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KERA's One Crisis Away project focuses on North Texans living on the financial edge.

Updated: Need Help Paying Rent? Here’s How To Find Rental Assistance In North Texas

Blue signs in a hallway advertise a rental assistance program.
Christopher Connelly
/
KERA News
A sign at a vaccination clinic in Arlington advertises a rental assistance program. A similar state-run rental assistance program was the subject of a report that found very few Texans have been able to get help more than a month after the program's launch.

Congress has approved nearly $47 billion to help keep struggling renters in their homes and make landlords whole. Those funds are available now to help Texas renters, but applying can be confusing. Here's what you need to know to navigate the process.

Nearly $3.5 billion in Emergency Rental Assistance funds are earmarked for Texans. The funds were divvied up between the state and larger local governments to hand out, and they’re available now.

The funds can be used to pay unpaid rent or utilities going back to March 13, 2020.
Renters can also apply for funds to help pay for a few months of future rent and utility bills, as well, whether or not you are behind on rent. In all, renters can get up to 18 months of rental and utility assistance.

There are eligibility requirements to get the federally funded rental and utility assistance, and they can be a bit confusing.

Terrance Jones, interim director of Fort Worth’s Office of Neighborhood Services, suggests that people who need help with rent or utilities go ahead and put in an application if they’re behind and need help.

“If you feel that you need assistance and you’re not sure that you qualify, even if you don’t understand all the rules after reading the information on the website, I highly suggest that you go in and create an account and actually apply … before you determine that you don’t qualify yourself,” Jones said.

Who Qualifies For Rent Relief?

To get the Emergency Rental Assistance program funds, renters need to meet three main qualifications, set by the U.S. Department of the Treasury:

  • An income at or below 80% of area median income: That changes depending on your city, and the size of your household. For example: In Fort Worth, for example, the threshold for a family of four is $65,200, and it is $45,650 for a single person. In Dallas, the thresholds are $68,950 for a family of four, and $48,300 for an individual. Applications from households that make less than 50% of the area median income get priority.
  • Financial hardship due to the pandemic: If you or a member of your household lost a job or lost hours at work due to the pandemic, or had to miss work because you or a family member had COVID-19, you probably quality. If you had to stay home to care for children or other relatives because of school closures, you probably qualify. Or, if you’re struggling to pay rent because household, medical or childcare expenses went up, you probably qualify. Folks who have been unemployed for more than 90 days are supposed to get priority.
  • High risk of homelessness or housing instability: You’ll need to demonstrate that you will not have a safe and stable place to live if you lose your housing. Applicants at elevated risk of being evicted because of past-due rent are given priority.

Applicants will typically be asked to provide documents like an ID, a copy of a lease agreement, proof of back rent, as well as evidence that you meet income and financial hardship requirements.

If you don’t have those documents, it’s best to work with the agency or organization to figure out if there are alternative documents that could be used to secure rental assistance.

The US Treasury Department, which is in charge of the program federally, has been easing documentation restrictions in an attempt to streamline the process and remove barriers.

Landlords

Landlords can apply on behalf of eligible renters, but they must get tenants to co-sign the application.

In most cases, the funds will be disbursed directly to the landlord. Some agencies will disburse the funds directly to the renter if the landlord doesn’t accept the funds.

Bobby Wilkinson, who oversees the statewide Texas Rent Relief program as head of the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs, urged landlords to work through the process during a committee hearing at the Texas Legislature on Wednesday.

“Don’t evict, because when that tenant is gone, we cannot pay you...even for the [back rent],” he said.

The statewide program was plagued with problems in the first weeks after it began accepting applications. After making changes and adding staff, Wilkinson said the program is working to clear its backlog of applications, with priority given to applications that have been pending for more than 30 days.

Applicants who received a notice to vacate from their landlord after applying to the Texas Rent Relief program are also given priority for faster processing. A notice to vacate is the first step in the eviction process. Wilkinson recommended calling 1-833-989-7368 to notify the program if you’re in that situation.

The Eviction Moratorium

A federal eviction moratorium remains in effect to protect renters from being evicted for nonpayment of rent, but tenants must give a signed declaration to their landlord in order to be protected.

On May 3, a new interim rule from the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau went into effect that requires residential renters being sued for eviction for unpaid rent debt be informed about their options under the federal eviction moratorium. That obligation falls on debt collectors, including attorneys for landlords, and failure to provide the information would violate the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

Enforcement of the moratorium has been uneven, however, and a national legal assault coupled with recent state supreme court's actions have further undermined the eviction ban's viability.

Where To Apply

Where you live determines what options are available to you, and the options are confusing.

