Questions and Answers for Landlords with tenants receiving Temporary Assistance
Erie County Department of Social Services
Temporary Assistance Program
Rath Building - Room 406
95 Franklin Street
Buffalo, New York 14202
Q1 What is a 'Landlord's Form'?
A: Applicants or recipients [A/R's] of Temporary Assistance [TA] must furnish evidence verifying residence, shelter costs, and household composition. To assist A/R's in obtaining this information, the Department of Social Service [DSS] provides a 'Landlord's Form' [B-1231 or DSS-3668] that is completed and signed by the landlord. Use of this form by this Department does not guarantee a case will be opened, obligate DSS to pay the rent, nor does it provide any security against non-payment or damages.
Q2 What is meant by household composition?
A: Basically, it is a list of all persons in the household. A household includes all related and unrelated persons residing in the applicant/recipient's house or apartment. It is important that the landlord lists everyone who lives in the household when they complete the Landlord's Form. All persons whose signatures appear on any rental lease agreement must be listed on this form unless the landlord has personal knowledge that they no longer reside at the address in question.
Q3 After the Landlord completes the Landlord's Form for an applicant, how long will it take for the tenant to receive assistance?
A: The decision to accept or deny an application must be made within 30 days from the application date for Family Assistance [FA] cases, or up to 45 days from the application date for Safety Net [Single Individuals and Childless Couples] cases. Delays may occur if the applicant is late.
Q4 What if the tenant/applicant is already behind in rent and has been issued an eviction notice?
A: Applicants who are found eligible for Temporary Assistance may receive an allowance for rent for a time prior to the time the case was opened only under certain circumstances and if specific conditions are met. An applicant facing eviction should inquire at the time of applying to determine if they qualify.
Q5 What should a Landlord do if the tenant never moves in?
A: If it appears that the client is using the address for Temporary Assistance purposes [i.e. they are receiving mail from DSS], you should notify the Fraud Hotline at 858-1886 or put it in writing and mail to:
ECDSS - Temporary Assistance
95 Franklin Street - Room 406
Buffalo, New York 14202-3959
Q6 What is a Security Agreement?
A: It is a written agreement between the Department of Social Services and the landlord which provides security against non-payment of rent or for client caused damages. A Security Agreement can only be provided if the A/R meets certain criteria regarding the reason(s) for moving and is unable to obtain suitable permanent housing without it. Examples of the criterion include [but are not limited to]: moving to less expensive property; moving because of a disaster and/or a vacate order placed on the premises by a health agency or the landlord; having to move because of a serious medical or physical handicap, or the current living situation is harmful to the health, safety and well being of the A/R or their family. Issuance of this agreement requires the apartment be inspected by the Health Department before occupancy. Also, the agreement must be arranged before the tenant moves in.
Q7 How can a landlord get a security agreement?
A: The tenant [A/R] must apply for a Security Agreement, prior to moving, through the DSS Housing Unit located on the first floor at 158 Pearl Street. The A/R must meet certain criteria regarding the reason(s) for moving, in order to be eligible [see examples in Q6]. If approved, the landlord must sign and will receive a copy of the Security Agreement Document [B-1133a] before the tenant moves in.
Q8 How does a landlord make a claim with a security agreement?
A: A written claim listing the damages or an itemized statement of the rent owed must be sent to the:
ECDSS Housing Unit
95 Franklin Street
Buffalo, NY 14202
The client is notified of the claim and will be given the opportunity to refute the claim by providing rent receipts, etc. DSS will review the claims and testimony in making a determination.
Q9 Does the Department pay cash security deposits for clients?
A: In some circumstances, DSS has paid a cash security deposit, but only where the client's situation is such that it is necessary to deal with a serious housing emergency involving a large family, and/or one which is having unusual difficulties in obtaining permanent housing. When such a deposit is paid, the landlord must sign an agreement to hold it in escrow, and to return it to DSS, not the client when the client moves out.
Q10 Can the rent be sent directly to the landlord each month?
