Landlords, tenants waiting on responses from VA Rent Relief Program months after submitting application

Posted at 5:41 PM, Mar 30, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-30 18:20:55-04

HAMPTON, Va. - Renters struggling to pay bills during a global pandemic has been a big issue for the last two years all throughout Hampton Roads.

Many people continue to look relief for paying rent as prices around us continue to rise.

“An elderly woman on a fixed income, I don’t want to see her out on the streets,” Hampton landlord Razheena Steward said.

For the past few months, Steward has been working with her tenant who has been impacted by the pandemic to get help through the Virginia Rent Relief Program (RRP).

“She’s mentioned expenses rising, and just being out of work a little while due to COVID-19,” Steward told News 3. “She’s lived in this home and taken care of it for a couple of years now. I’d hate to see her go.”

According to officials with the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development, through January 31, the program has processed and disbursed more than $648 million in more than 130,000 rent relief payments for more than 102,000 unique households throughout Virginia.

State officials added, last December, the RRP went to a one-portal system with the RRP Support Center accepting both landlord- and tenant-initiated applications. The new portal, Gov2Go, offers an updated, secure and user-friendly portal that will allow tenants and landlords to access RRP on virtually any web-enabled device. Landlords and tenants now have the ability to apply for rent relief from the same portal.

Steward said she helped her tenant file the application in December. But since January 30, she said there's been no movement.

“I’ve called several times, [and] I’ve even sent an email,” she said. “Frustrating, just frustrating. I can’t begin to mention.”

“I’m paying my bills and expenses, and trying to pay for another property’s, it’s definitely difficult,” Steward added.

Melissa Bonifiglio is with the Legal Aid Society of Eastern Virginia, which has been helping people in Hampton Roads apply for the RRP.

Since December 1, her group has helped submit 653 rent relief applications. Of that, 555 of those have been approved for rent relief.

“The process has been slower than it was previously,” Bonifiglio said. “There has been a delay particularly that we’ve seen in getting the landlord and tenant applications to sync up in the database.”

She told News 3, another factor in delays has been tenants and landlords not realizing applications have been returned because of errors.

Meanwhile, THRIVE Peninsula has been helping folks who don't qualify for the program with relief for areas — including utilities.

THRIVE Peninsula’s Executive Director Angela York told News 3 their group has received about 1,000 applications for financial help within the past three months.

“Because the moratoriums lasted so long for rent and utilities, a lot of folks are carrying very large balances,” York said. “A lot of people are walking this path and they’re frustrated.”

“If the need is related to your sustainability, we will consider that financial request,” she added.

As for Steward, she hopes she and her tenant will get answers soon and not have to deal with an eviction.

“Right now, I’m at a loss for words,” Steward said. “I don’t even know what’s next or where to go from here.”

According to York, if you've applied for rent relief and are waiting on a response, that will buy you more time from getting evicted.

For the Legal Aid Society of Eastern Virginia, their Central Intake number is (757) 827-5078.