Emergency Rent Assistance

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Many people have financial problems. Sometimes the problems make it hard to pay rent.

That can be more than embarrassing. It can be frightening. Because if it goes on long enough, not being able to pay rent will lead to eviction.

But here is the first step for anyone who wants to avoid eviction: Make a plan. Eviction can often be prevented if tenants identify their options, work with their landlords or property managers, find some help, and go forward toward solutions. 

It can also be helpful to learn a little about North Carolina's eviction process, which includes some protections for tenants. If it is not possible to avoid the eviction process, it is a good idea to learn how eviction trials work, including how to prepare for them, and what defenses tenants can raise.

Help is available from the Pitt County Department of Social Services and other sources. DSS can provide up to $300 to eligible applicants. DSS also offers information about other housing assistance programs, subsidized housing options, and suggestions about how to work effectively with landlords and property managers.

To be eligible for rent assistance from DSS, an applicant must meet all 5 of the following criteria:

1. The applicant must have received eviction documents from the Pitt County Small Claims Court or another court. These will typically include a Complaint in Summary Ejectment, which describes the reason for your eviction and the amount owed, and a Magistrate Summons that includes the scheduled date and time of the eviction trial. After the trial, a tenant may also receive a Judgment in Action for Summary Ejectment and, later, a Writ of Possession Real Property. To see what each of these documents looks like, please click on the name.

2. The applicant's household must also include at least one related person under the age of 18 who is related to the applicant. The relationship may be natural (sometimes called a "blood" or "biological" relationship – for example, a parent, grandparent, aunt, or uncle), by marriage (for example, a step parent), or adoptive. The applicant may also be the legal guardian of the child.

3. The applicant must also have a landlord who is willing to allow the tenant to stay in the house or apartment, provided that the landlord receives payment. 

Please be aware that a landlord may evict a tenant for reasons in addition to, or other than, unpaid rent. These include any reasons that are permitted by the tenant’s lease and by law – for example, damaging the property, creating problems for other tenants, using the property for illegal purposes, allowing unauthorized people or pets to live at the property, or “holding over” after the lease has expired. Even if a tenant pays all of the rent that is owed, the tenant can still be evicted for one or more of these other reasons. 

A tenant is not eligible to receive help from the Emergency Rent Assistance Program if the landlord is evicting the tenant for any reason other than unpaid rent. DSS will verify the landlord’s willingness to allow the tenant to remain in the house or apartment before DSS approves an application. Tenants are therefore encouraged to talk with their landlords before applying for help from the Emergency Rent Assistance Program. 

4. The applicant must also pay any charges owed to the landlord in excess of what the Emergency Rent Assistance Program is able to pay, provided that the landlord makes payment of these charges a condition of allowing the tenant to remain. These charges must be paid, and a receipt must be provided by the tenant to DSS, before an application can be approved. 

Please be aware that DSS can pay no more than $300 of unpaid rent. Also, DSS cannot pay any portion of other charges such as late payment fees, damage charges, or charges for utilities that are provided through the landlord. 

5. The household must also demonstrate that its income during the previous 30 days was less than 200% of the federal poverty guidelines. But the household must also show that it will likely have enough future income to pay its rent and other expenses. For example, many applicants who qualify for rent assistance show that they have gotten a new job, are recovering from an illness, or have recently been approved for disability benefits or an income supplement program.

If you would like to apply for emergency rent assistance, please ask for an application at the front desk of the DSS Human Services Center, which is located at 203 Government Circle in Greenville.

But please get started right away. The sooner you begin, the better your chance of avoiding eviction. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact the Department of Social Services at 252-902-1110.

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