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Need help paying rent? Houston, Harris County extends deadline to apply for rent relief program

Both landlords and tenants will now have until Sept. 2.

HOUSTON — Landlords and tenants interested in the Harris County and Houston rental assistance program have more time to put in an application.

Baker Ripley, the non-profit organization running the program, confirmed the application deadline has been extended to September 2.

The decision was made over the weekend after an overwhelming response from residents. It launched in mid-August.

Harris County commissioners also approved an expansion of the program; increasing rental assistance fund from $15 million to $40 million, setting the maximum amount of assistance from $1,200 to $1,900 per household and asking landlords to make payment plans for tenants behind on rent.

The total amount of rental assistance available is $60 million and represents an unprecedented amount of support for tenants across the City and County, officials said.

The program is expected to help more than 30,000 tenants in the area and currently over 10,000 rental locations are registered.

HOW IT WORKS

LANDLORDS (Enrollment period: Aug. 17- Sept. 2):

  • To qualify, you must agree to these terms:
  • Unit must be inside City of Houston or Harris County
  • Waive all late fees and interest for that month
  • Allow for interest/penalty-free payment plan for any rent due in excess of $2,112 and any balance in rent through August 
  • Refrain from initiating eviction process or rescind any prior eviction process through August 
  • Agree to refrain from evictions through September 2020
  • Agree to enter into a payment agreement with all tenants of property under the following conditions and with the following terms:
  • Tenant represents they have a COVID-related hardship, and if qualified, they applied for assistance
  • Tenant isn’t in default of a payment agreement they previously negotiated with the landlord
  • Payment agreement includes any back rent owed before the beginning of the program
  • Tenant pays the first payment no later than October 1 and the last payment no later than November 30

NEXT STEPS:

  1. Sign up immediately to be a Participating Landlord
  2. Inform qualifying tenants with delinquent rent that they may apply for assistance starting August 17
  3. Be sure your tenants have computer and internet access when the tenant system goes live

TENANTS (Enrollment period: Aug. 24 - Sept. 2):

  • Tenant’s landlord must be on the Participating Landlord Directory
  • Have unpaid rent from April - August
  • Have a landlord who agrees to the landlord terms
  • Prior to April 2020, household income is less than 80 percent of Aera Median Income or tenant is currently participating in any of the programs listed
  • Cannot pay rent due to economic harm or healthcare impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic

NEXT STEPS: 

  • If possible, secure computer or smartphone access to submit your application between August 24 and August 30 
  • Check to see if your landlord is on the Participating Landlord List 
  • If not, ask your landlord to sign up as a Participating Landlord 
  • Prepare to submit your application online or via the telephone number below 
  • Ask your landlord for a payment plan

For more information on how the program works and how to apply, click here.

WHO'S IMPACTED:

Even in extreme heat, Houston is covered in snow. Nina San Miguel couldn’t swing rent in June. The northwest Houston renter couldn’t pay her water bill or feed her family without the help of free food distributions. Her debt snowballs as this pandemic persists.

“It’s great if people have just watched this behind their screen. Which is a blessing,” said Cristina Cave, a spokeswoman for BakerRipley. “But just think there are a lot of neighbors out there that still are struggling.”

It’s why Harris county just added more money into a Rental Assistance Program ran by non-profit BakerRipley. Between the county, the City of Houston and private donors, a total of $60 million, “will bring rental relief to about 30,000 people,” said Cave of the neighbors who couldn’t pay rent between April and August. Cave confirms a spike in applications this weekend.

“There’s a lot of families, as well, that rely on two incomes. And right now it’s just one. And that one income is less hours,” said Cave. “Maybe they got hit with COVID and they are hourly salary. If you don’t get work, you don’t get money. So, it’s just one challenge on top of the other and the other.”

Qualifying for the help from the Rental Assistance Program can be a challenge too. Your landlord must apply to the program and agree to the terms like, no evictions, waiving late fees, and in the case of Harris County- discounting the owed rent by 10 %.

San Miguel’s landlord said no. Cave says there’s an option b. “Please call 211. That is the United Way Help Line.”

A national emergency is snowballing into a financial crisis as families struggle to dig themselves out of debt only to be hit with another month of unpaid bills.