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Aid available for rent and mortgage

Relief is available for those struggling to catch up on rent due to a loss of income from the pandemic.

The Rent and Mortgage Relief Program is a new program that uses money given to Virginia for the CARES Act to help both tenants and landlords avoid evictions.

“As a result of the pandemic, there has been a dramatic increase in evictions in the nation, Virginia and our area,” said Amy Disel Allman, director of advocacy at Virginia Legal Aid Society.

In September 2020, the CDC announced a national eviction moratorium for tenants impacted by COVID-19 through the end of December. The Trump administration extended it through Jan. 31, and the Biden administration extended it again this week through March.

Even though tenants are not being evicted, the rent is still due and piling up, creating a deeper hole. This is where the Rent and Mortgage Relief Program enters the scene. This program pays for rent in arrears back to April 1, 2020. This lets renters have a clean start to make on-time payments again and not negatively affect their record.

“Those living paycheck to paycheck have no way to make up payments to catch up,” said Allman. “This is a win-win situation for both tenants and landlords. It makes landlords whole and keeps tenants housed.”

According to a release from the Virginia Rent and Mortgage Relief Program, to be eligible for this program, tenants must:

  • Have a valid lease agreement in their name.
  • The rent payment must be at or below 150% fair market rate.
  • Household gross income must be equal to or less than 80% of the area’s median income.
  • Household has experienced a loss of income due to COVID-19 because of being laid off, place of employment has closed, a reduction in hours of work, loss of spousal or child support, unable to find work due to COVID-19, staying home with children due to the closure of schools or daycare, or unwilling or unable to participate in previous employment due to high risk of severe illness from COVID-19.
  • Households can’t receive rental assistance from another source, federal (like Housing Choice Voucher), state, or local, for the same time period of RMRP request.
  • Provide required documentation of proof of income and valid lease.

Landlords can also apply for their tenants to help the process faster. This is a unique partnership usually not seen between landlords and tenants. While working in court, Allman has worked with Harry Cross, owner of Cross Reality, and he worked on the landlord’s side of the eviction cases. Cross has seen the benefits for landlords of this new program.

“This is an important program,” said Cross. “Landlords and renters need to work together to make it happen, and Suffolk Legal Aid has a designated person to help assist with the paperwork for renters and owners/landlords. The Obici Healthcare Foundation gave Legal Aid a grant to help with this specific program. The renters need to take advantage of it to protect their credit rating and from having to move in the future. There is a moratorium on evictions at this time. This is not a loan that needs to be paid back. Landlords can also help fill out the forms, but the renters must participate to receive the help.”

According to Allman, the sooner help is sought, the better. There is no wrong time to call. As soon as rent payments begin to stack up, call for the best results and minimal risks.

To apply, tenants can call 703-962-1884 or go online to tinyurl.com/RMRapply. Landlords can apply at tinyurl.com/RMRlandlords.

For additional help, call the Legal Aid hotline to get legal advice and assistance at 866-534-5243. If you do not qualify for assistance with Legal Aid, you can get legal advice from the Eviction Legal Helpline at 1-833-NoEvict.