Impacted Renters May Seek Disaster Assistance

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Renters impacted by the recent winter storm are asking “If I had to temporarily relocate because of apartment damage or lack of running water do I still owe rent for those days I was unable to live in my apartment? The short answer is that the TAA Lease Contract does state that "[when casualty loss is involved] rent will not abate in whole or in part." However, rental property owners are not precluded from voluntarily abating all or part of the rent as a gesture of goodwill.

For those tenants who had to find temporary sought housing elsewhere to ride-out the winter storm they may be may be eligible for federal disaster assistance. Those tenants are encouraged to register with FEMA to apply for grants to help with disaster-related expenses. Expenses for renters can include:

  • Renting a different dwelling when the formerly occupied one is unsafe to live in due to the winter storms;
  • Storm-related medical and dental expenses;
  • Increased cost of child-care expenses;
  • Moving and storage fees;
  • Replacement or repair of necessary personal property lost or damaged in the winter storm, such as appliances and furniture, textbooks and computers used by students, and work equipment or tools used by independent contractors;
  • Repair or replacement of storm-damaged vehicles;
  • Other serious disaster-related needs not covered by insurance or other sources.

Of course, tenants that have renter’s insurance you should first call their insurance agent to start the claims process before they contact FEMA. By law, FEMA cannot duplicate benefits for losses covered by insurance or grants from state, local governments.

Rental grants may be used for security deposits, rent and the cost of essential utilities—such as gas or water. The grants may not be used to pay for separate cable or Internet bills. The grants are not loans, and don’t have to be repaid. They are not taxable income and won’t affect eligibility for Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits.

Apartment residents impacted by the storm can apply for federal disaster assistance at DisasterAssistance.gov, or if someone cannot register online they can call the disaster assistance helpline at 800-621-3362 (TTY) 800-462-7585 from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week until further notice.