RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Six months after applying for Virginia’s Rent Relief Program on behalf of his only tenant, Richmond landlord David McCabe is still waiting for a response. Without the money, he says eviction may be his last option.
McCabe isn’t alone.
The Rent Relief Program stopped accepting new requests for assistance on May 15, but the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) said roughly 10,000 applications are still processing.
“I don’t want to kick anybody out of my house but, sooner or later the pain threshold becomes so high that you just have to do it,” McCabe said.
The agency declined an interview request on Friday but DHCD spokesperson Amanda Love responded to questions in an email. She couldn’t say how long it’s taking to process an application on average.
“There are multiple factors as to why an application may be in process, including inaccurate information, missing information, no corresponding tenant app, etc.,” Love said. “Each application is unique and requires participation from both the landlord and tenant, and a set time is not available for the processing time for an application from submission to payment received.”
McCabe said that despite repeated requests for more information, no one at DHCD has told him where his application stands.
McCabe said he submitted the application on Jan. 21 and resubmitted it on May 23 with an updated ledger upon request from the agency. He said he was not informed of any issues with the first application.
While he waits, McCabe said he has been using his savings to pay the mortgage but money is getting tight.
“I’m going to have to start searching for things to cut back on a lot,” McCabe said. “It has basically put me in a financial situation that’s almost as bad as the tenant that doesn’t have the money to cover the rent because of their financial situation, and it’s all because of the bureaucracy and how long it’s taking.”
McCabe said he had a much better experience when he applied for the same tenant last fall. He said it took roughly 30 days to approve the application.
Virginia Apartment Management Association Executive Director Patrick McCloud said that under state law, new applications are supposed to be processed within 45 days and subsequent ones should be done within 14 days. He said the state was generally meeting that standard earlier in the pandemic but that’s not the case anymore.
“People’s homes are on the line and, if we don’t get these things processed in a way that works for both parties, then we exacerbate housing problems that we already have,” McCloud said. “We went from a program that worked very well in Virginia and had a lot of promise to a program that we saw fall apart with bad administration.”
McCloud said problems picked up after DHCD hired a new contractor to run the Rent Relief Program towards the end of last year.
“The experience has been just slow customer service, things being escalated and not hearing back on where they go to. But there are also simple problems such as checks being handed out to the wrong entities,” McCloud said.
Love didn’t respond directly when asked about claims that the new contractor is at fault and what additional resources are going toward speeding things up. She said Virginia Interactive (VI) operates the Gov2Go platform, and approximately 425 full- or part-time staff are processing applications.
Virginia Interactive didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday.
Meanwhile, McCabe fears he’ll be left empty-handed.
“Let me know what’s going on, that’s all I really want to know, and I’m sure there are tons of other landlords out there that are in the same situation,” McCabe said.
Love didn’t respond when asked how much rent relief funding remains but she expects there is enough money to go around.
“If an application is eligible and was submitted by the closing of the portal (May 15 at 11:59 p.m.) and meets the requirements under the ERA guidelines, it is anticipated that the application would be approved and qualify for payment,” Love said.