The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Rural Development sent a July 20 email to its Multifamily Housing partners providing three Q&As on how its Multifamily Housing programs will be affected as the CARES Act eviction moratorium and resident protections end on July 25. The protections outlined in the questions and answers in the email apply to all Rural Development rental housing including Section 515 and 538 rental programs, the Sections 514 and 516 farm labor programs, and the RD Voucher program. While these protections are important for Rural Development residents, they are substantially weaker than protections extended to HUD Multifamily Housing residents (see Memo, 7/13).
The protections extended to Rural Development residents include:
- Late fees accrued during the moratorium cannot be retroactively collected. Only late fees assessed after August 1 may be charged.
- For owners who have a 90-day moratorium on mortgage payments from RD or a private Section 538 lender, late payments cannot accrue nor can an eviction for nonpayment of rent commence until after the 90-day period.
- Rural Development will continue to accept requests for 90-day mortgage payment moratoria from owners who have not already requested forbearance. Requests will be accepted as long as the National Emergency is in place, or through December 31, 2020.
- Rural Development has suspended verifications on income and living expenses for zero income recertification, which are set out in Handbook 2-3560 Attachment 6-B.
- Rural Development rental housing units must follow any applicable local and state guidance after the federal moratorium is lifted.
- Tenants who have been laid off due to COVID-19 do not qualify for income annualization. However, rent should be calculated based on current income.
Rural Development urges Multifamily Housing owners and agents to work with tenants to assist them in maintaining housing, including processing interim certifications or arranging payment plans for past-due balances. Rural Development also encourages agents to be accurate but flexible in verifying income by accepting information by phone or email and to accommodate residents when income cannot be verified due to business closures.
The National Housing Law Project (NHLP), a partner in many of NLIHC’s advocacy efforts, conducted an analysis of Rural Development’s email. NHLP states that Rural Development only provides light post-Cares Act protections compared to protections afforded residents in private, HUD-subsidized properties (see Memo, 7/13) In addition, Rural Development does not require owners to post or distribute any information to residents about the protections outlined in the email.
The Rural Development email is at: https://bit.ly/30Ap7yR
The National Housing Law Project analysis is at: https://bit.ly/39unTZR
More information about USDA Rental Housing Programs is on page 4-74 of NLIHC’s 2020 Advocates’ Guide.