As the pandemic stretches on, landlords ask for help with tenant troubles

Officials took these measures because many areas of Vermont were lacking affordable housing long before Covid-19 reached the state last winter. The pandemic shutdowns made things worse by throwing thousands of people out of work.

In July, Vermont launched a pair of programs[2] aimed at keeping Vermonters in their homes while compensating landlords for rent owed. One, through the Vermont Housing Finance Agency, provides up to six months of mortgage payments to mortgage servicers. The other is a $25 million Rental Housing Stabilization Program[3] or RHSP, administered through the Vermont State Housing Authority, which manages federal rental assistance programs. Both programs used some of Vermont’s $1.25 billion share of the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security, or CARES, Act passed in March. 

Under the Vermont RHSP, landlords receive full back rent for every month they were owed, but must delay filing for eviction after that. That was designed to delay a rush on the courts once evictions are allowed again, said Housing Commissioner Josh Hanford. In another scenario, the program allows evictions when the courts are available, but landlords can get only half of the back rent.

Ten weeks after it began, the RHSP had paid $5.4 million in back rent assistance to 2,291 Vermont households in all 14 Vermont counties, according to a Sept. 25 report[4] from the state housing authority. That’s about $108,000 and 46 households per day, with landlords receiving an average $2,364, the report said. The housing authority has hired extra employees to process applications, which have shown no signs of slowing down, the report said.

The state this summer added another program for renters called Money to Move, which covers first and last month’s rent plus security deposit for people who are homeless.

Security camera footage

None of that helps people like McPhetres and Mahmood, who are not looking for money but for the departure of their tenant.

Mahmood said when she called a lawyer in June, the lawyer told her not to bother trying to evict. 

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