Emergency Rental Assistance

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The Birmingham Emergency Rental Assistance Program

The City of Birmingham’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program is for residents experiencing difficulty in paying rent or utilities because of COVID-19. The program is also available for landlords. For more information or to start the application process online, visit www.birminghamal.gov/renthelp .

This is only for first-time applicants. Individuals needing help with an online application should call 205-778-2091. Email questions to rentalassistance@specialkindofcaring.org.

When completing the application online, residents should remember that several documents are required to complete the application process. Applications will not be considered ready for review unless the application has been completely filled out.

Please see the list below of the documents that are required for online and in person.

Renters must provide their:

  • Signed lease
  • Driver’s license or another photo ID
  • Proof of Income (2021 taxes, paystub, unemployment award letter or bank statement.)
  • Past due utility bill (Power, gas, water)
  • Rent statement or ledger
  • Eviction notice
  • Valid email address
  • Documents showing the household has experienced direct or indirect negative economic impact due to COVID-19 or any other financial hardship
  • Landlord’s W-9, address of property for rental apartment and contact information

Landlords should provide their:

  • W-9
  • Property address for rental apartment
  • Contact information


This program is ONLY for renters who live within the city limits of Birmingham.

Please know that income is just ONE factor in qualifying for this program. Income levels and other qualifications may be found in the “Do I Qualify?” section, which is located lower down on this page. An FAQ about the program is also on this page.


Both landlords and tenants can use an online portal to create an account and submit their ERA application. The online portal will close on May 1, 2023.

When visiting the online portal for the first time, the applicant will need to:

  • Register first. The applicant cannot access the online application without first hitting the “Register’’ button on the link to create a profile.
  • When registering, the applicant will need to submit their email address and create a password.
  • When creating a password, the password will need to have a total of at least eight characters, including at least one capital letter, one number and one symbol.
  • Applicants cannot sign into the portal to start the application process until they have registered first.
  • When applicants return to the portal, they can hit the “Sign in’’ button and proceed.
  • Please remember/ write down your case ID #number.

If applicants do not have access to the internet and cannot complete an online application, the applicant will be referred to a case worker who can help them. For additional questions on the program, please send emails to rentalassistance@specialkindofcaring.org or call 1-205-778-2091.

The Birmingham Emergency Rental Assistance Program can help renters with the following costs that go back as far as March 13, 2020:

  • Past due, current and up to three months of expected rent costs
  • Past due, current or up to three months of expected utility and home energy expenses

Homeowners with past due mortgages are NOT eligible for this program

This program is NOT available for Birmingham homeowners who live in a home with a past due mortgage or delinquent utility expenses connected to the pandemic.

When applying for the Emergency Rental Assistance Program, participants seeking rental help are required to upload several, critical documents to the online portal, including their:

  • Signed lease
  • Driver’s license or another government-issued photo ID
  • An eviction notice or a letter from landlord saying they are behind in rent
  • Proof of income for each adult household member (tax documents, paystubs, unemployment award letter, savings and checking account statements, child support income documentation, if applicable) OR a determination letter from a government agency verifying a household member is at or below 80% of the area median income.

If the applicant has completed his or her household’s federal income taxes for 2021, they will need to provide one of the following:

  • Filed 2021 IRS Form 1040
  • Filed 2021 IRS Form 1040-SR

If the applicant has not yet completed his or her federal income taxes for 2021 OR they are not required to file a federal income tax return for 2021, the applicant will need to provide all of the applicable income documentation under one of these two categories:

Acceptable annual income documentation:

  • 2021 IRS Form W2
  • Current Social Security benefits letter or 2020 Form 1099-SA (including benefits paid to minors)
  • 2021 Form 1099-R
  • 2021 IRS Form 1099-MISC for contractor income

Other acceptable income documentation:

  • Check stubs from applicant’s employer for the previous 30 days
  • Current unemployment benefits letter including gross benefit amount
  • Current signed letter from applicant’s employer (on company letterhead) verifying gross wages (pay rate, hours/week, pay date)
  • Current pension/retirement benefit letter (if applicable)
  • Current annuity payment letter
  • Current interest statement 1099- INT
  • Current dividend statement 1099- DIV
  • Certification of income form signed (for self-employed or cash income)
  • Zero income form signed

Some forms needed for the application process. Not all forms are listed and not all may apply.

Participants seeking help with utility bills must upload:

  • A utility bill or bills showing a disconnected status

Landlords seeking assistance will need their W-9 form for their property.

