The Federal Moratorium on Evictions ended on Saturday meaning landlords can again get the courts to kick you out your home again if you’re late with the rent. Since around April, the federal government came to the rescue and sent about $40 million to our county to help keep you in your home if you’re a qualified low-income renter.
There’s a lot of conditions associated with who gets the money (and when) with one of the most important of those being able to prove that someone in your home has lost income due to COVID which prevented you from keeping up with your rent.
As much as this program is in place to keep families in their homes and prevent a mass eviction tsunami, it’s also a program to make landlords whole from months of lost income. Therefore, both tenant and landlord have to apply for the program with the Delaware County Emergency Rental Assistance Program (DelCo ERA). As of this morning, DelCo ERA has given away less than half the pot of money on hand for rent and utility relief meaning there’s plenty left for those late in applying.
Unfortunately, despite there being millions of dollars available for rent relief, since the federal eviction moratorium is over, there’s nothing stoping a landlord from kicking you to the curb if you’re behind on your rent. A county judge could rule to extend the eviction moratorium until the money is gone giving folks more time to apply as they did in Dekalb County, Georgia, but that doesn’t seem likely to occur here in Delaware County.
I’m neither a landlord nor tenant, but this topic became of great interest to me after some confusing information was shared to a group of us on Saturday morning when it was announced people can come to Chester City Hall to apply on Wednesdays and this money is available even if your rent or mortgage is paid. I looked for that info on the city’s web and Facebook page and came up empty, but you can make an appointment to sign up in Upper Darby on Saturday between 10am-4pm according to delco-era.com. No where could I find that tenants who are current on their rent can apply mainly because this is a program that pays the landlord and if a landlord can’t prove his tenant is late on rent, he can’t get money out the program.
There are other issues that concern me about the program. One of the biggest issues is how the people most in need of the money are most likely the least prepared to navigate the application process. Fortunately, in the case of Chester Housing Authority residents who are behind, the authority has taken the extra step to identity them and help them apply. But, if you rent from a landlord you never see, or have a bogus lease, or don’t know about the program, or don’t have access to the Internet, or can’t afford a lawyer (not required but helpful), or can’t provide the necessary documentation; or are getting paid under-the-table on your job, or so many other conditions poor people face when just trying to keep a roof over their head, you may be evicted even if you are the exact match for who this program is trying to save.
As with many of the generous programs created to help individuals and businesses stay afloat during the pandemic, if you’re poor, poorly educated and informed, and have no access to the Internet other than a cell phone, you won’t know to apply or how to apply for money you qualify for.
Unfortunately, a lot of people are about to lose their homes. The sad part is there is little to no forgiveness for the folks who qualify for rent relief but don’t apply. The Chester Housing Authority has demonstrated the right way to help the most vulnerable among their tenants but there’s no one out here helping the hundreds of other renters who need help navigating the application process. A once a week in-person sign up at Chester City Hall or Upper Darby is not going to move the needle for these folks.
Sad but True! Fact not Fiction!