The Zero Balance Project: Rental Assistance in Dakota, Hennepin and Ramsey Counties, and Minneapolis and St Paul

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The counties of Dakota, Hennepin and Ramsey, and the cities of Minneapolis and St Paul are offering emergency rental assistance through a program called The Zero Balance Project.

The application is open.

 In The Zero Balance Project, landlords start and lead the application on behalf of their renters.

Landlords apply here

 

There are two emergency rental assistance programs in MN right now: RentHelpMN and The Zero Balance Project.

Read the following before you apply:

The State of Minnesota recently announced a plan to end the eviction moratorium. With the expiration of the moratorium, renters are protected from eviction if they have applied for COVID-related federal emergency rental assistance, including from both the Zero Balance Project and RentHelpMN.

The Zero Balance Project is coordinating with RentHelpMN to prevent duplicate payments of emergency rental assistance, which is required by federal guidelines. As part of the RentHelpMN application, applicants agree not to apply for other federally supported COVID-19 emergency rental assistance programs. Zero Balance Project will only be processing applications for renters that do not have active applications in RentHelpMN.

Your Zero Balance Project application will not be advanced if you currently have an application that has been “submitted” in RentHelpMN. Log-in to RentHelpMN or call 211 to confirm your status in RentHelpMN, or email zerobalanceproject@housinglink.org with questions.

My renters applied for RentHelpMN. Can we apply for assistance through The Zero Balance Project?
Property owners/managers and renters can only receive assistance from one program for the same months.

If the renter has submitted an application to RentHelpMN, please continue to work with that program. 

I am a property manager/owner who has already registered my properties with RentHelpMN. Do I also need to register and provide information to The Zero Balance Project?
If your renter has submitted an application to RentHelpMN, please continue to work with that program.

If your renter has not submitted an application to RentHelpMN and you would like to start an application with The Zero Balance Project, you will need to register in The Zero Balance Project and upload the requested documents there.

Documents and information cannot be transferred between programs. Remember that property owners/managers and renters can only receive assistance from one program for the same months of assistance. 

I previously received assistance from RentHelpMN or from Hennepin County’s March 2021 application. Can I request The Zero Balance Project assistance if I still need help?
In all cases you can only receive 15 months of rental assistance total from all programs combined, which will expand to 18 total months soon.

If you received assistance from RentHelpMN, stay with that program. If you received assistance from Hennepin County's March 2021 program, apply with the Zero Balance Project.

I haven’t started an application yet. Which program is best for me, RentHelpMN or The Zero Balance Project?
For those seeking rental assistance in Dakota, Hennepin and Ramsey counties who haven’t applied for rental assistance from RentHelpMN, either program is available to you.

For renters and property managers/owners who prefer the renter lead the application process, RentHelpMN may be the better option.

For renters and property managers/owners who prefer the property managers/owners lead the application process, The Zero Balance Project may be the best choice.

What is the difference between RentHelpMN and The Zero Balance Project?
RentHelpMN and The Zero Balance Project are both emergency rental assistance programs, funded through the same federal grant program.

RentHelpMN is a statewide program where the renter leads the application process.

The Zero Balance Project serves Dakota, Hennepin and Ramsey counties where the property owners and managers lead the application process. Here are highlights of each program.

RentHelpMN 

  • Statewide 
  • Both tenants and property owners/managers can start applications 
  • Renters provide income and demographic information, past-due rent and/or utility bills and lease agreement and demonstrate impact by COVID.
  • Property owners/managers provide property and payment information and verify amount owed. 
  • Income limits: 80% AMI
  • Maximum assistance: up to 15 months 
  • Eligible expenses include rent, rental fees, utilities and tenant-paid utilities
  • Applications accepted on an open pipeline basis through at least December 2021 
  • Total funding $518 million
  • For more information, call 211

The Zero Balance Project 

  • Dakota, Hennepin and Ramsey counties, including Minneapolis and St. Paul
  • Property owners/managers start applications
  • Property owners/managers provide lease, property information, amount owed and payment information.
  • Renters provide income and demographic information, and demonstrate impact by COVID.
  • Income limits: 80% AMI
  • Maximum assistance: up to 15 months
  • Eligible expenses include rent, rental fees and utilities that are included in the lease. Utilities in the renter’s name are not eligible under this program. 
  • Total funding $34 million, with potential to add funds as needed 
  • For more information, email zerobalanceproject@housinglink.org

What Expenses are Eligible in The Zero Balance Project?

Unpaid rent
Dating back to March 13, 2020.

Unpaid utilities and fees included in the lease
Dating back to March 13, 2020.

  • Water
  • Sewer
  • Electric
  • Gas
  • Trash/Solid Waste/Recycling Collection
  • Bulk Fuel (Firewood, Wood pellets, propane)

Unpaid late fees 
Up to 8% of total rent, as allowed by MN statute, dating back to March 13, 2020.

