‘It’s free money’: Rent relief is still available for Virginians

Local News

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — There are still millions of dollars in help for Virginians in need of rent relief, but there’s also fear that some people aren’t taking advantage of the assistance.

Housing providers say there seems to be a misconception out there that the national eviction moratorium means you don’t have to pay rent. The moratorium just means landlords can’t throw you out right now. It doesn’t erase the rent that’s due or back due. To get rent relief, tenants and landlords need to apply for it.

“Residents really need to participate, it’s free money if you need it,” said Renee Pulliam, Director of Operations for Residential Property Services at Cushman, Wakefield and Thalhimer.

People who are out of work, had their hours at the job cut, or are facing expensive COVID-19 medical bills could be eligible for help from Virginia’s Rent Relief Program.

Pulliam has seen the program help tenants in their complexes like the one at Deering Manor in Richmond.

“We’ve had about 1,400 of our residents that we have helped on this program,” she said.

Virginia’s rent relief program has paid out more than $311 million and provided over 48,000 households rent and mortgage assistance. Fifty-three percent of the funding has gone to Black and Brown families and more than 60 percent of the approved households included children under the age of 8.

In February, Gov. Ralph Northam announced $524 million in new federal funds.

“They’re available to any Virginia resident regardless of citizenship status,” said Erik Johnston, Director of Virginia’s Department of Housing and Community Development.

Johnston urges residents to apply for aid, saying, “These funds are available with no requirement to pay back.”

Tenants and landlords can see if they’re eligible and learn how to apply online here. There’s also an online tool to walk people through the process and help them get paid up to 15 months of back rent. With a valid lease, it can also provide three months of future rent.

Chesterfield County has its own program. The website can guide Chesterfield residents to that program. It is unprecedented assistance for not only tenants but landlords and property managers as well.

“We still have employees that we need to pay and we still have maintenance operations that we need to continue,” Pulliam said.

It’s been reported some states have been struggling to get the dollars into the hands of those in need. Yet, data from the U.S. Department of Treasury shows Virginia has been a leader in distributing the money. The Commonwealth ranks second in the country in handing out emergency rental assistance.

“It’s not too good to be true, there is rent assistance,” Johnston said.

Renters and landlords do need to work together in filling out the rent relief application. In fact, the Governor and General Assembly just enacted a state law requiring landlords and tenants to cooperate.

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