Emergency Rental Assistance Program

Planning & Zoning
11916 Somerset Ave Room 211 Princess Anne, MD 21853 
Contact: Ashley Bedsworth or Marcus Murray

410-651-1424
Email: dtcs@somersetmd.us

 

Eligible Activities and Costs

General Requirements

  • ERAP may only be used for rent, utility, and other qualified housing-related expenses that were accrued after March 13, 2020
  • A household may not receive more than 15 total months of assistance under ERAP (including arrears, prospective payments, and one-time housing related costs).
  • Assistance received from other funding streams (such as CDBG-CV or ESG-CV) does not count towards the 15 month ERAP maximum. However, grantees and subgrantees should be sure to verify that any assistance provided under other funding streams does not duplicate the assistance provided under ERAP (example: both programs paying 100% of rental costs for the same month).  Grantees/subgrantees can use multiple funding streams to meet the full rental needs of a household if necessary.
  • Rent, utility, and other-housing related costs accrued in the same calendar month count as one month of assistance, not multiple separate months for purposes of calculating total months of assistance[1]. As these categories each have distinct eligible costs that do not overlap, there is no duplication of assistance within a given month.
  • Payments should be made directly to landlords and utility companies whenever possible. If a landlord is not willing to accept payment and/or participate in ERAP, the grantee/subgrantee must follow the steps outlined under Tenants Applying With or Without Landlord Involvement.
  • Grantees and subgrantees may not establish maximum amounts or limits for rental arrears payments without prior approval of DHCD. Whenever possible, eligible tenants should be provided the full amount of assistance necessary to bring them current on their rent and avoid eviction, such as providing up to 12 months of arrears assistance and three months of prospective assistance at the same time. Paying only a portion of arrears is strongly discouraged.
  • Grantees and subgrantees are encouraged to provide bulk payment whenever possible to increase landlord participation, reduce administrative burdens, and reduce burdens on tenants to produce new applications/documentation. (Example: providing three months of prospective rent assistance with one check in lieu of three separate monthly payments).
  • Rental assistance agreements, lead certificates, and habitability inspections are not required for a household/landlord to receive assistance with arrears or prospective costs.[2]
  • Requirements for determining household eligibility and documentation of eligible costs can be found in Sections 5-8 of the policy guide.


Rental Assistance

ERAP can be used for payment of:

  • Rental arrears up to 12 months
  • Prospective rent (current or future months’ rent), up to three months at a time

Note: Security deposits and other one-time costs related to relocating or moving into new rental housing are eligible under Other Housing-Related Costs, not Rental Assistance.


Rental Arrears

Assistance with rental arrears may be provided for the rental unit the household currently resides in.  Additionally, rental arrears payments can also be made to the owner/landlord for a previously rented unit they no longer reside in under the following conditions:

  • The new landlord states that they will not rent to the tenant unless the former tenant pays the full amount of arrears/clear their rent debt to a previous landlord.
  • The household provides a copy of the former lease agreement and the previous landlord provides an updated overdue rent notice with current balance owed. A warrant of restitution may also be used to meet this documentation standard.

It is important to remember that any rental assistance provided to a prior landlord will count towards a household’s 15 month maximum of assistance they can receive under ERAP. 

Prospective Rent Requirements

Payment for up to three months of prospective rent can be made at time of initial application.  Thereafter, the household must submit a new application and have their eligibility redetermined for additional prospective rent (Treasury FAQ #10).  Prospective rent can only be provided if the household has resolved their rental arrears (providing ERAP funds to resolve the arrears is acceptable).

Landlord Concessions

Landlords receiving payments directly from the program must agree to the following minimum requirements as part of the application.

 

Concession

State Minimum Requirements

 

County Flexibilities

Landlord Rent Arrears Forgiveness

Not Required

 

May require owners to forgive portion of rent arrears up to 20%

Late Fees/Interest/Court Fees

Must Waive All

 

N/A

Cancel Existing Eviction Filings

Required

 

N/A

Moratorium on New Eviction Filings

Owner may not create new eviction filing for at least 30 days after term/period of financial assistance nor for the duration of prospective rental assistance

 

May require a longer moratorium up to 90 days

Lease Renewal

Owner must offer tenant option to renew an expiring/expired lease for at least 90 days

 

N/A

 

The requirement to renew a lease and moratorium on new eviction filing does not apply to cases where the landlord has filed a breach of lease case due to issues of safety.

