Frequently Asked Questions – General

The program provides Emergency Rent and Utility assistance awards to eligible Okaloosa County landlords on behalf of their tenant residents who have experienced loss of income, reduction of working hours, unemployment, or significant additional expenses as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Qualified Extremely Low, Very Low and Low Income rental dwelling residents of Okaloosa County who are financially impacted by COVID-19 and their landlords. Tenant applicants must meet all of the following criteria to be considered for rent and/or utility relief:

  • Your household income must be under the Low Income limits listed in the chart below.
  • You must have had your income reduced, had significant costs, or had other financial hardship because of COVID-19 OR qualified for unemployment benefits between March 13, 2020, and the date of your application.
  • You must show you are at risk for becoming homeless or that you might lose your housing. This may include borrowing money to pay for housing costs or being behind in rent or utilities. It could also include getting an eviction notice or threats of eviction.

Please refer to 2020 Income Limits Chart here to determine household eligibility.

The program is open to rental tenants of Extremely Low Income, Very Low Income, and Low Income households (refer to chart above) who reside in Okaloosa County. Priority will be given to households and applicants whose income was Very Low prior to COVID-19 and to those applicants experiencing unemployment for 90 days or longer.

No. As long as you can show need, reduced income, or reduced work hours, and meet the income requirements you do not need to be on unemployment to qualify for this program.

There are many options. These include:

  • Higher or new utility bills because you’re home more.
  • Higher grocery bills.
  • Medical bills or funeral costs because of COVID-19.
  • Higher or new childcare costs.
  • Higher or new household costs.

 Note: Proof of increase will be required.

Yes.

No. You could have increased household or medical costs because of COVID-19 or there could be an unsafe condition in the household such as domestic violence that has given a need to move or change jobs and now have a hard time paying your rent or utilities.

The Okaloosa County Emergency Rental Assistance Program can pay for rent and some utilities owed back to March 13, 2020. The program may also cover up to three months of upcoming rent at one time. Utilities include electricity, water, sewer, trash, and gas. The program can also cover late fees for rent as long as the late fees are reasonable, legal, and included in your lease agreement. Okaloosa has set a limit of $100 for rental late fees. The program can also cover application or screening fees and security deposits if you moved because of COVID-19. You may apply for help with paying for utilities even if you do not need help paying for rent.

In addition to the information below, we encourage tenants and landlords to talk to each other about participating in the program because both will need to provide information when applying.

INCOME VERIFICATION:

          You will need to provide your 2020 annual household income OR your current monthly household income.

 

2020 Annual Income Option Items:

  • 2020 IRS Form 1040s for all household members 18 years or older OR

Current Monthly Income Option Items:

  • Proof of your household’s monthly income as of the application date.
  • Wage statements, pay stubs, IRS Form W-2, IRS Form 1099 and Schedule C if self-employed, interest statements, Form 1099 G or benefit statements from DEO Re-employment Assistance   account if unemployed, and other income proof for all household members 18 years or older
  • Submit eligibility determination letter from government agency dated January 1, 2020, or later (such as TANF, Medicaid, or SNAP.)

Plan to provide as much of your income information as you can.

 

If you qualify using the 2020 Annual Income Option and need help from this program later, you will not need to provide this information again as long as there are no household changes.

 

If you qualify using the Current Monthly Income Option and need help from this program later, you will need to provide your monthly household income every 3 months.

 

RESIDENCE & RENT PROOF

  • You will need to provide your lease or lease attestation if a lease is not available to prove your residence. The landlord/property manager should provide a ledger showing balance of rent owed, paid and any late fees. You may  need to provide past rent payment receipts and bank records as proof of how much rent you normally pay. If you can’t provide these documents, we will reach out to your landlord to confirm your residence and how much you owe.

UTILITY ASSISTANCE

  • You will need to provide copies of all utility bill(s) you need help with.

LANDLORD INFORMATION

  • Make sure you have the name, phone number, and email address for your landlord or property management company who will receive the payment, if approved.

You can notify your landlord that they will need to fill out a W-9 form and fill out a participation agreement. Rent payments cannot be made until your landlord provides the W-9 form, rent ledger and signed agreement. You do not need to worry about W-9 forms from utility companies.

