By Gina Cappuccitti, Assistant Director, HousingLink
We’ve put together some answers to questions you may have regarding how COVID-19/coronavirus may impact renting an affordable apartment and accessing documents.
Is there guidance on getting documents for rental applications?
- If you rely on going in-person to get documents from financial institutions, employers, etc., work on learning how to access this information online as much as possible. Save any important documents in one place on via email, on a USB, or in a secure folder on your computer so you can have them ready for rental applications. Remember, you should not submit these documents to a landlord/broker until you’ve viewed the unit and they have provided you with an application.
- For most rental applications, you’ll need at least your most recent tax return. If you already filed for 2019, make sure you know how to access your tax return. If you did your taxes yourself online, make sure to download the PDF and save it in a secure location. If you had your taxes prepared by someone else, you may want to scan the documents into your email for easy digital access.
- If you need previous year tax returns, request a tax transcript by calling the IRS Transcript Request Hotline at 1-800-908-9946. This request will take about 10 business days, so you should make this request as soon as possible, even if you haven’t yet started applying to apartments.
- Make sure to retain your copies of your W-2s and 1099s to show as proof. If you don’t have them, these can be requested from the companies that paid you, not from the tax preparer. Start requesting 2018 and 2019 W-2 and 1099 forms from current and previous employers now, just in case you’ll need them.
- If you’re witnessing a drop in pay due to COVID-19, prepare to show your current earnings as well as your earnings prior to being affected by COVID-19. Any additional documentation such as a letter from your employer explaining that hours were reduced due to the current public health situation, or your tax returns showing stable income over time, can help when applying to apartments. Keep in mind, however, that reduced earnings may go on longer than you expect, so think about whether the rent will be affordable to you if your earnings are impacted for several months.
Are affordable buildings going to rent-up during this time?
- Affordable housing apartments through Housing Connect continue to rent up. If you are contacted for an apartment, you will be provided with information as to how to submit documents. For applicants who do need to submit documents in-person or by mail instead of online, accommodations are available. Full guidance from HDC regarding protocols in place during the pandemic can be found here. In addition, a joint memorandum from HPD and HDC detailing policy changes due to the pandemic can be found here.
- • Please note that on July 1, 2020 the new Housing Connect 2.0 portal was launched and replaced the former Housing Connect website that was previously used to submit applications. Buildings that you applied to via the old website will continue to contact applicants via mail or email with instructions for submitting documents. The new Housing Connect 2.0 portal allows applicants to directly get updates on their applications and to upload required documents directly within the portal, and also offers the option of scheduling an in-person appointment to submit documents, if preferred by the applicant.
- Always review the checklist of documents carefully to make sure you have everything ready for a Housing Connect apartment building. If you have been contacted for an apartment and have questions on what to submit, reach out ASAP to the contact person for the building. If you aren’t able to reach someone quickly, make sure that you submit all documents you have access to by the deadline they provide. The leasing agent will contact you if any documents should be missing.
What should people do if they have problems with a housing voucher?
- Limited HRA Offices are open at this time. If you are having any issues with getting a renewed shopping letter or have any concerns regarding your voucher, you can first try reaching out via phone or email to your housing specialist at your shelter or the case worker at your local Homebase office. If the issue cannot be resolved over the phone or email, you can go into an HRA Job Center that is open, even if it is not your regular Center. You can find the current status of all HRA Job Centers here.
- If you’re experiencing issues with landlords or brokers being unwilling to accept your voucher, you can take any or all of the following steps to address Source of Income Discrimination
- Educate yourself on what constitutes Source of Income Discrimination
- Call the HRA Source of Income Discrimination Unit to request mediation with landlords/brokers: 929-221-6576
- Call 311 to file a complaint with the NYC Commission on Human Rights
- Complete a Source of Income Discrimination complaint online with the New York State Attorney General.
What about Section 8 Vouchers through HPD?
Information listed below is from HPD’s website. For the most up-to-date information from HPD click here.
- All tenant conferences and briefings scheduled will be postponed and rescheduled at a later date.
- Participants experiencing a rent hardship due to a decrease in income may contact HPD via DTRAI@hpd.nyc.gov or by fax at 212-863-5299.
- HPD will automatically provide additional time for anyone with an active voucher. Clients do not need to reach out to HPD for an extension.
- HPD will temporarily suspend non-emergency HQS inspections. If you have a life-threatening condition, please call 311.
- All hearings for appeal are cancelled until further notice. HPD will continue to pay subsidy until a final determination is made.
What about Section 8 Vouchers through NYHCA?
People with Section 8 vouchers administered by NYCHA should call the Customer Contact Center at 718-707-7771 with any issues that come up, including if your voucher is expiring soon. Call at least a week and a half before the expiration date on the voucher. You can also make some updates on your NYCHA Self Serve portal account.