Copies of a W-9 and other blank eligibility support documents may be found on this website. Applicants who do not have eligibility support documents, may want to check out the attachments on this website, print out a copy or copies, complete the form and upload it to the online portal as part of the application process.  

Landlord Application

Landlords applying for unpaid or future rent on behalf of tenants need to know that:

  • Any payments received by the landlord made under the City of Birmingham Emergency Rental Assistance program must be used to satisfy the tenant’s rental obligations to the owner first, then any other fees.
  • The tenant must sign the application.

What can landlords do to get ready to apply?

  • Identify which units and households they think qualify.
  • Notify all tenants to make them aware of the program.
  • Confirm that the households the landlord has identified meet the eligibility criteria noted below, gather documentation for the household and have it scanned and ready.
  • Seek the household’s signature for the application and have it scanned and ready.

 Tenant/Renter Application

For rental households applying directly for unpaid or future rent or utilities, please take note of this section. If the renter’s landlord is willing to participate, the renter can either apply directly and the system will contact their landlord for information, or the renter can work with their landlord to apply on their behalf by using the landlord application.

What Can Renters/Tenants Do to Get Ready to Apply?

  • Look at the “Do I Qualify?” list below and see if their household qualifies.
  • Gather all required documents to complete the application process.
  • If applying online, start thinking of a password to create an online registration profile. Those who need help with the application, should call the call center. The number for the call center is 205-778-2091.
  • Notify the landlord to let them know you are planning to apply. The landlord will have to sign off on what you are doing. What “sign off’’ means is that your landlord will need to go into the online portal and submit their W-9 and agree to accept the rent payment from the City of Birmingham. Please visit the Landlord Application section on this page for more information.


All payments will be made directly to the landlord and/or utility provider unless they do not agree to accept the payment.

Do I Qualify?

Renter households must have an income no more than 80 percent of the area median income (AMI) AND one or more members of the household must attest, in writing, that due to the pandemic, they have either:

  1. Qualified or received unemployment benefits; OR
    1. Experienced a reduction in income
    2. Incurred significant costs
    3. Experienced other financial hardship
  2. AND one or more individuals within the household must demonstrate they:
    1. Are at risk of experiencing homelessness or housing instability, which may include having a past due utility or rent notice or eviction notice, OR
    2. Live in unsafe or unhealthy conditions. For example, one or all of your utilities have been turned off.
  3. The households cannot be receiving federal rental subsidies or receiving assistance from other rental programs.
  4. The unit the applicant is renting must be their primary residence and be located within the Birmingham city limits.
  5. Any unpaid rent or utility bills the renter applies for can go no further back than March 13, 2020.
  6. Eligible utilities include electricity, gas, water and home energy costs only. Internet, phone and cable are not eligible.


For all applications, the City of Birmingham will first review and commit funds to applicants who meet one of the two priority groups below.

  1. If the applicant’s income is 50 percent or below the city’s area median income, OR
  2. Households where one or more household members are unemployed as of the date the renter applies for assistance, AND one or more household members (this can be the same household member) were unemployed for 90 days prior to the date the renter applied for assistance.
  3. First time applications.

Useful Tips

  • If applying online, it’s better to use a desktop or laptop instead of a cell phone.
  • The recommended browser is Google Chrome, but this application process will work with any modern web browser (i.e. Internet Explorer v10+, FireFox, Safari).
  • Because several documents will need to be uploaded as part of the application process, applicants need to be aware that all documents must be clear and legible when submitted.
  • If an applicant encounters problems with the application process, they may contact the call center at at 205-778-2091.
  • Gather all documents in advance before going online to apply in order to have immediate access to what is required.

Legal Disclaimers

  • Falsification of documents or any material falsehoods or omissions in an application to this program, including knowingly seeking duplicative benefits, is subject to state and federal criminal penalties. Landlords and tenants are particularly put on notice that 18 U.S.C. §1001 provides, among other things, that whoever knowingly and willingly makes or uses a document or writing containing any false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or entry, in any matter within the jurisdiction of any department or agency of the United States will be fined not more than $10,000 or imprisoned for not more than five years, or both.
  • This program has specific eligibility requirements and not all households may be eligible.
  • Funds may not still be available by the time a household applies.
  • Other program limitations may also apply. Once the renter has completed the application and the application has been assigned to a case manager, the renter should follow up with the case manager if there are questions on this topic.