NLIHC tracks state and local emergency rental assistance programs created or expanded in response to COVID-19 and collects in-depth information on each program. As of April 28, NLIHC had identified 267 emergency rental assistance programs funded through the $25 billion Treasury Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) program appropriated by the December 2020 Consolidated Appropriations Act. These 267 ERA programs account for nearly $18 billion of the $25 billion allocated.
Using publicly available information from program websites and documents, NLIHC’s database tracks information on ERA program design and implementation, including landlord requirements. Some of the requirements of landlords are primarily for administrative purposes or for determining financial need, such as collecting landlord W-9 forms and rental ledgers of unpaid rent. Other requirements are intended to increase housing stability for tenants once assistance is received. These requirements include waiving late fees, preventing future rent increases, forgiving a portion of rent, or restricting evictions for a period of time during and sometimes after rental assistance is disbursed. From publicly available documents, NLIHC identified at least 64 ERA Treasury programs that require at least one of these concessions. Due to limitations of publicly available data, however, the number is likely higher.
The most common landlord concession is eviction restrictions. Of programs in which we identified landlord concessions, 77% impose eviction restrictions and 41% require landlords to forgive any late fees accumulated during the covered period. Twenty-seven percent of programs with landlord concessions require landlords to accept a decreased payment amount, with the remaining portion of rent to be forgiven by the landlord. Many programs requiring decreased payment amounts, however, are in California, where state legislation has largely dictated rental assistance program design.
Programs should carefully balance landlord requirements in order to both encourage landlord participation and to bolster future housing stability for tenants. Recent research shows that concessions required of landlords can influence their participation. Surveys of Philadelphia landlords by the Housing Initiative at Penn found that nearly 78% of landlords thought waiving late fees was a reasonable or somewhat reasonable requirement. By comparison, only 37.5% of landlords found it reasonable or somewhat reasonable to require landlords to forgive back rent (see Memo 11/9). Despite these findings, King County, WA was able to leverage bulk payments to engage landlords, all of whom either accepted 80% of rent owed, waiving the rest, or accepted the equivalent Fair Market Rent. The program was intended specifically for large landlords, with 10 or more tenants. King County found that offering bulk payments for multiple households was an effective method for disbursing payments and forgiving back rent, with the large landlord program serving 64% of all ERA-assisted households.