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Hawaii News | Kokua Line

Kokua Line: Tenant in need can apply for rental aid despite uncooperative roommates

Question: I looked on the website for the rent relief and it says that people with roommates can apply as a household and that “all income from all household members is included.”

I share a house with two friends and we split the rent. My problem is that I am the only one who lost my job. My friends don’t want to give me their income information or fill out any forms. They wouldn’t qualify anyway because they are working, but they don’t pay my third of the rent. Can I apply without them, just for my share of the rent? We aren’t really a household, just roommates, and I am the only one who doesn’t have enough money.

Answer: Yes. Assuming that you are otherwise eligible, the amount paid directly to your landlord would be prorated to cover only your allowable share of the rent.

We’ve been getting similar questions from others in your situation who have checked the website for the State Rent Relief & Housing Assistance Program (hihousinghelp.com/) and worried about requirements regarding household income.

We asked Catholic Charities Hawaii, one of the nonprofit organizations administering the grants, whether households with unrelated tenants must report total household income even if only one tenant is seeking financial assistance, and only for their portion of the rent. Here’s the reply from Jillian Okamoto, division administrator for Housing Assistance and Referral Programs:

“Technically, we are required to request information from all members on the rental lease. If the applicant states that some co-tenants do not want to apply, we will base the rental stipend not on the full rent amount, but on the number of people applying and willing to share documents and information. Regardless, we will pay their portion of the rent being requested as long as they are qualified for the program and have the necessary paperwork and credentials.”

So don’t be dissuaded from applying, even if your roommates won’t cooperate.

Demand for this program is very high, with Catholic Charities Hawaii and the Aloha United Way (the other nonprofit administering the program) each fielding thousands of queries. Grants of up to $2,000 per month for Oahu rentals are being dispersed, paid directly to the landlord.

“Since we are experiencing high call volumes, we do ask those inquiring about the program for their patience. Catholic Charities Hawaii received 2,500 phone calls during the first week the program was launched and are in the process of calling back those who left phone messages. Our best advice is to go to our website at catholiccharitieshawaii.org/housinghelp/ and apply online with our electronic application form. Also, please make sure you have the proper credentials and paperwork to ensure the application process goes as smoothly as possible, so those who qualify can receive payment in a timely manner,” Okamoto said in an email Wednesday.

You can find a checklist of necessary documents and information on the website.

Q: Can landlords whose tenants aren’t paying rent apply for this program?

A: No, the tenant has to apply, although the money is paid to the landlord.

Q: I live in my father’s condo but I pay him rent (he lives on the mainland now). Can I qualify if we draw up a lease?

A: No. Lease agreements between immediate family members are not eligible for this program.

To be clear, in reference to all of these questions, to be eligible, the tenant must be a full-time Hawaii resident 18 or older who can demonstrate loss of income because of the COVID-19 pandemic, along with meeting other requirements.

Mahalo

Mahalo to the gentleman who paid for my purchases at Longs at the Mililani Marketplace on Monday. I was so overwhelmed with your generosity, I don’t think I thanked you properly. Mahalo for your kindness. — P.K.L.


Write to Kokua Line at Honolulu Star-Advertiser, 7 Waterfront Plaza, Suite 210, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., Honolulu 96813; call 529-4773; fax 529-4750; or email kokualine@staradvertiser.com.


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