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7 Things Landlords Should Know Before Applying for California COVID-19 Rent Relief

The State of California’s Rental Assistance Payment Program is well underway. The program, which began in mid-March 2021, aims to provide assistance to landlords and low-income tenants financially affected by COVID-19.

The Federal government sent an initial amount of $2.6B in emergency funds in March 2021, and followed up with another $2.6B in September 2021, totaling $5.2B. The State of California and a small number of local governments have been taking applications and distributing funds to eligible households and landlords ever since.

As with any government program, there are a few things consumers need to know before applying.

1. Who can apply for California’s Rental Assistance Payment Program?

The program benefits Residential Tenants who have lost income and acquired “Rental Debt,” as well as Residential Landlords that have lost rental income as a result.

2. What is included?

The Rental Assistance Payment Program provides reimbursement for “Rental Debt.” This includes past due rent, fees, interest, or any other financial obligations under the terms of the rental agreement, which could include utilities or services provided by the landlord.

3. What are the eligibility requirements?

Three areas of qualification for a Tenant, aka Household, must be met in order to receive relief payments:

  • One person in the Household must be, or have been, unemployed, or demonstrate a reduction in income due to COVID-19.

  • One person in the Household must demonstrate a risk of homelessness such as past due rent or utilities, eviction, or substandard living conditions.

  • Household income must be at or below 80% of the area's median income as determined by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

Additionally, for a Landlord to be eligible for any relief payments, the Tenant MUST apply. If the Tenant does not apply, the Landlord’s application will be denied. For the Landlord, Tenant participation is the most critical piece of the process.

4. How much relief is available?

The Rental Assistance Payment Program exists at the state level, or some local levels, depending on where the property is located. The state program allows Landlords to receive up to 80% of the past due rental debt incurred by the tenant. If the program is governed at the local level, there could be additional relief given. However, there are a couple crucial considerations for the landlord to receive maximum benefit from the program.

  • The Landlord and the Tenant must both apply. If the Tenant applies, but the Landlord does not, the amount the Tenant can recoup is limited to 25% of the past due rental debt.

  • The Landlord must forgive and hold the Tenant harmless for the remaining 20%.

5. What if the Tenant has moved out?

The tenancy must be current for the Tenant and Landlord to apply for the Rental Assistance Payment Program. If the Tenant moves out before or during the application process, the application will be denied.

6. What if the Landlord has multiple units?

Each unit is treated individually and a separate application must be filed for each unit affected.

7. How to apply?

Landlord and Tenant applications for the Rental Assistance Program can be submitted on the HOUSING IS KEY website, You will be required to enter the property's address on the site, which will direct you to the appropriate state or local program for your property.

The state program will require the Landlord to provide:

  • Current Lease reflecting the Name of the Tenant, Property Address, and Monthly Rent
  • Property Deed
  • Property Tax Statement
  • Mortgage Note
  • Current Homeowner’s Insurance Declaration Page

If you have been affected by COVID-19, and many Californians have, you may be eligible to take advantage of this emergency program. The program will continue as long as funds are available. Cooperation between Tenants and Landlords will be the foundation for making this program work for you!