A: Except in special circumstances [see below, and Q18 and Q 21], this is a voluntary decision entirely up to the tenant. Any person applying for or receiving Temporary Assistance has the right to request that the DSS restrict the rent from their grant and issue it on their behalf to the landlord. The tenant/client must choose if payment will be issued as a direct one-party check, payable to the landlord, and mailed to his or her address.
There are rules which limit how much we can pay and under what circumstances.
The restricted payment may be involuntary in cases where it has been determined that a client has mismanaged funds [i.e., DSS has made a duplicate payment to prevent eviction]. In these situations, payments cannot exceed the shelter limitations set by the State of New York and the tenant will be required to have the landlord paid directly by a one-party check.
Q11 How does a tenant/client voluntarily request a restricted rent payment and how long will it take to be authorized?
A: The tenant must complete, sign and date a 'Request for a Voluntary Restricted Rent Payment' form and give it to their worker. If the client is eligible, DSS will make every attempt to comply with the request within 45 - 60 days. For example, if a request is received by DSS on October 4th, the first payment may be issued for November 1st, but should always be issued no later than December 1st.
Q12 What happens if a restricted rent payment is requested and the Department doesn't make the change for two months?
A: Until the restricted rent payment is authorized, the A/R will receive the rental allowance in their cash grant and is responsible for paying the rent. The A/R should call or write his/her worker to inquire about the delay.
Q13 How will the landlord be notified of the status of restricted rent payments?
A: Clients always have the responsibility, as a tenant, to keep their landlord informed. DSS will also send a notice to the landlord regarding restricted rent payments to which they are a party. Any time a payment begins, ends, or is changed, a notice will be sent.
For any client who has voluntarily requested a new restricted payment [or who has asked to continue an existing one at the time of recertification] since October 1, 1999, there is a new requirement that he/she give DSS a 30 day written notice of any changes to this request. If a client who has been made aware of this requirement fails to give DSS the required advance notice, the next rent payment would go to the original landlord as scheduled, and the change would not be effective until the following month. There are exceptions for emergencies and other special circumstances.
While it is our policy to send notification to the landlord, our Department will not accept financial liability to any individual landlord based simply upon our failure to issue such notice.
Q14 What other information can the Department of Social Services release to landlords in regards to a tenant on Temporary Assistance [TA]?
A: In general, this Department cannot release any information without the client's expressed written permission.
Q15 What happens if a direct one-party rent check issued to a landlord is lost or stolen?
A: The landlord should call the Lost or Stolen Check Unit at  858-6676.
Q16 What happens if a tenant in receipt of TA has fallen behind in rent?
A: Mismanagement is determined when a client fails to pay rent or to pay it on time for two or more consecutive months. If a recipient fails to pay rent and is documented in writing by the landlord, that recipient will be required to have the landlord paid directly by a one-party check. Once mismanagement determination has been made, it follows the client to a new address. Note: that so long as a client pays at least their State set shelter allowance to the landlord on time each month, DSS may not declare financial mismanagement and place the client on restricted payment.
Q17 What can a landlord do if a tenant receiving Temporary Assistance moves without giving proper notice?
A: Recipients who have voluntarily requested a new restricted payment [or who have asked to continue an existing one at the time of recertification] since October 01, 1999 and who have signed the appropriate agreement are required to give DSS 30 days written notice before the Department will make any change to that payment. If a client fails to give proper notice, the next rent payment will go to the current landlord as planned and the requested change would not be made until the following month. This requirement gives the Department the opportunity to mail out a notice to the landlord prior to the change occurring. In the case of an emergency or a valid tenant-landlord dispute, there are exceptions to this requirement.
In all situations, DSS has no legal liability in the matter and the landlord must pursue payment as they would with other tenants. If the landlord has a written security agreement from DSS, they may make a claim [see Q8].
Q18 What should a landlord do if they observe inappropriate behavior or actions by a tenant who receives Temporary Assistance?
A: DSS has no legal authority to intervene in the day-to-day affairs of a client unless it involves Child Abuse or Neglect. Under these circumstances, a landlord should call the:
Child Abuse Hotline @ 1-800-342-3720