Grantees are urged to carefully consider how landlord concessions such as rent forgiveness may impact a landlord’s willingness to participate in the program. Unintended consequences may include an increased rate of tenants receiving payment directly, which increases risk for monitoring.


Utility and Home Energy Assistance

ERAP can be used for payment of:

  • Utility and home energy arrears up to 12 months
  • Prospective utility and home energy costs (current or future months’ rent), up to three months at a time

 

Grantees may choose not to provide utility assistance through ERAP in their jurisdiction. Utilities and home energy costs include electricity, gas, water and sewer, trash removal, and energy costs, such as oil, natural gas, propane, wood, pellets, and coal used for home heating. Payments to public utilities are permitted.   

Note: Internet costs are eligible under Other Housing-Related Costs, not Utility Assistance.

Conditions:

  • Utility and home energy costs must be separately stated charges and documented by a bill or invoice. In the case where utilities are included in a household’s monthly rent, the costs will be treated as rent and paid out of the Rental Assistance category.

  • Prior to providing utility assistance to a household, the grantee/subgrantee must ask the household if they have applied for all mainstream utility assistance they are eligible for, such as OHEP, LIHEAP, Fuel Fund, or State RELIEF Act funds. Grantees/subgrantees should support tenants in accessing those resources in lieu of using ERAP when it is feasible to do so.

 

Other Housing-Related Costs

ERAP can provide prospective assistance with costs related to a household’s need to relocate or secure a new rental unit due directly or indirectly to COVID19.  This includes households who are currently living in environments that do not allow for sufficient social distancing, isolation, quarantine, or where it is not possible to maintain a sanitary home. 

Examples include, but are not limited to:

  • Households currently living in substandard housing conditions and need to immediately relocate to a new unit (as defined in Section 8: Housing Instability Determination & Documentation)
  • Households living in overcrowded rental housing, defined as more than one person per legal bedroom
  • Households living in a homeless setting, including those in homeless shelters, transitional housing, and places not meant for human habitation
  • Households who no longer have a legal right to occupy the property they currently reside in and are at-risk of entering a homeless setting (ex: expired lease, court-ordered eviction notice, landlord). It is highly recommended these tenants be connected to legal aid services prior to vacating the unit.

Eligible Costs

  • Reasonable accrued late fees (if not included in rental arrears or utility bills)
  • Rental unit application or screening fees
  • Security deposit – up to two months of rent
  • Utility hook-up fees/deposits for establishing new utility service
  • Rental unit sanitation/cleaning fees
  • Storage unit fees – up to one month
  • Internet hook-up fees/deposits for establishing new unbundled internet service (only households that do not currently have internet service)
  • Other housing costs may be considered with prior approval of DHCD

Restrictions

  • Funds may not be used for hotel, motel, or home-hosting platform fees unless pre-authorized by DHCD. Households who need emergency hotel/motel assistance should receive assistance first through the local Continuum of Care.
  • The total costs per household under this category should be equivalent to no more than three months of rental costs in the new unit. (Example: if the new rental unit is $1000 a month, the household may receive no more than $3000 in assistance for costs in this category). 
  • All payments for housing-related expenses must be supported by documentary evidence such as a bill, invoice, or evidence of payment to the provider of the service. If a housing-related expense is included in a bundle or an invoice that is not itemized (for example, internet services bundled together with telephone and cable television services) and obtaining an itemized invoice would be unduly burdensome, grantees may establish and apply reasonable procedures for determining the portion of the expense that is appropriate to be covered by ERA.

Ongoing Internet Service Financial Assistance

Most ERAP households are eligible to apply for the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program (EBB).  The program, which is temporary, will provide eligible consumers a discount up to $50 a month off the cost of broadband service and associated equipment rentals.  All eligible households may also receive a one-time discount of up to $100 toward the cost of a laptop, desktop or tablet computer purchased from a participating broadband provider, subject to a modest copay requirement.  The EBB Program will conclude when the fund is expended or six months after the end of the COVID-19 pandemic, whichever occurs first.


