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Got COVID rental assistance? You may be denied housing

Posted at 5:00 AM, May 11, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-11 13:29:03-04

Finding a Valley rental is hard enough. How about being denied because you applied for rental assistance or that you asked about your application status too many times?

Recently, Marlo found how choosy some rental owners have become.

"I knew it would be difficult, but not this difficult," Marlo says.

She moved to Seattle to be near her daughters.

Marlo found a job and is doing well but misses the Valley and wants to come back.

And she finally thought she found an affordable apartment. It's a 1-bedroom/1-bathroom apartment in Phoenix for less than $1,000 a month, rented by property manager Market Edge Realty LLC.

Marlo looked through the rental application and the dozens of rental criteria she'd have to meet to get in.

She says she doesn't have any bankruptcies and has good credit.

But then Marlo saw something she says disturbed her.

"I don't know if that's legal, first of all," she says.

One of the criteria states, "if rental assistance has been received or an application has been placed in the last two years from a government entity, nonprofit, friend, or family will lead to a decline."

Marlo asked the property manager if that includes COVID-19 assistance.

They replied yes, "we would not be able to approve the application."

"I got behind on my rent and that's the only way to pay," she says.

Marlo did get rental assistance thinking it was a responsible move given what she and thousands of others were going through during the pandemic.

"I lost my job because of COVID," she says. "How does that make me a bad person?"

Marlo thinks people like her are being penalized for doing the right thing.

"I thought it seems pretty unfair," says attorney Pam Bridge with Community Legal Services. "They tried to get rental assistance to pay their landlord."

The rental declines also include anyone who just applied for the assistance.

"We want to encourage tenants to continue to apply for rental assistance if they need it," Bridge says.

But while she thinks the practice is unfair, illegal is another question.

Bridge says landlords can rent to who they want unless it is considered discriminatory based on the Fair Housing Act criteria that protects race, color, national origin, religion, sex (including gender identity and sexual orientation), familial status and disability.

She says those last two classes, familial status and disability, might come into play here.

Section 8 is considered rental assistance and is used by people who are elderly and disabled.

"It basically would impact those people more than it would impact others and that raises issues in my mind that there could be fair housing issues," Bridge says.

Market Edge Realty LLC manages a number of Valley properties.

They did not respond to our calls and emails asking for an explanation of their rental criteria.

There are more than three dozen criteria points, including a decline if you have "current occupancy in a hotel."

Renters could also be declined for "multiple emails, calls, texts in a 24-hour period to inquire about the application."

Marlo still hopes to move back to Phoenix, but she knows it's now a place where landlords have the upper hand.

"They feel they have all of the cards and it's not an even playing field for everybody," she says.

So, what do you think? Is this just owners protecting their properties or is this over the top and unfair to renters?

You make the call!

Go to the Let Joe Know Facebook page and let me know either way.