Any resident can apply to the statewide Texas Rent Relief program.

Cities and counties with more than 200,000 people were able to get federal funds to set up their own rental assistance programs using the federal funds. That includes seven cities and four counties in North Texas: the cities of Arlington, Dallas, Fort Worth, Frisco, Garland, Irving, and Plano, plus Dallas, Denton, Collin, and Tarrant counties..

Residents of cities that have rental assistance programs can apply to that city’s fund or to the statewide Texas Rent Relief program.

Residents of counties that have rental assistance funds and don’t reside in a city that has its own funds, can apply to their county's program or the statewide program.

In many cases, local governments have worked with nonprofits to give people more points of contact to apply for rent help.

Fort Worth residents, for example, can apply for funds directly with the city, or through agencies like Fort Worth Housing Solutions or nonprofits like Salvation Army. The United Way of Denton County is one of eight nonprofits handling applications for Denton County residents.

Cities and counties are also making arrangements to coordinate on the distribution of funds.

Tarrant County, Arlington and Fort Worth launched GetRentHelp.com, which directs county residents to the right application based on their city of residence.

Collin County signed deals with Allen and McKinney, which were too small to qualify to receive funds directly under the federal program, giving those cities funds to hand out to residents in need.

Where To Go For Help In North Texas

Statewide
All Texas residents can apply for the Texas Rent Relief program.
Amount of ERAP funds awarded: $2.4 billion
Website: TexasRentRelief.com
Phone: (833) 989-7368

People facing formal eviction proceedings can also find help through the Texas Eviction Diversion Program.

The following North Texas cities that have their own rental assistance funds, available only to residents:

Allen
Website: https://www.cityofallen.org/2214/Emergency-Rental-Assistance-Program
Collin County delegated ERAP funds to Allen to distribute to city residents in need.

Arlington
Amount of ERAP funds awarded: $22 million
Website: https://www.arlingtontx.gov/cms/one.aspx?pageId=14973199
Email: homelessassistance@arlingtonhousing.us
Fax: (817) 962-1260
Arlington residents may also drop off applications in the lobby of the Arlington Housing Authority located at 501 W. Sanford Street, Suite 20, Arlington TX 76011

Dallas
Amount of ERAP funds awarded: $91 million
Website: https://dallascityhall.com/departments/community-care/Pages/Short-Term-Rental-Assistance.aspx

Fort Worth
Amount of ERAP funds awarded: $57 million
Website: https://www.fortworthtexas.gov/departments/neighborhoods/cap/emergency-rental-assistance
Phone: (817) 392-5785
Email: FWERAP@FortWorthTexas.gov

Frisco
Amount of ERAP funds awarded: $11 million
Website: https://www.friscotexas.gov/1637/Local-Grants

Garland
Amount of ERAP funds awarded: $13 million
Website: https://www.garlandtx.gov/3739/Recovery-Resources

Irving
Amount of ERAP funds awarded: $13 million
Website:https://www.cityofirving.org/3686/Rental-Mortgage-and-Homelessness-Assista
Phone: (972) 721-2600

McKinney
Website: https://www.mckinneytexas.org/2256/Coronavirus-COVID-19#HUA
Collin County delegated ERAP funds to McKinney to distribute to city residents.

Plano
Amount of ERAP funds awarded: $16 million
Website: https://www.plano.gov/1829/COVID-19-Housing-Resources
Phone: (972) 208-8150

Residents of the four biggest counties in the region who don’t live in any of the cities listed above, can apply for funds controlled by these county governments:

Collin County
Amount of ERAP funds awarded: $31 million
Website: https://www.collincountytx.gov/cares/Pages/RentalAssistance2021.aspx
Phone: (833) 696-0804
Email: ERAPquestions@ndconline.org

Dallas County
Amount of ERAP funds awarded: $59 million
Website: https://www.dallascounty.org/departments/dchhs/ehap-2021.php
Phone: (214) 819-1968

Denton County
Amount of ERAP funds awarded: $41 million
Denton County funds are being distributed through nonprofits, the largest of which is the United Way of Denton County. You can find application information on the United Way website.
Website: https://www.unitedwaydenton.org/eviction-prevention
Phone: (940) 566-2688

Tarrant County
Amount of ERAP funds awarded: $51 million
Website: http://www.tarrantcounty.com/en/county/social-services/rental-assistance-application.html
Phone: (817) 850-7940 (select option 1)

Got a tip? Christopher Connelly is KERA's One Crisis Away Reporter, exploring life on the financial edge. Email Christopher at cconnelly@kera.org.You can follow Christopher on Twitter @hithisischris.

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