The Bulletin Board

As end to federal eviction moratorium approaches, relief applications pile up

By: - July 23, 2021 2:50 pm
A graphic on rental assistance requests


With the federal moratorium on evictions ending July 31, there are more than 3,000 rental relief applications pending and about $175 million still available to tenants who need help with utilities, heat, rent, internet, and other housing bills, according to the program’s website.  

Marta Hurgin, a lawyer with 603 Legal Aid, said her office is hearing from tenants with pending applications who are worried about the moratorium deadline. Applications are taking about four to eight weeks to process as staff collect and confirm the required documentation. 

Hurgin said 603 Legal Aid is advising these tenants to use the eviction law to ask a judge for more time while their relief application is being processed. Circuit court judges, who hear eviction cases, are aware of the rental relief program and are making sure tenants and landlords know it’s available and are helping them determine if they are eligible, said Grace Lessner, director of communications at New Hampshire Housing.

The law says a tenant does not have to move out the day they receive an eviction notice and has time to challenge the notice in court. “Just because the moratorium is ending, or you owe back rent, or the landlord mentions that you haven’t paid rent, almost all landlords have to go through the lawful eviction process,” Hurgin said. 

The New Hampshire Emergency Rental Assistance Program money can be used to make payments up to 12 months into the past and future. The tenant and landlord must complete an application for rent assistance, but the money goes directly to the landlord. Assistance for utilities, heat, and internet also goes directly to the company.

As of July 2, the most recent date available on the program’s online dashboard, the state has paid out nearly $24 million of the $200 million.

The Community Action Programs, which are administering the program, have approved 3,676 of the 6,931 applications received and denied 161 applications, the site said. Most of that money (84.1 percent) has gone to rent, followed by utilities (12.4 percent), according to dashboard’s latest numbers. The average award has been about $6,800.

Gov. Chris Sununu said at a COVID-19 update Thursday that there are about 1,000 applications in the queue, not 3,200 as the website says. Lessner said the website is up to date.

She said staff at the CAP sites need up to four weeks to verify information from the tenant and landlord and ask for more documentation if needed. It can take them up to four additional weeks to approve an application and pay the landlord or companies.

The lengthy backlog has been a problem since at least June, when Sununu said the state was struggling to find people to work in the agencies that help distribute the money. Sununu said Thursday that the state continues to work with the Community Action Programs. “We’ve got a lot of hands on deck to make sure that we’re processing these as fast as we possibly can,” he said.

The state anticipates taking applications until Dec. 31 unless the money runs out before that. The application website has a question-and-answer sheet for tenants and landlords in both English and Spanish.

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Annmarie Timmins
Annmarie Timmins

Senior reporter Annmarie Timmins is a New Hampshire native who covered state government, courts, and social justice issues for the Concord Monitor for 25 years. During her time with the Monitor, she won a Nieman Fellowship to study journalism and mental health courts at Harvard for a year. She has taught journalism at the University of New Hampshire and writing at the Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications.