housing answers for residents of public housing falling behind in the rent Benefits Plus Learning Center Fighting Poverty Strengthening New York

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1 housing answers for residents of public housing falling behind in the rent Benefits Plus Learning Center Fighting Poverty Strengthening New York

2 The Community Service Society of New York (CSS), a non-partisan social services agency, has been in the forefront of the fight against poverty for over 170 years. It has pioneered programs for school children, low-income tenants, health care patients, immigrants and poor people of every color and race throughout its history. At the midway point of its second century, CSS continues to do research on the causes and solutions to poverty-induced problems and to provide needy people with direct emergency help. Using advocacy and court challenges, CSS works to effect societal changes to improve the lives of those in poverty and empower them to provide better conditions for their children and communities. The Benefits Plus Learning Center provides high-quality training, publications and consultation services to community based organizations in NYC that work with families and individuals in need of public benefit and housing programs. The training, publications and resources provided enable social service professionals to navigate a difficult and complex public benefits system on their clients behalf. Their premier publication, Benefits Plus, is a comprehensive online resource manual to federal, state and local government benefit and housing programs. Community Service Society of New York 105 East 22nd Street New York, NY Falling Behind in Your Rent 2

3 Falling Behind in the Rent in NYCHA Housing Benefits Plus Learning Center A PROGRAM OF THE COMMUNITY SERVICE SOCIETY Can be copied without CSS permission Last Updated: June 2013 Falling Behind in Your Rent 3

4 Falling Behind in the Rent in NYCHA Housing What Can I Do if I Can t Pay My Rent? You may be able to get emergency assistance (a one-shot deal) from Cash Assistance, or money from a charity, or a loan for working people. You may need to get help from several different places if you owe a lot of back rent. How Do I Apply for an Emergency Assistance Grant? You can apply for an emergency assistance grant from a local Job Center. Call the HRA Infoline at to find the Job Center closest to you. What Do I Need to Bring to the Job Center? Here is a list of things you will need. Bringing all of these will help get your application approved more quickly. Go to the Job Center even if you do not have everything on this list: Photo identification Your lease or rent bill Housing court papers Proof of income, resources Social security cards for everyone in the household. What Do I Need to Do? If you apply for an emergency assistance grant, you have to show you have an emergency. For example, if you have housing court papers, it is an emergency. But there are other kinds of emergencies as well. You also need to show that you will be able to pay your rent in the future. Explain that you live in public housing, so you have affordable rent. Will I Have to Pay Back the Emergency Assistance Grant I Get? Maybe. It depends on whether you have children in the household or not and whether you have a household member who is receiving SSI. If you have children under 21 you can apply for an Emergency Assistance for Families (EAF) grant. Some of the money you receive from an EAF may have to be paid back, that will depend on how much money you receive. People with SSI can apply for Emergency Assistance for Adults. If you receive this grant, you will not have to pay anything back if you get four months of rent or less. If you need more than four months of rent, you will likely have to pay back the amount of money that was more than your 4 months of rent. Falling Behind in Your Rent 4

5 If you are a single person or a married couple without children, you can apply for Emergency Safety Net Assistance. If you receive this grant, you will have to pay the emergency assistance grant you received for the rent you owed, back to HRA. What if My Application for Emergency Assistance Grant Gets Denied? Ask for a fair hearing right away. You can ask for a fair hearing by telephone, fax, mail, online or in person. A fair hearing should be requested by mail only if no other means is available. By Telephone: for the hearing impaired, TTY phone number By Fax: Online: You can also download fair hearing request forms, as well cancel, adjourn, reopen or request compliance with fair hearing decisions at this website. In Person: NYC Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance Office of Administrative Hearings 14 Boerum Place, 1st floor Brooklyn, NY Directions to 14 Boerum Place By Mail: NYS Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance Office of Administrative Hearings P.O. Box 1930 Albany, NY How Do I Apply for Help from a Charity? Call the Housing Court Answers Hotline at (Queens residents can call ). Housing Court Answers will refer you to a charity that may have money available to help you pay your back rent. Falling Behind in Your Rent 5

6 Note: Housing Court Answers does not give financial help. They can only give you a referral to an agency that might be able to help you. Call as early in the month as possible, as these agencies run out of money each month, so you have a better chance of getting help earlier in the month There are also organizations that give loans to working people who have fallen behind in the rent. You will need to sign an agreement to re-pay the loan. Housing Court Answers also has a listing of agencies that can provide a loan. What Do I Need to Bring to the Charity? Here is a list of things you will need. Bringing all of these will help get your application approved more quickly. Go to the agency with what you have, even if you do not have everything on this list: Photo ID: (for example: NY State Drivers License, NYS Motor Vehicles Photo ID, Public Assistance Photo ID, US Passport, Military ID) Child s ID: (birth certificate) Proof of threatened eviction: (for example: Dispossess Notice (with Landlord & Tenant Number), Marshal s Notice, Final Judgment, Order to Show Cause, Court Stipulation, Foreclosure Notice) Name/address of landlord: NYCHA rent letter will provide the address Proof of residence: (for example: recent rent bill, lease, recent telephone bill in applicant s name,. Doubled-up tenants must provide notarized letter from the primary tenant plus the primary tenant s current rent bill. Proof of income: (for example: last four pay stubs, Cash Assistance Budget printout, most recent award letter from Cash Assistance, photo- copy of last two received checks from Unemployment Insurance Benefits or other benefits. Future Income: Letter of Hire from the prospective employer stating position, salary, and start date. Some charities may require you have a good reason for falling behind with your rent. Good reasons are usually things you couldn t plan for. Having trouble paying bills that you have every month (like telephone, cable, and food) is not a good reason. Some examples of good reasons are: paying for medical or dental expenses that aren t covered by insurance; losing your job; having your hours cut at work; serious illness; your Unemployment Insurance benefits ended; not getting your child support payments; a death in the family. You may have a different reason. Just be ready to explain it when you ask for help. Falling Behind in Your Rent 6

7 Save as much money as you can to pay your rent. The groups that can help you will want to see that you are doing your best to help yourself. You should be able to pay at least one month s rent. It s not too late to start saving! Can I Get My Rent in a NYCHA Apartment Lowered? Probably. And you don t have to wait until recertification to ask to get your rent lowered. NYCHA s housing s rules say they have to lower the rent if: You have a rent hardship. If you were fired from your job, had your hours cut, or you quit your job, you will probably have a rent hardship. A rent hardship means your income went down by at least 10% and your rent is now more than 30% of your adjusted income. Let s say you earn $1,000 each month. Your hours get cut, so now you only earn $890 each month. This is $110 less than you earned before. Your income went down by more than 10%? 10% of $1,000 is $100. Usually when your income goes down more than 10%, your rent will be more than 30% of your adjusted income* and you can get your rent lowered. * Adjusted income means your total household income after subtracting the deductions that NYCHA gives you. The Rent Change Notice you get each year after your annual recertification shows the deductions you get. Other reasons include, but are not limited to: A family member stops getting Cash Assistance, but not because of a sanction; A family member dies or permanently moves out of the household; A family member stops receiving SSI, SSDI or other government cash benefits because s/he is no longer eligible for the benefit How Do I Get NYCHA to Lower My Rent? Tell NYCHA about losing household income right away. The sooner you tell them, the sooner your rent will be lowered. Bring proof of your new income to NYCHA s management office as soon as you can. You should bring documents to prove what happened. Don t just tell your housing assistant. Always keep a copy of the documents you give NYCHA. Get your copy stamped received. This way you can prove that you told NYCHA about the decrease in income. What Kind of Proof Should I Bring? Proof can be anything in writing that shows your new income. Some examples are pay stubs, a letter about your new benefit payments, or a termination letter showing you are no longer eligible for the benefit. The proof you bring will depend on your situation. Falling Behind in Your Rent 7

8 When Will NYCHA Lower My Rent? It depends. First you have to tell them about your change in income. NYCHA might wait three months before they lower your rent. This is called the waiting period. You should get a credit on your rent bill at the end of the three months for the difference between your old rent and your lower rent. This is called a retroactive credit. You are supposed to pay the full amount of your current rent during the waiting period. If you can t pay, NYCHA will probably sue you in housing court for nonpayment. They are not supposed to bring you to housing court in this situation, but they often do. Answer the papers in housing court right away. For help finding a lawyer, or for advice, call the Housing Court Answers Hotline at (Queens residents can call ) or go to to find an attorney who might help you. Do not miss any court dates. NYCHA will lower your rent starting the first of the month after you lost your income, if you tell them about the loss within 30 days. They will not apply the change until the first of the month after you tell them, if you tell them more than 30 days after you lost income. Case Example: Jacob loses his job on March 20th. Jacob gives the proof of his loss of income to NYCHA on April 10th (which is less than 30 days after the loss of his income). Jacob s rent will be reduced retroactively to April 1st. But Lisa, who also lost her on March 20th only gives NYCHA proof of her loss of income on May 10th, more than 30 days after the loss. Lisa s rent will be reduced as of June 1st and she will not get any retroactive credit. Will I Have a Waiting Period Before My Rent is Lowered? Maybe. You will NOT have a waiting period if your household income went down because: A family member started or stopped getting Cash Assistance (as long as the new income would make the rent lower); An employed household member died or permanently moved out; A household member who was getting Social Security benefits, Supplemental Security Income, and/or a pension died or permanently moved out; An employed household member retired or permanently left the job market; A household member enlisted in the U.S. Armed Services, or was called up for fulltime active duty. Falling Behind in Your Rent 8

9 Everyone else will have a waiting period of three (3) months before your rent is lowered, once you report you have a loss in income. But remember you will receive a credit for the months that you paid extra. What if NYCHA Doesn t Lower My Rent? If NYCHA doesn t lower your rent, ask for a grievance hearing. Just write a short letter to NYCHA saying what you asked them to do, that they didn t do it, and that you want a grievance hearing. Give the letter to the Management Office. Be sure to keep a copy. Get your copy stamped received. You should get an answer from NYCHA s Management Office in 30 days or less. Write a letter to the Borough Management Office if you don t get an answer, or if you disagree with the Management Office s answer. In your letter give the date you asked NYCHA to lower your rent, the reason you need your rent lowered, and include a copy of your proof. Say that you are writing because NYCHA did not lower your rent and you think this was wrong. Here are the Borough Management Offices for each borough. Write to the office for the borough you live in. Borough Management Offices Bronx 1200 Water Place, 2nd Fl., S. Lobby Bronx, NY Manhattan 1980 Lexington Avenue New York, NY Brooklyn 816 Ashford Street Brooklyn, NY Queens th Street Jamaica, NY Staten Island 140 Richmond Terrace Staten Island, NY Note: NYCHA can deny grievances if you aren t up to date in rent. If you are in housing court, the judge may force NYCHA to hear your grievance about changing your rent. Otherwise the housing court judge should decide if the rent is correct. Falling Behind in Your Rent 9

10 If you need help with back rent, tell the person at the information desk that you are applying for emergency assistance to pay rent arrears. I Tried to Pay Some of My Back Rent, but NYCHA Won t Accept It. Can they do That? Yes. They don t have to accept anything less than the full rent amount that you owe. Can NYCHA Charge Me Other Types of Charges Other Than the Rent I Owe? Sometimes NYCHA tries to make you pay charges other than rent in housing court. These charges might be for legal fees, air conditioning, parking, or anything other than your monthly rent. NYCHA is not allowed to do this. Do not agree to pay these extra charges in housing court. Only agree to pay the amount you owe for rent. Ask for a rent breakdown that goes back to the day you had a $0 balance. Check your rent receipts, bank statements, or money order receipts care- fully. This will help you figure out how much you really owe. What Do I Do If I Get Housing Court Papers? Answer them in court right away. For help finding a lawyer, or for advice, call the Housing Court Answers Hotline at On the web you can get information and help finding a lawyer at REMEMBER: Do not miss any court dates! Can I Get Evicted Even if I Pay My Rent? Yes, it s possible. Even if you pay all of your rent, you could get a letter telling you that you have to appear at a hearing at 250 Broadway, 25th floor, or your tenancy will be terminated. NYCHA has a rule that if you pay rent late three times in 12 months, they can charge you with chronic rent delinquency. They can do this even if they have never taken you to Housing Court. You must go to the hearing. Housing Court Answers has a table at 250 Broadway, 2nd floor, on Thursdays from 1 pm to 5 pm, that may help you understand the hearing process. Protect yourself by applying for help right away. Be sure to go to all appointments and court dates, even if you need to ask for more time to pay or to find a lawyer. Don t risk losing your affordable apartment! Falling Behind in Your Rent 10

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