About 16% of Americans who lease say they are behind on rent, according to a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) analysis of Census Household Pulse Survey data from June 23–July 5. And while the federal government has distributed some $46 billion in rental assistance to tenants and landlords across all 50 states plus D.C., that relief has come slowly, Forbes reported, noting that about $1.5 billion was allocated just last month, which more than all three prior reporting periods combined. That means getting the funds to those who need it has been delayed, all while the July 31 deadline on the nationwide eviction moratorium swiftly approaches.
As Forbes Advisor staffer Natalie Campisi put it, "This has put stress on landlords and tenants who are caught in a cycle of financial strain."
The CFPB Wednesday announced it will offer a tool to help landlords and tenants—about 3.6 million of whom the bureau says reported "somewhat or very likely" eviction within the next two months. Its Rental Assistance Finder tool will make it easier for renters and landlords to connect with rental assistance programs in their area, and take the first steps toward accessing available funds, the CFPB reported.
The billions allocated to assist households unable to pay rent, utilities, and other housing costs are part of an unprecedented economic effort by the federal government, according to the CFPB, and they say local governments and hundreds of local, tribal, and other programs are distributing funds.
"The CFPB is working closely with partners across the federal government to provide homeowners and renters the resources they need, including information to understand their rights and protections. Along with the U.S. Departments of Agriculture, Housing and Urban Development, Treasury, Veterans Affairs, and the Federal Housing Finance Agency, the CFPB has created consumerfinance.gov/housing, which serves as the federal government’s one-stop, go-to resource for up-to-date information on relief options, protections, and key deadlines," according to a press release.
On its website, the CFPB urges landlords to consider whether rental assistance is "worth the trouble." They note that in some cases landlords will apply on behalf of tenants.
"As a landlord, you may think that rental assistance is for tenants. But right now, three in four programs funded by the U.S. Treasury Department’s Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) Program take applications from landlords," reads the "help for landlords" section. "Consider all your options. Money from federal rental assistance could cover up to 18 months of rent—including unpaid rent incurred during the COVID-19 pandemic and future rent in certain cases—when the money is available. Evicting tenants can be time-consuming and expensive. When it’s over, you may never recover unpaid rent."
Wednesday's press release goes on to say, "The CFPB has taken other actions to support renters during COVID-19, including a joint statement with then-FTC Acting Chair Rebecca Kelly Slaughter promising to monitor illegal eviction activity, an interim final rule detailing illegal debt collection practices in connection with evictions during the pandemic, and a bulletin explaining Fair Credit Reporting Act obligations related to the reporting of rental and eviction information during the pandemic, including particularly the treatment of rental assistance payments."