provides tenants with:
- Funds to pay past due rent dating back to March 13, 2020
- Up to 3 months of expected rent and utility bills
- The option to apply for an additional three months of funds if money is still available
- Landlords can apply for unpaid rent on behalf of their tenants provided the tenant signs the application
- Tenants can invite their landlord to apply, but it’s not required for a tenant to get assistance
Both tenants and landlords can apply online. All funds granted will be paid directly to landlords and utility companies. However, if a landlord or utility company refuses to accept the payment, the money will be given to the tenant after 14 days.
Make sure to tell your tenants about this program because in the first month, they only made three payments. While the qualifications are fairly narrow, it’s also possible that people don’t know about the program.
Avoid evicting tenant whenever possible
Technically, the eviction moratorium is still in place. However, a federal Texas judge recently ruled the eviction ban to be unconstitutional for infringing on private property rights. The ruling is still too new to know whether or not it would hold up in court if you pursued an eviction under the moratorium.
Now is not a good time to get caught up in the court system. The system is already backed up, and it may not be worth your time, money, and effort to pursue an eviction for non-payment of rent.
Rent relief programs will only be temporary
Unfortunately, any rental relief tenants can obtain will only be temporary. If your tenants are behind on rent by a year or more, you’re unlikely to recover all of the rent owed. Knowing that, be prepared to face long-term losses.
Confused about how to manage tenants during the pandemic? We can help!
If the legal situation has you confused, frustrated, or stressed out, we can shoulder that responsibility for you. At Green Residential, we take pride in our team’s ability to manage properties for Austin investors so they can focus on more important things.
If you’re tired of working around the clock, contact us to learn more about how we can make your life easier.