There are forty-three (43) million renter households across the United States. As housing providers, supplying 43 million households with places to call home is not a responsibility landlords take lightly. In challenging times like we are currently experiencing it is more important than ever to work together, housing providers and renters alike, to ensure housing stability.
In the early days of the pandemic, before local, state, and federal mandates, the rental housing industry stepped up to help renters who, in the face of COVID-19, fell on hard times. Many housing providers waived late fees, set up partial payment plans, and in some instances, help their residents file for unemployment. If you are a renter experiencing hardship, below are a few quick tips and local resources that may serve to assist you in navigating these times of uncertainty.
If you are experiencing COVID-19 related financial hardship, many counties across central Florida have established assistance programs that you may qualify for. The resources below have been broken down by County. Click on the gold text and/or button under any item for additional information.
Renter Resources & Tips
Now more than ever, it is important to both understand and fulfill your obligations as a renter.
1. Communicate: Communication is key. If you are experiencing financial hardship as a result of COVID-19, please talk to your housing provider/landlord. Many evictions and adverse actions can be or could have been avoided if both parties communicated, discussed possible options, etc. Housing providers understand the impact the pandemic has had on renters, and many have internal programs/protocols, information, or services to assist residents experiencing hardship. Evictions are a measure last resort and communicating with your landlord could help you avoid it.
2. Maintain Commitments: It is of paramount importance to understand and maintain your financial obligations as a renter. If you are unable to make your full rent payment discuss what options you may have with your landlord. Even making partial payments, if possible, can help you avoid having an insurmountable debt. Additionally, you may be eligible for rental assistance through various City or County programs or local charities. (See below for potential resources.)
3. Be Patient: As all of us continue to navigate otherwise uncharted waters, know that housing providers are working diligently to find and offer mutually beneficial solutions.
Federal and State Resources for Renters
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Rent and Utilities Tracker
Households looking for help with rent and utilities can use the CFPB's rent/utility assistance program tracker to find additional information on programs available in their area.
Florida's federally-funded emergency rent and utility assistance program. The State launched its program on Monday, May 17, 2021, and continues to accept applications.
Eligibility- Renter households may qualify to receive up to 15 months of assistance for past due rent and utility payments.
Central Florida CareerSource
If you have experienced a loss of wages or a job, central Florida CareerSource may be able to assist residents with career consultations, job search preparation, resume assistance, and more.
Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) Program- The Orange County Board of County Commissioners formally approved its ERA plan on February 9th. The County is in the process of creating an application portal and anticipates its new program to come online on March 1st. In light of ERA2 funds, on June 8th, the County approved modifications to its program to adhere to funding guidelines. These changes have been outlined below.
- The program is income-based (AMI) and program funding will cover arrears only and up to one month of prospective rent,
- Applicants must be at least one month behind on rent,
- Assistance per applicant: capped at, $20,000
- Those who previously received funding through the County's eviction diversion program will be eligible to participate in the new program, but at a reduced funding cap. (i.e.- If an individual previously received $4,000 from EDP, then under the new program, the applicant would be eligible for $6,000), and
- Funding will be disbursed directly to the housing provider. If the housing provider declines to participate, then the resident may be eligible to recieve funds directly.
Funding will be available for households who make less than 80% of AMI ($58,150) with funding priority given to those earning less than 50% of AMI ($36,350), and/or those who have been unemployed for more than 90 days. Funding will be split/prioritized as follows:
- $20 million for 50% AMI and unemployed,
- $10 million for 80% AMI
Housing Provider Requirements
- As with the eviction diversion program, housing providers must agree to forgive any remaining balance in order to participate.
- Documentation of rent owed- past due notice or eviction notice, and
- Copy of household's 2020 Tax Return, or
- Documentation that shows two months of income prior to application (i.e.- wage statement, unemployment statement, etc.)
Orange County residents who live within Orlando city limits will not be eligible to participate in Orange County's emergency rental assistance program. The City of Orlando received separate funding for the creation of its own emergency rental assistance program and is working to bring one online. The City's program portal will begin accepting applications on Tuesday, May 18th at 8 AM.
As outlined by the Treasury individuals must:
- Have a household income at or below 80% of AMI
- For a family of 4, this is $61,050.
- Priority will be given to households at or below 50% of AMI or that have a household member who has been unemployed for 90 days.
- For a family of 4, this is $38,150.
In addition to Treasury requirements, the City of Orlando's eligibility criteria will include the following:
- Assistance for rent in arrears and current month (assistance not to exceed 12 months),
- Per month assistance capped at $4,000, and
- Assistance will not cover utility payments unless utilities are billed as part of the lease.
Osceola County is accepting applications for its COVID-19 rental/mortgage assistance program. The program is available to Osceola County residents (including the City of Kissimmee and St. Cloud) and has been extended through March 2021.
Osceola County is assisting County residents who currently have an eviction filed against them for the non-payment of rent. Residents must provide documentation of COVID-19 hardship and their eviction filing case number.
Osceola County is providing utility assistance to residents financially impacted by COVID-19. Residents must provide documentation of COVID-19 hardship and have past due electric, gas, or water bills.
Osceola County has a COVID-19 resource page that outlines a variety of community assistance programs that may be available to individuals.
Seminole County received its $14.1 million in emergency rental assistance and launched its new ERA program on Monday, March 1, 2021.
- Program Helpline- (877) 573-9375
An overview of the County's ERA program is included below.
Overview- On April 15th, Seminole County revised its program criteria. Program changes include COVID-19 hardship documentation and payment of prospective rent.
- Individuals must reside within the County and must have experienced a COVID-19 hardship.
- Households must have an annual income (2020) at or below 80% of AMI.
- Applicants who are not past due are eligible to receive assistance for up to three (3) months of prospective rent and/or utility payments.
The County put together an FAQ document that outlines some of its preliminary program information and who may be eligible for assistance through the program. You can access that document here. For additional information about the program and how to apply, visit the link below.
Lake County has received its $11.1 million in emergency rental assistance and launched its program portal on February 22, 2021.
Additional Program Information
- Qualifying residents may receive up to 12 months of past-due rent plus the current month's rent,
- Households with at least one individual on unemployment may be eligible to receive an additional two months of prepaid rent.
- Per applicant, funding is capped at $9,000.
- In order to qualify for assistance, household income for 2020 must be at or below 80% of AMI.
- The County has extended its program application deadline until further notice.
For additional program information, a link to program FAQs, and how to apply, visit the link below.
Volusia County is slated to receive $16.5 million in federal emergency rental assistance and launched its program portal on Wednesday, March 10, 2021.
The County's program portal is currently closed for application processing but will issue formal notices prior to its reopening.
For additional program information, how to apply, or help with an application, visit the link below.
The City of Daytona Beach continues to offer up to three months of rental assistance through its CARES funds.
- Applicant's annual household income must be at or below the Area Median Income (AMI)
- Assistance is capped at $1,500 per month and $4,500 total per household.
- Payments are made directly to the housing provider.
For additional information and how to apply, visit the link below.
For additional information regarding CARES Act-funded program application deadlines, click here.