State Rolls Out COVID-19 Assistance for Renters, Mortgage-holders, Landlords

by Doug McClure

MONTPELIER–The State of Vermont has rolled out its first round of funding to provide support for tenants, mortgage-holders, and landlords. This first round is $25 million, allocated by the state from its funds from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

The Vermont State Housing Authority is administering the relief program for tenants and landlords, known as the Rental Housing Stabilization Program (RHSP). For eligible tenants who receive funding, the program will pay the tenant’s rent directly to landlords. The state said in a press release that the rental assistance provided would equal “the VSHA Payment Standard or the actual amount due for the month(s) being claimed, whichever is less, per household at a single unit who meet eligibility criteria. The goal of this program is to prevent homelessness and to provide housing stability.”

For landlords to apply, tenants must be in arrears and must not have applied for an RHSP grant. With a landlord application, the tenant has 10 days to apply, as well. If the tenant applies, the landlord has the option of receiving all months due, “but must certify and be bound by all program requirements.” Among those conditions is the rental unit must comply with Vermont Rental Housing Code or be brought into compliance within 30 days. Landlords who accept funds cannot evict tenants, charge late fees, or raise the rent before January 1, 2021, or the end of the lease, whichever is later. Should the tenant not apply, the landlord may be eligible for half-payment and retains the right to evict.

However, under S.333 and the CARES act, evictions for non-payment are illegal as long as the Vermont State of Emergency is in effect. The CARES Act placed a moratorium on evictions until July 24. S.333 expanded on that to put evictions on hold throughout and up to 30 days beyond the Vermont State of Emergency, which is expected to be extended through August 15 but likely not past Labor Day, according to the state.

Tenants and landlords can apply for help at vsha.org/rental-housing-stabilization-program, or by calling (802) 828-2040.

Mortgage holders should contact the Vermont Housing Finance Agency at (802) 864-5743. S.333 placed similar restrictions on foreclosures during Vermont’s State of Emergency.