While evictions remain restricted, you may still want to apply for rent relief if you’ve fallen behind.

Here’s a breakdown of the relief available in Allegheny County and how you can apply.

Can my landlord evict me if I’m unable to pay rent this month?

At the moment, your landlord generally can’t evict you if you’ve been economically harmed by the pandemic and you have applied for aid. That’s thanks to a new eviction moratorium issued on Aug. 3.

That moratorium, which was enacted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC] and lasts until Oct. 3, covers all counties that exhibit substantial or high transmission of COVID-19. Right now, that includes Allegheny County and a large swath of Southwestern Pennsylvania. (You can find the CDC’s updated transmission map here). 

The CDC’s decision continues a series of curbs on evictions — some enacted nationally, others on the state or local level — that began in March 2020. It came just days after a nationwide federal eviction moratorium expired on July 31. Like the previous moratorium, it’s aimed at preventing evictions from worsening the spread of COVID-19. 

In addition to the CDC’s new moratorium, Allegheny County President Judge Kim Berkeley Clark has requested the state Supreme Court to maintain the halt on evictions through the end of October. This would afford the county more time to distribute rent relief to those who have requested it.  

It’s important to note that all evictions must go through a court process, and your landlord alone can’t order your eviction.

Am I qualified for rental assistance?

Under the county’s Emergency Rental Assistance program, you’re eligible to apply for relief if you rent your home and are living in a household that:

  • Has at least one person who qualifies for unemployment, has lost income or suffered financially due to COVID-19
  • Includes at least one person who is at risk of experiencing homelessness if they don’t receive financial relief
  • Receives a total income below 80% of the county’s area median income. See the chart below to determine if you qualify, based on your household size.

Relief doesn’t just have to cover recent or future rent payments. You can request back rent dating to as early as March 13, 2020, including for buildings you no longer live in.

How do I apply?

First, you’re going to need some documents to prove you rent your home in the county and you meet the other criteria. Those include: 

  • W2 forms, paystubs or award letters for income-earning members of your household
  • Any unemployment determination letter or letters
  • Your lease agreement
  • Your utility bills
  • Social Security numbers for each member of your household.

If you don’t have all of these forms on hand, that’s OK — there are spaces to explain why you can’t provide the documents requested, and you can upload them to your account after completing the initial application. However, it may take longer for your application to be processed without them. 

You’ll have to complete the application (available here) online. If you can’t get online or need help completing the application, you can contact ACTION-Housing, the nonprofit administering the county’s rent relief, by phone via 412-248-0021 or by email at rentalassistance@actionhousing.org. There are also eight drop-in centers across the county where you can complete the application in person.

To begin, you’ll need to create an account using your name, email, phone number and address. The application suggests writing down your account’s username and password and keeping it where you can find it because you’ll need it to add additional documents or check the status of your application once it’s submitted. You’ll also need to set up multi-factor authentication — meaning you can choose to have a verification code sent to you via text message, phone call or email when you log back in. 

During the application process, you’ll need to provide the following, supplemented by the documentation listed above: 

  • Personal and income information for each individual in your household 
  • Answers to questions in a survey about the financial impacts of COVID-19 on your household
  • Information about your rent and utilities payments, how much relief you’re requesting and for what months you’re requesting it 
  • Your landlord’s name and contact information, as well as your written lease if you have one.

How long will my application take?

It may take seven days or longer to hear back after submitting your application, while the average time to complete the application process is about 30 to 45 days, according to a petition submitted by county President Judge Kim Berkeley Clark to the state Supreme Court on Aug. 4.

Once you submit your application, it will go through a review process to determine if you are eligible for relief. If more information is needed, ACTION-Housing, The Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh or the YWCA of Greater Pittsburgh may reach out to you. 

If you don’t meet the criteria for rent relief, you will receive a written denial that you can appeal. Out of the over 3,000 relief applications processed in the county so far, fewer than 100 have been denied.

If you do qualify, the rent relief program will contact your landlord and process the approved payment. 

As of now, there is no fixed deadline to apply for rent relief in the county. The county has only given out $18 million in rental assistance so far, with $60 million of the allocated funds left to be distributed. 

Additional Resources

Allegheny County Homelessness Assistance Programs (for people who are homeless or about to become homeless): Call 866-730-2368 

URA Housing Stabilization Programs (for Pittsburgh residents): Text your ZIP Code to 898-211 or dial 211 from your phone.  

If you need help figuring out which rent relief program is best for you, visit the RentHelpPGH website

Chris Hippensteel is a PublicSource editorial intern. He can be reached at christopher@publicsource.org.

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