1) Obligated to pay rent on a residential dwelling in Okaloosa County and

2) Experienced a reduction of income, incurred significant cost or other financial hardships due to COVID-19 or

3) Experienced unsafe living conditions (domestic violence)

Applicants may apply online at www.OkaloosaRentalAid.com, or they may download an application form and deliver the form to:

Okaloosa Emergency Rent and Utility Assistance Program

C/O The Integrity Group

2120 Killarney Way

Tallahassee, FL 32309

 

Yes, renters may apply for help paying for utilities even if they do not need help paying for rent. You will need to show past and current amounts due by providing a recent statement from the utility company/companies. A lease is still required to receive utility assistance.

Residents with limited or no access to a computer/technology may contact Okaloosa County’s contracted grant assistance provider, Integrity Group,  at 850-460-3316 for assistance with application submittal.  The application may also be submitted via most SmartPhones.

The monthly relief amount per qualifying applicant is determined by the rent payment agreed to in your lease. You may apply for back rent owed back to March 13, 2020, as well as up to 3 months of upcoming rent at one time. For example, you can apply in April 2021 and the application could cover April, May, and June 2021 rent AND any back rent you owe. This program can cover up to a maximum of 15 months of your rent.

Yes. You can get up to 15 months in past due and current rent. When the first 3 months are up, you can apply for continuing assistance. You may need to give current income information again and you will also need to show you still are at risk for homelessness or might lose your housing. Then you may be able to get up to three more months of help with rent/utility payments.

Only once.

Yes, Assistance may be provided to qualifying households residing as tenants in a residential housing unit owned by a friend or family member. Tenancy, however, must be evidenced by a valid written lease or lease attestation and documented payment transactions for a minimum of a 3- month period preceding the grant application must be provided. Households residing in housing units occupied by the owner or any person with a property interest in the housing unit are ineligible for award.

No. The funds are part of the County’s efforts to assist with reducing the risk of evictions and homelessness and to bolster community stability. No repayment of assistance will be required by the County unless it is determined that fraudulent information was provided to obtain assistance.

Residential housing units; single-family homes, townhouses, mobile homes, and apartments.

Our contracted grant assistance administrator is The Integrity Group.  They may be reached at 850-460-3316 or help@okaloosarentalaid.com

It is unlikely landlords will be successful in evicting tenants for nonpayment of rent during COVID-19, due to the federal eviction moratorium in effect through June 30, 2021, although landlords can still file eviction cases in Florida courts. Once parties sign the agreement for emergency rental assistance the landlord must pause the eviction.

Unfortunately, the Okaloosa Rental Assistance Program is only available to renters. If you have a mortgage, we encourage you to contact your mortgage servicer (the agency that sends you your mortgage statements) and talk with them.

No, the program cannot reimburse you. This program is only for rent that has not been paid yet. However, we consider needing to borrow money to pay rent as proof that you may need help for this program. You would need to meet other eligibility requirements as well.

Yes. You can apply as long as no one in your household owns the unit or is on the current mortgage for the property. You will need to provide your lease or rental agreement.

You may apply, However there must be an executed lease in place, and the lease must have been in place at the time rent assistance is being requested for. In addition you will need to provide proof that the payments were been made up till the time of the COVID pandemic.

You will be notified of the need to fill out and sign a participation agreement. You will also need to provide an IRS Form W-9,  a copy of the lease or rental agreement between you and the tenant applying for the program and a ledger of charges owed, what has been paid, and the total balance due for time of rent being requested. If you do not have a lease or rental agreement, you will need to send proof that you own the property (like a deed or tax bill).

 

If your tenant submits an application, the contracted grant assistance vendor, The Integrity Group, will send you an email or call you and let you know how to submit the necessary documents. You must provide your tenant with copies of your signed program documents.

You may help tenants complete their application. You may also start the process by submitting a landlord application with tenant information.

No.

Yes. You must repay the program for any month your tenant did not occupy the unit.

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Applications are open until the close date or until funds are exhausted.

Okaloosa County, FL

1250 N. Eglin Parkway – Suite 102

Shalimar, FL 32579

850-460-3316