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I-Team: Texas Sent Millions Of Dollars In Rent Relief To Wrong Landlords

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) - It was relief money that was supposed to help struggling Texas renters from being evicted.

But a CBS 11 I-Team investigation discovered millions of dollars from the Texas Rent Relief program went to the wrong landlords or were sent to ineligible renters.

The Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs (TDHCA), which oversaw the billion-dollar statewide rent relief program, has sent out more than 7,000 recapture notices in hopes of getting back funds that were sent in error.

TDHCA has been able to recapture $10.6 million, but the state agency told the I-Team information about amount of money it is still trying to get back is "not available at this time."

recapture notice

Meanwhile, some renters have been waiting for months to receive relief funds they were approved for months ago because their funds were sent to the wrong person.

In August, Maraleah, a single mother in Dallas, received an approval letter from the Texas Rent Relief program for $8,600 in rent relief.

However, according to a recapture notice, her funds were sent to the wrong landlord.

Eight months later, her landlord had still not received the rent money Maraleah was promised.

"It's probably been the most stressful thing I've gone through," said Maraleah. "They literally gave us a security blanket and then ripped it off of us."

Maraleah (CBS 11)

Maraleah is not the only North Texas renter who had her rent relief funds sent to the wrong person.

When Patrice Hill lost her job as a substitute teacher when schools shut down during the pandemic, she applied and was approved for rent relief.

But just like in Maraleah's case, the Texas Rent Relief program sent her funds to the wrong landlord.

"For a couple of days I actually cried like 'why did this happen to me. I did everything the right way,'" Hill told the I-Team back in September.

When Hill was unable to get anyone with the state's department of housing to help, she reached out to the I-Team.

A government spokesperson told the I-Team somewhere in Hill's application process the agency made a mistake – calling it a "human error."

Hill eventually received her funds.

Patrice Hill
Patrice Hill (CBS 11)

Last month, the I-Team also reached out the TDHCA about Maraleah's case. Shortly thereafter, Marahleah received a call from a Texas Rent Relief supervisor.

"He apologized for the delay and said he would be issuing my payment immediately," said Maraleah, who first applied for rent relief in April 2021. "I was like, 'I really do appreciate you but I do have a question. Why has this taken you guys so long?' He said 'I really don't have an answer for you.'"

At the time this story was published, Maraleah was still waiting to receive her funds.

The TDHCA told the I-Team it does not have "definitive numbers at this time" as to how many people had their rent relief funds sent to the wrong landlord. However, a state spokesperson said the majority of 7,000 recapture notices were sent to people who received duplicate benefits. Renter who received assistance from local rent relief programs are not eligible to receive funds from the state program.

The state agency, however, said it was unable to provide numbers on exactly how many of the 7,000 recapture notices were sent to people who received duplicate benefits.

A TDHCA spokesperson told the I-Team, "As with any new program–especially one of this magnitude– we acknowledge there will be errors, and we work to remedy them. It's worth noting the 7,000 notices requesting return of funds represents less than 1% of the total disbursements."

The Texas Rent Relief provided more than $1 billion in emergency funds to more than 300,000 Texans.

Texas' housing department declined the I-Team's request for an interview with TDHCA Executive Director Bobby Wilkinson for this story.

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