Housing Stability Services

Eligible costs under Housing Stability Services include staff salaries, fringe benefits, and operational costs related to providing:

  • Housing counseling and legal services
  • Case management related to housing stability
  • Housing-related services for survivors of domestic abuse or human trafficking
  • Attorney’s fees related to eviction proceedings
  • Specialized services for individuals with disabilities or seniors that supports their ability to access or maintain housing

Services may be provided:

  1. Directly by the grantee or subgrantee,
  2. Through a subgrant to a nonprofit organization, or
  3. On a fee-for-service basis to a nonprofit organization or for-profit legal services provider

Grantees/subgrantees must maintain appropriate case notes in the household’s file demonstrating the scope, type, and dates of services provided to tenants.


Administrative Costs (Direct and Indirect)

Grantees and subgrantees may use ERAP funds to pay for direct or indirect administrative costs, if approved in their budget.  Grantees may share administrative funds with subgrantees.  A maximum of 8% of the overall grant award may be used for administrative costs.

Eligible costs include indirect costs or direct administrative staff salaries, fringe benefits, and operational costs related to:

  • Program development and management
  • Tenant outreach and marketing
  • Landlord outreach and marketing
  • Processing of tenant applications
  • Fiscal administration/payments
  • Monitoring and compliance of subgrantees
  • Data collection and reporting

Application & Eligibility Screening

Eligible Households & Units

Definition of Household:  A household is defined as all persons occupying the same housing unit, regardless of their relationship to each other. The occupants could consist of a single family, two or more families living together, or any other group of related or unrelated people who share living arrangements. For the purposes of single room rentals, household refers to only the individuals living in that room.

Children in the Household: Applicants do not need to provide proof of children living in the household. Children under the age of 18 should be listed as household members, but do not need to be on the lease and do not need to be listed on any income documentation (e.g., income documentation in their own name or tax return submitted to document primary applicant’s income). A child listed on the lease or as a dependent on the applicant’s 1040 does not have to be listed as a household member in the application if they no longer live with the household.

To be eligible for ERAP assistance, a household must meet all four eligibility criteria:

Guidance for determining whether a household is eligible under each criteria and documentation standards can be found in Sections 5-8.


Subsidized Housing

If an eligible household receives a monthly federal subsidy (e.g., a Housing Choice Voucher, Public Housing, Project-Based Rental Assistance, CoC Permanent Supportive Housing, ESG or CoC Rapid Re-Housing) and the tenant rent is adjusted according to changes in income, the renter household may receive ERAP assistance for the tenant-owed portion of rent and utilities that is not subsidized.  The grantee/subgrantee must review the household’s income and sources of assistance to confirm that the ERAP assistance does not duplicate any other assistance, including federal, state, or local assistance provided for the same costs. Grantees/subgrantees may rely on an attestation from the applicant regarding nonduplication with other government assistance.

Grantees must not refuse to provide assistance to households on the basis that they occupy such properties or receive rental subsidies.


Mobile or Manufactured Homes

Rental payments for either the manufactured home and/or the parcel of land the manufactured home occupies are eligible under ERAP. Households renting manufactured housing and/or the parcel of land the manufactured home occupies may also receive assistance for utilities and other expenses related to housing.  Site fees for Recreational Vehicles (RVs) used as a primary residence are also eligible for assistance.  However, rental costs for the RV itself are not eligible for payment.


Rent-to-Own Housing

Rental assistance may be provided to households that are renting their residence under a “rent-to-own” agreement, under which the renter has the option (or obligation) to purchase the property at the end of the lease term, provided that a member of his or her household:

  1. is not a signor or co-signor to the mortgage on the property;
  2. does not hold the deed or title to the property; AND
  • has not exercised the option to purchase.


Room Rentals and Shared Housing

Individuals who are renting a room from a homeowner, subleasing, or jointly renting a home with roommates are eligible to receive financial assistance for their portion of the rent and utilities as long as they can meet the eligibility documentation requirements related to showing housing instability and rent/utility obligation.  See Sections 5-8 of the policy guide for more details.

Note: Rental and service fees for Airbnb, VRBO, Home Away, and other short-term rental housing platforms are not eligible for assistance under ERAP.  Households who need temporary emergency housing should be referred to their Continuum of Care for hotel/motel assistance.