Applications for L.A.'s emergency rent assistance close soon. Here's how to enter

Angelenos who owe back rent have until Monday to apply for the city’s emergency rental assistance program, which can repay up to six months of unpaid rent for eligible tenants.

The Emergency Renters Assistance Program is one of several tenant protection initiatives paid for Measure ULA. The so-called mansion tax — which was approved by voters in November and went into effect in April — imposes a surcharge on residential and commercial real estate sales in the city above $5 million.

“We must do more to keep people housed, and I want to make sure eligible Angelenos begin applying today for rent relief for back rent owed during the COVID-19 pandemic or if you are currently experiencing a short-term hardship,” Mayor Karen Bass said in a statement last week. “We must continue to do all that we can to prevent Angelenos from falling into homelessness and help ensure small landlords have access to resources as well.”

The program was approved by the City Council and will be administered by the city’s Housing Department.

How does the program work?

For tenants who are selected, the program will provide a maximum of six months of unpaid rent directly to their landlords on their behalf. The program is currently open only to tenants, but according to the mayor’s office, small landlords will also be able to apply for short-term assistance beginning Oct. 23. The fund totals $18.4 million.

Who is eligible?

The program is open only to Angelenos who qualify as low-income. Low income is defined as household income at or below 80% of the area median income. A single-person household would need to have a pretax income at or below $70,650 to qualify, while the cutoff would be $80,750 for a two-person household or $100,900 for a four-person household (the full chart can be found here).

One or more members of the household also need to have experienced a loss of employment, reduction in household income or incurred significant costs or other financial hardship between March 2020 and now. Eligible residents also need to have rent debt owed to their landlord from some time between April 2020 and the present.

The program is open to residents of the city of Los Angeles (check your address here), regardless of their immigration status.

Angelenos who qualify as extremely low-income and owe rent from between April 1, 2020, and Sept. 30, 2021, will be given priority. Other applicants may be processed later, according to the Housing Department website.

A single-person household with a pretax income of $26,500 or less qualifies as extremely low-income. The figure would be $30,300 for a two-person household, $34,100 for a three-person household and $37,850 for a four-person household.

After that initial priority group, households with minor children, seniors or disabled people will be considered, as will households that are extremely rent-burdened or at a high risk of becoming homeless, among other criteria.

How do I apply?

Angelenos can apply for the program online through the Housing Department’s website.

They can also apply by phone by calling the Housing Department hotline at (888) 379-3150 (open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.) or “We Are L.A.” hotline at (213) 584-1808 (open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.) or in person at a FamilySource center.

The application portal opened last week and will remain open through Monday at 6 p.m.

The Housing Department recommends “that tenants communicate with their landlord and provide accurate contact information for their landlord to avoid problems or delays in applications being funded.”

How will I know if my application is moving forward?

If an applicant is not eligible to apply because they don’t meet the screening criteria, they will be informed immediately.

If they do meet the initial criteria, they will “receive various emails at each stage and sometimes [be] asked to provide missing information” during a weeks-long process, according to Housing Department spokesperson Sharon Sandow.

Can I be evicted for owing back rent?

Yes, but with some caveats.

Under the city’s new tenant protection laws, a tenant must owe at least one month of “fair market rent” before he or she can be evicted for nonpayment. (Fair market rent is a set figure established every year for the region that also depends on how many bedrooms are in your apartment.)

Under those same new rules, tenants had until Aug. 1 to pay back rent accumulated between March 1, 2020, and Sept. 30, 2021, meaning eviction proceedings can now be brought for rent owed from that time period.

However, tenants have until Feb. 1, 2024, to repay back rent accumulated between Oct. 1, 2021, and Jan. 31, 2023.

What else should I know?

A Q&A about the emergency rental assistance program from the mayor’s office can be found here.

If you receive an eviction notice, you have rights and there are resources available. Stay Housed L.A., a partnership among the city, county and local community and legal service providers, is a good starting point for knowing your rights and finding other resources. You can also contact the “We Are LA” hotline at (213) 584-1808 or the Los Angeles Housing Department hotline at (866) 557-7368.

If you live in a rent-stabilized unit, annual rent increases are prohibited until Jan. 31. (To find out if your unit is subject to the Rent Stabilization Ordinance, enter your address on this site and then look under the “housing” tab on the bottom left.)

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