With the launch of a new application portal, renters and landlords across the state of Kentucky can apply for financial relief through the Healthy At Home Eviction Relief Fund starting Tuesday.
The new program is designed to keep tenants from being evicted while making sure landlords are compensated for past due rent.
Gov. Andy Beshear announced the fund would be made up of $15 million in CARES Act money, which would help cover 90% of past due rent for eligible tenants and a possible added two months of rent. Plus, it can provide direct reimbursement to eligible landlords for rent due as far back as March 1.
Through an executive order last month, Beshear prohibited landlords from charging late fees, interest or other penalties on renters who can't pay due to the COVID-19 pandemic from March 6 through Dec. 31.
That order also created additional steps before eviction processes start, requiring landlords to meet with nonpaying tenants to work out plans to keep them housed. Kentucky had suspended evictions as the pandemic took hold.
Jesse Brewer, who owns a property management company, said prior to the pandemic a fraction of 1% of his tenants weren’t paying rent.
“Last month, we were up to almost 5%, and that doesn’t sound like a lot, but that’s a lot,” he said.
Out of that 5%, he said many tenants are working with his company and doing their best to pay their rent. But that’s not always the case.
“Personally, I saw tenants purchase cars. I saw a lot of tenants through various social media traveling here, traveling there, but not paying their rent. So, you did have some of that, but that was not the norm,” he said.
When rent isn’t paid, that shortage snowballs, making it harder to maintain the property, pay the mortgage, payroll, taxes and insurance. Brewer said 92% of rental payments go toward those kinds of expenses.
“People think that the landlord, the property owner makes a hundred dollars in rent, they get to keep all that money,” he said. “That’s not the case.”
That’s why he said Kentucky’s eviction moratorium and others nationwide, meant to keep people in their homes, may create more issues than they solve. He said expensive eviction proceedings are the last step any landlord wants to take but should remain an option.
“When you have people not paying but my expenses are still going and I can’t take the remedy to get them out through the course of an eviction like I normally could, that starts to cause a problem,” he said.
Brewer hopes Kentucky’s eviction relief fund and other actions are a step toward making property owners whole.
People can get assistance with rent going back to March 1. The Kentucky Housing Corporation will start reviewing applications Sept. 21, and payments are anticipated to be dispensed to landlords no sooner than Sept. 25. Applications must be filed online.
Here are the eligibility requirements for tenants:
- Tenants in any Kentucky county outside of Jefferson County.
- At risk of eviction as evidenced by a past-due letter from the landlord, a pending court eviction, eviction notice, or similar document.
- Gross household income for the past 30 days cannot exceed 80% Area Median Income (AMI). Click Here to look up monthly income limits.
- Have a current written lease or sign a lease with their landlord. Click Here to download the document.
- Do not currently receive other rental assistance. The program cannot duplicate assistance from another source, including Section 8, USDA RD rental assistance, and public housing.
- Are requesting assistance for their primary residence.
- Those living with family and paying rent informally are not eligible.
- Those who own a trailer home and owe rent for a lot are eligible.
Here are the requirements for landlords:
- Must forgive 10% of rent due and forgive late fees, penalties, and interest related to non-payment of rent.
- Have a current written lease or sign a lease with their tenant. Click Here to download the document.
- Must agree to give 45 days’ notice for any future eviction, not to be initiated until at least 30 days after assistance concludes.
- Must agree to terms of arrearage settlement and submit all necessary paperwork.
TheTeam Kentucky Fund, Kentucky Housing Corporation Emergency Solutions Grant and other local funds are also available to help. For more information, click here.