3 Months of Future Rent (prospective rent)

  • Unpaid rent must be brought current before future rent payments are approved.
  • Utilities that are covered by the landlord as part of the rent payment are treated as rent. 

Which Renter Households are Eligible for The Zero Balance Project?

The renter is at risk of homelessness or housing instability.

The property is located in one of these areas:
  • Dakota County
  • Hennepin County, including Minneapolis
  • Ramsey County, including St. Paul

The income of the renter household is at or below 80% of Area Median Income:

  • 1 person household - $55,950
  • 2 person household - $63,950
  • 3 person household - $71,950
  • 4 person household - $79,900
  • 5 person household - $86,300
  • 6 person household - $92,700
  • 7 person household - $99,100
  • 8 person household - $105,500
At least one person in the renter household has qualified for employment benefits OR experienced a reduction in household income, incurred significant costs, or experienced other financial hardship due to the COVID-19 outbreak, such as:
  • Reduced hours or income.
  • Left job due to unsafe environment.
  • Left job to care for family.
  • Forced leave from work due to school closure or childcare changes.
  • Increased child care expenses.
  • Child at home due to school closures.
  • Internet access and computer costs required to work or attend school remotely.
  • Medical or funeral expenses due to COVID-19.
  • Purchase of personal protective equipment.
  • Alternative transportation costs.
  • Contracted COVID-19.
  • Quarantined due to COVID-19 exposure.
  • Cared for others with COVID-19.

What Landlords Need to Prepare For the Application to The Zero Balance Project

  • Completed w9.
  • Full copy of the lease. 
  • Property tax statement that shows where the property is located. (Dakota CountyHennepin County, Ramsey County)
  • Rent ledger that shows unpaid rent, fees, and utilities (only utilities included in the lease are reimbursed).
  • If the renter pays rent with the help of an income-based subsidy (e.g. Housing Choice Voucher) - A notice from the housing authority that shows how the renter portion of the rent was adjusted due to loss of income.
  • The renter's email address. This is how they are invited to complete their portion.

What Renters Need to Prepare for the Application to The Zero Balance Project

Verification of Income. 
In the application, renters are required to confirm that their income is eligible (View eligible incomes).

They have 3 options:

Option 1 - Upload a copy of the first 2 pages of their 2020 income tax return.

Option 2 - Upload paperwork that confirms they are eligible for programs that serve people with low incomes. For example: SNAP, WIC, Section 8, TANF, FDPIR, SNP).

  • The paperwork must show the renter's name and address.
  • The paperwork must also have been issued to the renter after 1/1/2020.
Option 3 (Two Options here)

1. Upload a Certification of Zero Income form. 
A copy of this form will be available to download in the application. 
2. Enter their source of income, and the amount, directly in the application.
The renter is required to upload documentation of their income (For example: A pay stub). In the application, renters are also asked to do the following:
  • Confirm that the amount of unpaid rent, fees, and utilities the landlord is requesting is accurate.
  • Identify their COVID-19 or financial hardship (View eligible hardships).
  • List any previous COVID-19 emergency rental assistance they received (or that landlords received on their behalf). They are asked to enter the amounts in the application.

Common Questions about The Zero Balance Project

What is the maximum amount I can apply for in each unit?
There is no limit.

Do my renters still have to live in the unit?
Yes.

How do I apply for the 3 months of the prospective (future) rent?
The renters do this
. In the renter part of the application there is a check-box where they can apply for prospective (future) rent if they know they will be unable to pay those future months. 

My renters are worried this will impact other assistance/benefits they receive. Will it?
No. This does not count as income. The payment goes directly to the landlord.

My renters are undocumented and are afraid to submit their information. What should I tell them?
Household names are NOT reported to ICE. Dakota, Hennepin, and Ramsey County will get access to the data, and so will the cities of Minneapolis and St Paul.

My renters will not complete their part of the application. Can I still apply?
No. Renters must also complete their part of the application.

How do I check the status of the application?

  • Log into your Neighborly Account
  • In the left column, click on "Tenant"
  • "Application in Progress" means not all of the information has been submitted (by the landlord or the renter).

If my application is approved, when will I receive payment?
A check will be mailed to the address provided by the landlord within 14 days of approval. 

How are applications prioritized?
Applications are reviewed and paid on a first come, first served basis except that through June 15, 2021:

  • Applications for rental arrears are processed before any applications that only contain prospective rents, and
  • Applications where the renter household income is at or below 50% of Area Median Income or one or more household members have been unemployed for 90 days or more are processed before other applications. 
Only landlords can start an application for emergency rental assistance through the Zero Balance Project.

Landlords apply here

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Spreadsheet to Upload Renters in Bulk

Are you applying on behalf of 10+ renters? Use this spreadsheet to upload in bulk

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