New NLIHC Report Examines How ERA Programs Implement Direct-to-Tenant Payments

A new NLIHC report, Direct-to-Tenant Payment Implementation: Increasing Flexibility and Equity in Emergency Rental Assistance Programs, outlines why direct-to-tenant payments are needed in emergency rental assistance (ERA) programs and how program administrators can implement this feature. The report recommends that programs implement low-barrier, direct-to-tenant assistance with minimal additional documentation requirements, and that programs make clear in their public-facing materials and outreach that direct-to-tenant assistance is available. Programs should also pair direct-to-tenant assistance with housing stability services to ensure tenants can remain stably housed after they receive payment, even if landlords act in bad faith.

Using data from interviews with program administrators, the report addresses six key features of direct-to-tenant payments: landlord outreach, outreach tracking, ensuring accountability, tenant requirements, tenant payments, and direct-to-tenant payment transparency. The programs interviewed represent a variety of program types and sizes, including a highly centralized state program (Texas Rent Relief), a decentralized state program (Maine Emergency Rental Assistance), a large local program (Allegheny County Emergency Rental Assistance), and a mid-sized local program (Cameron County Emergency Rental Assistance).

The report finds that direct-to-tenant payments are critical to enhance equity and meet the needs of low-income renters. A survey conducted by NLIHC, the Housing Initiative at Penn, and the NYU Furman Center found that nearly 50% of ERA programs operating in 2020 identified landlord participation as a barrier. Providing direct-to-tenant assistance can serve as a bridge to assist tenants whose landlords are apprehensive or wary about participating in the program. In doing so, programs can promote equity by ensuring they are serving those most in need, including those with lower incomes, households of color, households with someone experiencing a disability, households with children, and households who are more likely to have been economically impacted by COVID-19.

The report also provides an overview of the Department of Treasury’s guidance and policies related to direct-to-tenant payments. Treasury strongly encourages the use of direct-to-tenant payments for ERA1 when landlords do not respond to program requests or refuse to participate outright. For ERA2, Treasury requires that programs provide direct-to-tenant assistance when landlords do not participate. Treasury also allows programs to pay tenants directly first and immediately under ERA2, rather than making the initial payment offer to landlords.

Read the report at:  

Resources related to direct-to-tenant implementation are on the NLIHC Resource Hub at: