On April 5, the City of Philadelphia announced that PHLRentAssist Phase 4 —the City’s COVID-19 Emergency Rental and Utility Assistance Program — is now open to landlords and tenants.
Phase 4 of the program helps people pay their rent and utilities who have experienced financial hardship because of COVID-19. Previous phases did not include utilities, only rent. PHDC, the City’s housing and community development non-profit, will continue to administer this program. Landlords and tenants can apply until funds run out.
“We know that tens of thousands of our city’s tenants and landlords are suffering because of COVID-19, and we are doing everything we can to help,” Mayor Jim Kenney said. “Since May, the City of Philadelphia has put over $65 million into the hands of landlords and tenants to help more than 14,000 households. With this new funding we can help even more families stay in their homes, and even more landlords to afford to pay their bills. We are excited to be able to offer assistance with overdue utility bills in this round, and for our utility partners in getting the word out about this program. Help is on the way and we will get through this together!”
This new round of funding for Philadelphia includes about $97 million from the federal legislation that passed in December 2020, with more funding coming from the American Rescue Plan which was enacted in March, although the amount of those additional funds is not yet known. The City and PHDC estimate that this funding will be able to help between 15,000-20,000 tenants with their rent and utilities.
“We kept the water on for more than 70,000 customers who were unable to pay their bill during this crisis, and these grants are essential to getting those customers back on track before penalties resume on May 1,” Philadelphia Water Department Commissioner Randy E. Hayman Esq. said. “Eligible customers who have had growing water bill debts should apply now so they can make a payment to pay off their debt. This revenue is needed for critical infrastructure maintenance and investment.”
Eligible tenants and landlords can apply for up to 18 months of rent and/or utility assistance, with a maximum of $2,000 per month in rent assistance, and up to $2,000 each for overdue water, gas, or electric bills. Rent assistance can pay for back rent owed after April 2020, and for up to three months of forward rent.
“Throughout this difficult period, all Philadelphians have pulled together to help our neighbors who’ve been most impacted by the pandemic,” Craig White, president and CEO of Philadelphia Gas Works (PGW), said. “PGW understands that many of our customers and neighbors continue to experience economic difficulties and need additional assistance with paying their bills. We thank the City and PHDC for responding to that need by expanding the Rental Assistance Program to help Philadelphians maintain their natural gas service.”
“We understand the economic toll the pandemic has created and that financial hardships are a reality for many of our customers,” said Mike Innocenzo, PECO president and CEO. “We commend City officials for expanding the Emergency Rental Assistance Program and we believe this new resource, combined with PECO’s various payment options and assistance programs, will provide the support our customers need to maintain their energy services to transition through this difficult time.”
Tenants who received assistance in prior phases of Philadelphia’s rental assistance program can apply for Phase 4; however not for the months where they have received assistance from previous phases or from any other rent assistance program. If a landlord applies on behalf of a tenant, they need written consent from the tenant and the tenant must be eligible.
If an individual or company wishes to help Philadelphians in need, there is a way to donate at: https://07a.3eb.myftpupload.com/donate/ to help tenants stay in their homes. All donations are fully tax exempt. So far, the City has raised over $100,000 by generous Philadelphians and neighbors.
PHLRentAssist Tenant Information:
• Tenants must rent an apartment or house in the City of Philadelphia. For tenants outside of Philadelphia, please refer to the list of county contacts on the State’s website: https://www.dhs.pa.gov/coronavirus/Pages/Emergency-Rental-Assistance-Program.aspx
• Tenant must have a household income at or below 80 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI) (see Income Guidelines table below.). Tenants who have a household income under 50% of Area Median Income (AMI) or who were unemployed for more than 90 days receive preference.
• Tenant must qualify for unemployment benefits; or experienced a reduction in household income, incurred significant costs, or experienced some other financial hardship due to COVID-19.
• Tenant must demonstrate a risk of experiencing homelessness or housing instability. Tenants can meet this criteria if they have any past-due rent, past due utilities, received an eviction notice, or paying over one third of their household income on rent.
• Tenants may need to submit supporting documents to demonstrate their income.
PHLRentAssist Landlord Information:
• Payment must be applied towards the approved tenant’s rent for months after April 2020.
• Landlord may not begin any eviction proceedings for 90 days from the last month in which the landlord received assistance from this program.
• Payments for rent will go to landlords, but if a landlord refuses the funds or does not respond, then payments can go directly to tenants. Payments for utilities will go directly to the utility companies.
• Landlords will need documents that show they own the property if their name is different from what is on the deed.
• Property managers will need a document showing that they have authority to make decisions and accept payment for the property owner.
Phase 4 General Information:
• Rent assistance can be provided for up to 18 months total, including back rent and forward rent. However, no more than 3 months of forward rent can be provided at one time. Tenants who receive 3 months of forward rent and have not exceeded the 18 months of total assistance, may reapply for another 3 months of forward rent.
• Applicants with rent arrears must satisfy at least one month of those arrears before applying for forward rent.
• Assistance may only be provided for months of rent after April 2020.
• The total amount of rent assistance cannot exceed $2,000 per month, and that amount may include late fees or other charges passed on by the landlord.
• Utility payments can be provided for up to 18 months total.
• Utility payments must have been accrued on or after March 13, 2020.
• Utility payments can only be for the current month and past due utility payments (assistance is not available for future months’ utility bills).
• Utility assistance can provide up to $2,000 for PGW (gas), $2,000 for Philadelphia Water Department, and $2,000 for PECO (electric).
• Utility payments will go directly to the utility providers. If landlords pass on utility costs to their tenants, assistance for those costs may be included in the rent section.
• All payments will be by electronic ACH payment. For persons with no bank account, payments can be made to some payment apps or to prepaid debit cards that support ACH.
For more information and for ways for tenants to apply, please visit the PHLRentAssist website at: www.phlrentassist.org. Tenants can call 311 for questions.