What Owners Need to Know About the Rent Assistance Program
Here’s how to avoid processing delays.
The application portal for New York’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) has finally opened. As of June 1, eligible tenants and landlords can apply for rental assistance to help them get back on their feet. Many tenants have been unable to pay rent because of the coronavirus pandemic, and many owners have been unable to collect rent. Renters and owners can apply online at https://nysrenthelp.otda.ny.gov/.
New York State received one of the largest allocations of federal pandemic rental assistance in the country. However, the state was among the last jurisdictions to launch its ERAP, as stress mounted among tenants and owners alike. ERAP, created with more than $2 billion in COVID relief funds from the federal government, will send money directly to owners whose low- to middle-income tenants demonstrate they couldn’t pay rent as a result of the pandemic. Lower income New Yorkers—people earning less than 50 percent of Area Median Income—and renters already facing eviction have priority during the first month. And, now, the launch of the program is happening at an opportune time as existing eviction protections in the state expire in August.
There were technical issues to resolve on the first day the online application system opened. Frustrated owners and tenants posted messages on social media explaining their problems to the state’s Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA), the state office charged with administering the program. On Twitter, OTDA suggested that applicants who receive error messages should “clear their browser’s history, including cookies and cached data and images.” Despite the technical issues, OTDA said more than 7,000 people applied for the program in the first four hours after it opened. And according to OTDA, it has accepted more than 63,000 applications in the first week since the online application launched, though technical glitches persist.
The stakes are high for applicants navigating the application system. Qualifying tenants and their landlords can apply to receive up to one year of missed rent, and, in certain circumstances, up to three months of future rent. Utility arrears can also be reimbursed. OTDA has estimated that the program will serve between 170,000 and 200,000 households.
According to OTDA, applications will be processed in four to six weeks from the date of submission though the time frame might vary "based upon the completeness of the application, by both the tenant and landlord, and all the correct documentation being submitted." We’ll go over the documents tenants and owners must upload and specific instructions for owners when navigating the application system.
Option to Pause Application Suspended
As a result of the technical glitches experienced at rollout, an option to pause an application and resume it later has been temporarily suspended. The issue affects the tenant portion of the application.
According to the OTDA, once the application is started, all questions must be answered and the application signed and saved to submit the application. You can’t save a partially completed application. Applicants are encouraged to gather all the information needed before starting an application including income of household members and rental amount.
Applicants who previously started, but didn’t complete and sign an application, must start a new application. And applicants who have completed and signed an application can upload required documentation at any time.
Renters’ Document Requirements
ERAP assists eligible households behind on their rent that have experienced financial hardship due to COVID-19 and are at risk of homelessness or housing instability. Until the end of June, New York will prioritize certain applicants to ensure they get assistance first. Here's the order in which applications will be processed, according to the state law creating the rental program:
- Households with income that's at or below 50 percent of the Area Median Income and a household member who has been unemployed for the last 90 days; is a veteran; is experiencing domestic violence or has survived human trafficking; has an eviction case pending; resides in a mobile home; lives in a ZIP code that was hit disproportionately hard by COVID-19; or lives in a building with 20 or fewer units.
- Households with income at or below 50 percent of the Area Median Income.
- Households with income at or below 80 percent of the Area Median Income and a household member who meets one of the criteria listed in No. 1.
- Households with income at or below 80 percent of the Area Median Income.
After the prioritization period, assuming there’s still funding left, applications will be approved on a first-come, first-served basis. When applying, renters will need to provide:
Personal identification for all household members. Renters need to submit one form of documentation listed below in order to prove the renter’s address. Address documentation should be current, meaning it should affirm that this is the address where the renter is currently living. Acceptable forms of identification include:
- Photo ID such as passport, driver’s license, military identification, state identification, other government identification;
- Non-driver government-issued ID;
- EBT/Benefits Issuance Card;
- Birth certificate;
- Medicare card;
- Student ID;
- Immigration Card (not required);
- Baptismal certificate;
- School records; and
- If none of the above can be provided, two collateral contact statements are acceptable. A “collateral contact statement” is from someone who knows the identity of the person.
Proof of income. Renters need to submit one form of income documentation for every household member who’s 18 years or older and is receiving income. Renters may report current or 2020 annual income.
Examples of documentation to prove monthly income of any household member that has income include:
- Paystubs (minimum of 1);
- Social Security benefits award letter;
- Veteran’s benefits award letter;
- Public Benefits award letter;
- Child support award letter/enforcement printout;
- Child support affidavit;
- Bank records/statement that show regular deposits;
- Unemployment Insurance benefits letter;
- For self-employed, self-attestation (forms); and
- Self-attestation, if none of the above can be provided.
