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Experts say El Pasoans applying for rental assistance should avoid these 6 mistakes

An online rental assistance application.
KVIA
An online rental assistance application.

EL PASO, Texas (KVIA) -- Local organizations providing mortgage, rent and utility assistance are facing overwhelming demand. Representatives say part of the problem is due to application errors slowing down the process. 

RELATED STORY: Organizations providing El Pasoans rent relief face overwhelming demand as many try to survive

Scott Lynch, the Executive Director of El Paso Apartment Association (EPAA), and Laura Ponce, Executive Director of Project BRAVO, offered some insight into the most common mistakes applicants make.

1. Application Quality Issues

Lynch told ABC-7 that one of the biggest quality issues he sees is when applicants take photographs of their documents (such as a lease agreement) instead of scanning them. Lynch said EPAA can accept photographs if they are neatly cropped, but many photos are uploaded with “strange angles” or “with the tenant holding the lease in their hands.” 

Many iPhone models offer users a chance to scan documents using their mobile phone. Open the ‘Notes’ application and create a new note. Select the camera button, then tap ‘Scan Documents.’ A user can then place a document in view of the camera. Save the document once the scan is complete.

Ponce said Project BRAVO encounters illegible handwriting on paper applications, bad data entry on online applications or scans of documents that are illegible. She warns these quality issues can result in delays because critical information cannot be entered easily. Ponce said that all information provided must be legible.

2. Incorrect Income Information

Lynch said many applicants have incorrectly listed their income on a monthly basis, rather than listing the annual income as EPAA’s form requires. 

For Project BRAVO applications, Ponce said proof of income is required for all household members for the past 30 days. She urges applicants to read instructions carefully. She said that other applicants have forgotten to submit the correct amount of paychecks required for their application.

5. Incomplete Applications

This one is simple. Lynch says several applicants leave sections or questions blank, which causes the application to be incomplete.  

Ponce said many applicants may do this to speed up the process.

"People often send in incomplete applications because they believe they are saving their spot, but then the process of requesting missing documents can delay approval by one to two weeks or result in denial of services if they do not respond to information/document requests in a timely manner," Ponce wrote in an email.

She said the applicant would be better to wait a day and gather all necessary documents to submit a complete applications. Ponce said complete applications have priority at Project BRAVO since funds can be spent once their application is proved. Incomplete applications are placed in a separate queue where staff must contact applicants to make corrections.

4. Inconsistent Answers 

Lynch said EPAA’s application for rental and mortgage assistance asks several of the same questions on separate pages, but he said some applicants fill them out with different answers. 

“Many tenants answer ‘Yes’ to one question, such as ‘Are you a full-time student?’, on one form, and then answer ‘No’ to the same question on a different form,” Lynch wrote in an email. 

Lynch said EPAA has sample applications they can provide tenants to simplify the process. He said he believes many are rushing through applications without reading instructions properly.

5. Incorrect Contact Information

Application screeners sometimes need to contact applicants to ensure an application is complete.

"Many applicants do not answer their phones, have full voicemail boxes, their phones have been disconnected," Ponce wrote. "[They] do not provide an email address, or they do not provide a family or friend as a backup."

If application screeners at Project BRAVO cannot reach an applicant, applications can be moved into the queue with incomplete applications. If contact is not made in a reasonable amount of time, the application can be denied.

6. Not Taking Notes While Receiving Help

Organizations providing assistance are dealing with unprecedented demand. It's why Ponce says it's vital applicants take notes while on the phone with representatives, so they can stay personally informed about their applications.

"Take detailed notes about the call so you can respond to the request," Ponce wrote. "Write down the name and extension of the person who called you so that you can call them back. Make a 'to do' list of all the action steps provided by the Project BRAVO staff member."

Ponce said the organization often gets phone calls from people who don't remember what information or documents were requested.

"We cannot direct the call to the proper person," Ponce wrote. "We have to take a message and then route it to the team of screeners who are busy screening thousands of applications."

Lifestyle / News

Madeline Ottilie

Madeline Ottilie is a reporter on Good Morning El Paso and co-anchors ABC-7 at noon.

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