Emergency Rental Assistance Program Frequently Asked Questions for Tenants

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Eligibility

1. Who is eligible to apply for the Pinellas County Emergency Rental Assistance Program?

The Pinellas County Emergency Rental Assistance Program is available to help renter households in which one or more individuals meet the following criteria:  

  • Qualified for unemployment or has experienced a reduction in household income, incurred significant costs, or experienced a financial hardship due to or during the COVID-19 pandemic (since March 13, 2020);  
  • Is behind on rent payments or at risk of missing a rent payment or is otherwise at risk of or is currently experiencing homelessness or housing instability; and  
  • Has a household income at or below 80% the area median income (AMI). To check your household’s AMI eligibility, see the table below.

The application process can be started by either the tenant or the landlord and requires input from both.

Pinellas County 2021 Income Limits (effective April 1, 2021):

Number of
Household
Members
80% of
Area Median
Income (AMI)*
1$41,350
2$47,250
3$53,150
4$59,050
5$63,800
6$68,500
7$73,250
8$77,950

*Area Median Income (AMI) for households in the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater metropolitan area: $72,700


2. Does my financial impact need to result from the pandemic?

No. As of Sept. 7, 2021, the Emergency Rental Assistance Program has expanded eligibility to include Pinellas County residents who experienced a significant reduction in income or increase in costs during the pandemic, even if their financial hardship was not a result of the pandemic. Previously, the U.S. Treasury required applicants to indicate proof of a direct or indirect financial impact from the pandemic.


3. If I was previously denied, will my application be reconsidered under the new eligibility requirements (as of September 2021)?

Cases that were previously denied due to the following reasons will be reconsidered under the new eligibility requirements that went into effect in September 2021:

  • Lack of documentation of financial hardship due to COVID-19
  • Lack of documentation indicating a risk of homelessness or housing instability

Affected applicants will be notified of any changes in the status of their applications and will not need to reapply.


4. If I lost my job due to the pandemic for a few months but regained employment and am still trying to get caught up, am I eligible to apply?

Eligibility considers more than just your current employment status. You may still qualify for the program if your household meets the eligibility criteria above and are encouraged to apply.


5. Are seasonal residents eligible for rental assistance? 

Seasonal residents may be eligible if they have a lease for a home in Pinellas County and meet the other requirements of the program.


6. Can I qualify if I have a verbal/informal lease? 

In the absence of a signed rental agreement, evidence of the amount of a rental payment may include bank statements, check stubs, or other documentation that reasonably establishes a pattern of paying rent, a written attestation by a landlord who can be verified as the legitimate owner or management agent of the unit, or other reasonable documentation as defined by Pinellas County. 

Coverage

7. How much rental assistance can I receive? Will it cover missed payments?

The Emergency Rental Assistance Program allows for up to 18 months of financial assistance, subject to the availability of funds. Rental and utility assistance funds may cover missed payments, future costs, or a combination of both. Eligible recipients’ past rent payments back to March 13, 2020, must be paid first, before receiving additional rental assistance to cover up to 18 months of total assistance. After the first three months of assistance, the household may be required to provide updated documents to continue to be income-qualified and continue receiving assistance.


8. Will the rental assistance cover late fees associated with unpaid rent? 

Yes, late fees related to housing are an eligible expense and will be included with the rent amount due.


9. Can I get my utilities paid?

Yes, utilities, including electricity, gas, water and sewer, trash removal, and energy costs, such as fuel oil, are eligible costs.


10. Can I get help with my mortgage?

The U.S. Treasury does not allow the Emergency Rental Assistance Program to cover mortgage payments. However, homeowners who experienced financial hardship related to the COVID-19 pandemic may soon be eligible for help through the State of Florida’s Homeowner Assistance Fund. More information will be published by the DEO soon at this website.


11. Will this cover hotel costs if I am currently living in a hotel?

The Pinellas County Emergency Rental Assistance Program does not cover hotel costs at this time.

Application Process

12. How do I apply?

Renters and their landlords/property managers can apply via a secure online application portal through the Neighborly Software system. Tenants upload their documents to this online portal through the tenant application, and landlords upload their documents through the landlord application. The application process allows input from both the tenant and the landlord. Create an account and apply here. 

NOTE: Much of the correspondence for this Program is via EMAIL, so please check your Spam email folder if you have not received any emails from Neighborly Software or from erap.pinellascounty.fl@tetratech.com. 

