KPRC 2 investigates complaints against Texas’ Rent Relief program

Common reasons renters are waiting and how to get help faster

How to increase your chances for help

Houston – Since February, the state of Texas has paid landlords more than one billion dollars for tenants who can’t afford to pay rent. KPRC 2 Investigates has received dozens of complaints from people all over the state who say they are waiting weeks and months for promised help. We are looking into where the money is going and how to get help faster if you need it.

“You sit on hold from two to three to four hours at a time, which is very difficult when I’m trying to take care of him,” said Wendy Christoph, a retired grandmother raising her 16-year-old grandson with special needs. She needs help paying rent for their one-bedroom apartment, but Texas Rent Relief says it’s currently only giving money to tenants who are already late on their rent.

“I’ve had no callbacks. There’s no way to reach a human to say I don’t have a late notice,” said Wendy.

Even landlords trying to help their tenants have reached out to KPRC 2 Investigates.

“I feel like I’m getting the run-around,” said landlord Douglas Ripley. “Frustrating. Very, very frustrating.”

Where is the money going?

Texas Rent Relief said since February, it has given $1,059,864,257 to more than 184,429 households all over the state.

“We have seen tremendous improvement,” said Christy Rodriguez of the Houston Apartment Association.

The Houston Apartment Association said the Texas Rent Relief program struggled in the first months after it rolled out in February, but Rodriguez who also helps manage 3,400 units with Judwin Properties, said the program has been a lifeline for tenants and landlords.

“Ninty percent of the time when there are delays, it’s because the applicant needs to follow up and send some kind of documentation to the program administrators,” said Christy.

If you need rent relief, do these 3 things

We asked the experts who’ve helped hundreds of tenants get approved, how others who need help can get it and quicker.

1. Don’t just go straight to TRR for help

If you live in Houston or Harris County, apply for rent relief first with the Houston Harris County rental assistance program.

The city of Houston and Harris County are working together to provide rent and utility assistance to families who are struggling due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The funds are distributed by two agencies with established experience in helping people in need: Bakerripley and Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston. To date, the Houston Harris County Rental Assistance Program has paid out $235 million to 60,740 households.

“It’s been around a little bit longer than the state program. And so, it’s a little bit more established,” said Rodriguez.

On average, it takes about two weeks to get rent relief from the local program, compared to about 10 weeks from Texas Rent Relief.

2. Check your documents before sending

The Houston-Harris program set up Navigators and non-profit volunteers like the YMCA to help renters with their applications.

They say many applicants aren’t providing the right documents. You can check the state’s list of required documents here. Others are providing too many documents, slowing the approval process.

“Strictly follow the instructions. If it’s asking you for the lease, you attach just the lease, not something else,” said Dario Lipovitz of the YMCA of Greater Houston.

Both programs can pay up to 18 months of rent, past due payments dating all the way back to March 2020, and future payments. If you are denied for certain months of past due rent, when you re-apply do not ask for payments for those same months again. That can bog down the approval time.

3. Use an app to help with sending paperwork

Technology is a problem for many applicants who don’t have access to scanners and printers to send in the required documents. One volunteer said she recommends the free Cam-scanner app. It lets you scan those required documents and easily submit them to the state straight from your phone.

You can see which neighborhoods in the greater Houston area have gotten the most rent relief from the state program.

About the Authors:

Passionate consumer advocate, mom of 3, addicted to coffee, hairspray and pastries.

Award-winning TV producer and content creator. My goal as a journalist is to help people. Faith and family motivate me. Running keeps me sane.