For examples of documentation to prove annual income of any household member that has income, renters can show a 2020 IRS tax return form such as the 1040, 1040 EZ, W-2s, or 1099s.
Monthly rent amount. The renter needs to submit one form of documentation to verify the monthly rent. If available, a formal lease should be provided. An applicant can also submit a tenancy agreement; lapsed lease; evidence of payments made such as rent receipt, canceled check, or money order; landlord statement; or self-attestation, if no other documentation can be provided.
Utility arrears. If a renter is also asking for help to pay utility arrears, the renter needs to submit a copy of the gas and/or electric bill.
Owner Document Requirements
When applying, owners will need to provide the following documents:
- Completed tax Form W-9, Request for Taxpayer Identification Number and Certification;
- Executed lease with tenant applicant, or if there is no written lease, a cancelled check, evidence of funds transfer, or other documentation of the last full monthly rent payment;
- Proof of ownership such as a warranty deed, insurance policy, tax bill, or other similar document;
- Documentation of rent due from tenant (such as a ledger, etc.) or attestation on application, including how many months the tenant is in arrears;
- Banking information to receive direct deposit payment; and
- Affidavit for a property manager (if applicable). This is the owner affidavit of property manager/agent as recipient of funds and management agreement.
The owner or an authorized property management company will be required to sign the application form and associated certifications agreeing that the information provided, including the amount of rental arrears owed, is accurate and does not duplicate a payment received from another program.
Condition of accepting payment. The owner or authorized property management company must also agree to the following terms as a condition of accepting rental arrears payments:
- The ERAP payment satisfies the tenant’s full rental obligations for the time period covered by the payment.
- Waive any late fees due on any rental arrears covered by the ERAP payment.
- Not increase the monthly rental amount above the monthly amount due at the time of application for ERAP assistance for months for which rental assistance is received and for one year from receipt of the ERAP payment.
- Not evict the household on behalf of whom the ERAP payment is made for reason of expired lease or holdover tenancy for one year from the receipt of the ERAP payment. An exception to this requirement will be made if the dwelling unit contains four or fewer units and the property owner or owner’s immediate family members intend to immediately occupy the unit for use as a primary residence.
Application Instructions for Owners
Owners have two options to associate a tenant’s application with their landlord/owner account:
- Associate an application submitted by a tenant with an owner account by entering the application number and tenant’s date of birth; and
- While logged in to the owner account, submit a new application. This method will automatically associate the application with the owner account.
An owner may submit an application on behalf of the tenant; however, the owner should consult closely with the tenant to make sure information is captured properly and with the tenant’s consent. The tenant must agree to the application consent language and sign the application. Applicants will be asked to attest that on or after March 13, 2020, a member of the household received unemployment benefits or experienced a reduction in household income, incurred significant costs, or experienced other financial hardship, directly or indirectly, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Applicants will need to sign the application form and associated certifications agreeing that the information provided in the application is accurate.
Associate a tenant application with your owner account option. You use this option when the tenant has completed the tenant portion of the application process and given you his or her application number. Owners need to register as an owner with the OTDA. This is achieved by clicking on “Sign Up” in the top-right corner of the OTDA ERAP website at https://nysrenthelp.otda.ny.gov/.
When you select “Register as a Property Owner,” you fill in your First Name, Last Name, Email Address, and create a password. You will then be prompted to set up two-factor authentication to complete your registration. Once you have registered, on the Home page click on “Login” and enter your email address and password. Once logged in, you will see the “Landlord/Owner Section” appear at the top of the Home page.
When you click this button, on the “Owner Section” page, you’ll see a purple button in the bottom-right part of the page that says “Add ERAP Application.” You will then enter the Application Number and Date of Birth that you received from your tenant for the application in question. You can click “Search Application” to find this application and then associate it with your owner account. After searching for the application, you will click the “Add ERAP Application to my Owner Profile button” and the application will be linked to your owner account.
Submit a new application from an owner account option. This option is chosen if you’re submitting an application on behalf of a tenant. Note that you should consult closely with the tenant to make sure information is captured properly and with the tenant’s consent.
After logging in to a landlord/owner account, navigate to the Landlord/Owner Section and click on the “Submit Application on Behalf of Tenant” button to begin an application. The tenant must agree to the application consent language and sign the application. Alternately, after logging in to a landlord/owner account, a landlord/owner may click the “Apply Here Now!” button on the home page to create a new application on behalf of a tenant. The tenant must agree to the application consent language and sign the application.