For help with the renter application process, view our Tenant Application video tutorial:


Pinellas County also has several community partners that offer free help for residents who are having trouble applying due to technical challenges, lack of computer or internet access, or difficulty applying in English. Click here to view the list of community organizations that are available to assist.


13. What documents will tenants need to submit?

The list that follows may be revised based on additional federal guidance.

The tenant must fill out the Tenant Application and provide the following documentation as part of the application: 

  • First name, last name, and social security number of household members  
  • Copy of driver’s license or other government-issued ID for all household members 18 or older 
  • Signed lease agreement  
  • Proof of income documentation for each household member 18 years or older OR Determination letter from a government agency verifying the household income is at or below 80% of the area median income (AMI).  

Examples of income documentation may include:  

  • W-2 tax form or other wage statements 
  • 2020 tax filing 
  • paystubs 
  • unemployment award letter 
  • Social Security award letter 
  • savings and checking account statements (two months) 
  • attestation letter from an employer 
  • profit/loss statements (for self-employed individuals) 
  • child support documentation, if applicable 
  • For rental assistance, an eviction notice or late payment notice  
  • For utility assistance, the bill must include the household address and one household member’s name. 
  • Additional immediately available documentation not listed above to demonstrate household income, economic impact, or risk of homelessness

Waivers or exceptions to these documentation requirements may be granted to accommodate disabilities, extenuating circumstances related to the pandemic, or a lack of technological access.


14. What happens after I submit my documents?

Once your application is submitted, your case will be reviewed for eligibility. If any required documents are missing from your application, you will be contacted through the Neighborly application portal. 

Please note that your application will not be processed until it is submitted. Once your application is submitted you will be taken to a confirmation page and receive a confirmation email from no-reply@neighborlysoftware.com.

NOTE: Much of the correspondence for this program is via EMAIL, so please check your Spam email folder if you have not received any emails from Neighborly Software or from erap.pinellascounty.fl@tetratech.com.

Applications are reviewed based on priority and the order which they were received.  The review and approval process begins with application intake, then initial review, quality assurance review, payment recommendation compliance review and, finally, payment approval.


15. How long will it take for my application to be processed?

Due to the large volume of applications, the process from application to payment takes at least three to four weeks but may take longer if additional documents are needed. The best way to ensure a faster turnaround is to take your time when filling out the application and make sure that all of the required information and documentation is included. This will help your application to be processed with minimal delays. 

About half of applications processed to date have required additional information from either the tenant or the landlord. Program staff will reach out to the tenant and/or landlord directly if additional information or documentation is needed to verify eligibility and payment information. Thank you for your continued cooperation and timely response to these requests so that your rental assistance payments can be processed promptly.


16. How will my rent get paid?

In most cases, funds will be paid directly to the applicant’s landlord or property manager in the form of a check that will be mailed to the landlord address on file. If the landlord/property manager will not accept the funds through the program, you may be eligible to receive assistance directly to pay your rent.


17. How are applications prioritized?

Applications submitted through the application portal will be assigned a score based on cumulative points awarded. These points are based on the priorities of the program: 

  • 5 points for households that include an individual who is currently unemployed and has been unemployed for the 90 days prior to application 
  • 5 points for households with income at or below 50 percent of the area median income 
  • 5 points for households that have an eviction filed in court
  • 0 point for all other applications 

Once submitted, applications are sorted for review in order of cumulative points awarded, then in order of date submitted. 


18. Are federal stimulus payments counted as income? 

No, federal stimulus payments are not counted as income for purposes of reporting household income for this program.


19. How can I check the status of my application?  

You can check the status of your application at any time by logging into the Neighborly application portal. Our Tenant Application tutorial video explains where to see the status of your application.

The following list provides definitions for each stage of the case file in the tenant application portal. Most statuses will also have a “PC” or “SP” designation indicating whether the case is a Pinellas County or City of St. Petersburg applicant, respectively. 

  • Application in Progress – The applicant is in the process of completing the application and has not submitted it yet.
  • Application Submitted – The applicant has completed the application.
  • Application Under Review – An Eligibility Specialist has started reviewing the application files for eligibility. The application will be checked for completeness. Applicants with incomplete information will receive a request to provide the missing information. 
  • Pending Applicant Information – The application has missing, illegible, or incorrect information. The applicant has been notified to provide the additional information but has not yet responded.
  • Pending Landlord Information – The tenant application has been reviewed, and the reviewer is waiting for the landlord to submit information.
  • Applicant Non-Responsive – The applicant has been contacted three times either by phone and/or email within 21 days and the applicant has not responded.
  • Payment Pending Audit – The initial review, quality assurance/quality control review, and client review are complete, and the case is ready for final audit prior to payment.  
  • Paid – The case has been paid.
  • Withdrawn – The application has been withdrawn by the applicant.
  • Denials Under Review – Application recommended for denial pending review.
  • Denied – The application has been denied by the review team.  The applicant will receive an email with the reason(s) for denial.
  • Void Duplicate Application – The application was duplicated, and the duplicate application has been voided.
  • Recertification Submitted – The applicant has submitted a recertification for additional assistance after initial assistance has been received.

