We ask for the assistance of the governor, our senators and representatives, and the Department of Finance in opening up the process with the department to allow landlords to participate in and assist with requests for rental assistance through RentHelpNM.
Our family rents a few affordable single-family homes in the Albuquerque area. The pandemic has impacted a number of our tenants’ ability to pay their rent for nearly two years. On one home, the last tenant payment was March 2021. They currently owe $12,600, while we’ve had to pay the mortgage all this time. On another home, the last tenant payment was April 2021. They currently owe $8,300, again while we’ve had to pay the loan.
We’ve worked with both these, and a number of our other, tenants to apply for rental assistance with RentHelpNM. This is not an easy process, nor should it be; however the process is sufficiently complicated that it defeats some folks who do not have strong administrative and computer skills. And there currently is no way for us to facilitate the process.
We are quite capable of providing the necessary paperwork, following up to ensure the application is complete, responding to requests for additional information or documents – however we are not given that opportunity.
We are forced to just sit on the sidelines, hoping the tenant has actually applied, hoping they have provided the necessary documentation, hoping they have responded to subsequent requests, all the while unable to take normal landlord actions to ensure folks live up to their lease obligations. The N.M. Supreme Court has prohibited us from proceeding with eviction actions – which we have used sparingly in the past and in only the most egregious cases – and, it is possible that some tenants use this protection irresponsibly to avoid paying rent while not bothering to apply for rental assistance.
As an additional aspect of this situation, the rental assistance checks for approved applications are sent directly to the landlord, and often it is the first indication the application has actually been made, is fully responsive and approved. We are delighted to receive them; however, we have heard from one of the tenants referenced above that they were “approved” for rental assistance by RentHelpNM in November 2021 and we have yet to receive the funds. Why not?
We have to wonder if the rental assistance check for that tenant and property went to some other party, was cashed and the application closed, but not being able to be part of the process, we have no way of knowing or checking. Why do we conjecture on this? Because, over the past year, we’ve received three separate checks for rental assistance for three separate unrelated properties and tenants who do not belong to us – which checks we have returned to the Department of Finance. Does this not make you wonder how often it has happened, to the detriment of the deserving tenant and landlord?