An innovative rental assistance solution: Let landlords apply on behalf of their tenants

Denver isn’t exploring taking a step similar to Adams County’s, but could consider it in the future.

Maiker Housing Partners has its headquarters in this Westminster housing complex pictured Aug. 6, 2020. (Donna Bryson/Denverite)

Maiker Housing Partners has its headquarters in this Westminster housing complex pictured Aug. 6, 2020. (Donna Bryson/Denverite)

Donna Bryson. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Landlords in Adams County can apply for rent relief on behalf of their tenants affected by the pandemic, a new option for them aimed at speeding up payments that keep people housed.

Maiker Housing Partners also announced Thursday that it had received $1.5 million in federal COVID-19 relief funding to distribute in the coronavirus rent relief program it administers for Adams County.

Maiker, which is the public housing authority in Adams County, started the rent relief program in March with an initial $300,000 grant from the Adams County Foundation. Since then, Maiker has distributed almost $350,000 to 125 households. Tenants do not have to rent from Maiker to be eligible.

Maiker found that some tenants who didn’t have access to internet struggled with the application process, which is entirely online due to the need to social distance to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Case managers found that they were spending hours processing applications for multiple tenants who owed the same landlord. With the statewide eviction moratorium having expired, Maiker became concerned that tenants would lose their housing while awaiting rent assistance.

Federal COVID-19 relief dollars must be spent by the end of the year, adding pressure to speed up rent relief, said Drew O’Connor, Maiker’s deputy director.

“We have to move efficiently and effectively with the resources,”O’Connor said.

Landlords who take part in the program must work with their tenants to complete applications, taking some of the administrative pressure off Maiker. Tenants can still apply on their own.

Derek Woodbury, spokesman for Denver’s housing department, said Denver isn’t exploring taking a similar step but could consider it in the future.

Abigail Leigh Bugas manages a rental assistance program that Brothers Redevelopment, Inc. administers with funds from the city of Denver. She said dozens of residents from properties in areas Brothers serves apply for rental assistance, creating “a lot of work for our case managers to assemble complete application packets for each individual tenant.”

“I love, LOVE the idea of landlords being able to apply for multiple residents who are delinquent in one shot,” Bugas said in an email.

Drew Hamrick, senior vice president and general counsel for the Apartment Association of Metro Denver, said the Adams County program for landlords was similar to a statewide program that allows landlords to apply for assistance on behalf of multiple tenants.

“I think every landlord should give it a good hard look and see if its fits their needs,” Hamrick said of the new Adams County program. “I think it would fit a lot of their needs.”

Hamrick’s landlords group has been urging tenants who need help to turn to public and private rental assistance programs, including one to which its members have contributed. The group said this week that rent collection has been strong despite the economic slowdown caused by the pandemic, with more than 96 percent of residential rent payments for July made by July 27, less than a percentage point below the collection rate for July 2019.

Hamrick said some 2,000 evictions have been filed since the statewide eviction moratorium expired in June, compared to an average of between 3,000 and 4,000 in the same period over the last 20 years. Hamrick said the high rate of rent payment and the comparatively low number of evictions led him to discount the possibility of a tsunami caused by the pandemic.

Peter LiFari, Maiker’s executive director, said tenants have so far had time to put together rent payments because of Colorado’s statewide eviction moratorium and a directive from Gov. Jared Polis that landlords give tenants a month instead of the usual 10 days to catch up on the rent. Lifari fears people will find it more difficult to stay housed now that the moratorium has expired. Already, Maiker is seeing more applications for rental assistance.

“We haven’t experienced the full extent of the crisis” yet, Lifari said.

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