20. How do I apply if I don’t have access to the internet at home? 

The application is accessible from any smartphone or tablet that is connected to the internet. You can also visit your local library or click here to view a list of community organizations that are available to assist renters with applying for assistance.


21. My landlord has not responded to me about participating in this program. What do I do? 

As part of the eligibility review process, program staff will reach out to your landlord to invite them to participate in the program. If your landlord declines to participate or does not respond, you may receive assistance funds directly to pay eligible housing-related expenses.


22. What if my case gets denied?

There are two significant reasons why cases may get denied:

  • You do not meet eligibility criteria.
  • The documentation submitted is not appropriate or clear and, after several attempts, Pinellas County was not able to determine eligibility.

The denial letter you receive if your application is rejected will also explain how to appeal the denial if you believe you are eligible.

The Emergency Rental Assistance Program is being coordinated with local housing stability service providers that may be able to provide additional help.  If you do not qualify for Emergency Rental Assistance, you may be referred to one of these providers for assistance.


23. How is my information kept secure?

All applicant information and documentation will be managed and maintained through a software system called Neighborly, which keeps tenant and landlord data secure and confidential. Pinellas County Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) Program personnel, including contractors, subcontractors, and partnering agency personnel, will not disclose applicant data outside of the program processes and procedures. 

The application data must be kept secure per federal requirements and in accordance with the “Pinellas County Policy to Safeguard Personally Identifiable Information”. All applicant information and documentation will be obtained, managed, and maintained through the program software system, which is stored in U.S. FedRAMP-certified Microsoft data centers to maintain the security of applicants’ data.  


24. What other assistance is available if I already received an eviction notice and/or a court summons? 

Free legal help with evictions is available through the following organizations:

Gulf Coast Legal: 727-821-0726    

Pinellas County Community Law Program: 727-582-7475   

Bay Area Legal Services: 800-625-2257

Taxes

25. I’m a renter, and I received emergency rental assistance to cover my rent or utilities. Do those payments count toward my gross income when I file my taxes?

No, emergency rental assistance payments made to eligible households are not considered income for members of the renter household.

General Program Information

26. What is the purpose of the Pinellas County Emergency Rental Assistance Program?

The program is intended to prevent evictions and keep people in their homes during the COVID-19 pandemic.


27. How is the Pinellas County Emergency Rental Assistance Program funded?

Through the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 and the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, Pinellas County has received a total of $31.1 million in federal funding for the Emergency Rental Assistance Program and is eligible to receive additional funding, up to $45.8 million total based on achievement of U.S. Treasury milestones. The City of St. Petersburg, the only other Pinellas County jurisdiction eligible for a direct payment, has received $10.5 million for St. Petersburg residents and may receive additional funds up to $14.3 million based on milestone achievement. The Pinellas County Emergency Rental Assistance Program is jointly administered by Pinellas County and the City of St. Petersburg through a shared application portal.


28. How can I get updates about the program?

Updates will be posted to the County’s Where to Get Help page. You can sign up for text message alerts about the program, such as deadlines and changes to program procedures, by texting pinellasrent to 888777. Please note that these text alerts do not include updates about the status of specific applications.  

Additional Questions

29. What if I have additional questions about the program?

If your question is not answered on our FAQ page, you can call the program helpline at 855-379-3515 or email erap.pinellascounty.fl@tetratech.com. Helpline hours are Monday through Friday 8:30 a.m. – 5 p.m. You can also read more about the program’s policies and procedures here.


30. Where can I get help with applying?

Pinellas County has several community partners that offer free help for residents who are having trouble applying due to technical challenges, lack of computer or internet access, or difficulty applying in English. Free legal help is also available for residents who are facing eviction. . Click here to view the list of community organizations that are available to assist.

For help with the renter application process, you can also view our Tenant Application video tutorial:

Looking for FAQs for landlords? Click here.

For general information and updates about the Pinellas County Emergency Rental Assistance Program, visit our Where to Get Help page