$50M Available to Rhode Island Homeowners Facing Foreclosure

You might qualify for up to $50,000 from Rhode Island’s COVID mortgage-relief program.

By , Attorney · University of Denver Sturm College of Law

Update: As of July 25, 2023, the HAF-RI program is closed to new applications. However, if you're facing a foreclosure, you might still have time to work out an alternative with your loan servicer. Contact your servicer to learn about available options. Also, if you have questions about the foreclosure process in Rhode Island or want to learn about potential defenses, consider talking to a foreclosure lawyer.

In early 2021, President Joe Biden signed the American Rescue Plan Act into law. This law created a Homeowner Assistance Fund, a federal program, to give $10 billion to the states to help households that are behind on their mortgages and other housing-related expenses due to COVID-19.

Eligible homeowners in Rhode Island who've experienced a financial hardship because of COVID-19 can get a portion of the $50 million allocated to the state (up to $50,000 per household) by applying to the "Homeowner Assistance Fund—Rhode Island" (HAF-RI) program. This program helps homeowners pay overdue and future mortgage payments, as well as other housing-related costs.

What Expenses Will HAF-RI Pay?

You can use HAF-RI funds to pay a number of housing-related expenses, including:

  • overdue mortgage payments
  • upcoming monthly mortgage payments
  • principal reduction
  • property taxes, homeowners' association fees, and condominium association fees, and
  • utilities, flood insurance or mortgage insurance, and other housing-related expenses if you get assistance for one of the expenses listed above.

If you need help for utility costs only, you might qualify for assistance under another state, local, or private sector program, like LIHEAP.

How Can I Qualify for HAF-RI Assistance?

To qualify for financial help from the HAF-RI program, you must meet all of the following eligibility requirements.

  • Your household income must be no more than 150% of the Area Median Income (AMI), which varies by household size.
  • You must own and occupy a one- to four-unit dwelling in Rhode Island.
  • You must have experienced a COVID-19-related financial hardship after January 21, 2020, meaning a material reduction of your income or material increase in your expenses.
  • Your mortgage balance must have been less than $548,250 when you took out the loan.

Under U.S. Department of the Treasury rules, priority for assistance will be given to homeowners whose income is 100% or less of the AMI ($86,500 for a family of four in most areas of Rhode Island). Priority is also given to socially disadvantaged homeowners, such as members of a group that have been subjected to racial or ethnic prejudice or cultural bias within American society. But the program won't consider your net assets when qualifying you for assistance.

You might be eligible for financial help from HAF-RI even if you're current on your mortgage or back at work, particularly if you've returned to work but are earning less than you used to. Also, you can qualify for assistance if you're in bankruptcy, but your lender or servicer will have to get approval from the bankruptcy court before you can get HAF-RI assistance. Talk to a bankruptcy lawyer to get information about how to get a court's permission to participate in the HAF-RI program.

How the Rhode Island COVID Mortgage Relief Program Works

Assistance is structured as a grant that you don't have to repay. Funds from the program will be distributed directly to your mortgage servicer, utility provider, or other entity you owe housing-related costs. Each household can get up to 24 months of assistance, but not more than $50,000.

How to Apply for Rhode Island's COVID Mortgage Relief Program

To apply for help from this program, go to the HAF-RI website. You'll need to provide some documentation with your application, like a government-issued ID (such as a driver's license), mortgage documentation, tax returns, household income documentation, and past-due housing-related expenses documentation. For a full list of the documents you need, go here.

How Long Will the Rhode Island Mortgage Relief Program Last?

The HAF-RI program will continue until the earlier of September 30, 2026, or when all of the funds allotted to the program have been exhausted. If you think you might qualify, it's best to apply as soon as possible.

Avoid Homeowner Assistance Fund Scams

If you get an unsolicited offer by phone, in the U.S. mail, through email, or by text message offering mortgage relief or foreclosure rescue services, be wary. Scammers sometimes target homeowners who are having trouble making their housing payments.

The HAF-RI program is free. If anyone asks you to pay a fee to get housing counseling or foreclosure prevention services from this program, it's a scam. You can report fraud concerning the HAF-RI program here.

Getting Help

To learn more about HAF-RI assistance and eligibility criteria, see the program's Frequently Asked Questions section. If you need help with the application process, contact a HUD-approved housing counselor, who will help you at no cost. To find a counselor near you, go to HUD's website or call 800-569-4287.

If you have questions about the foreclosure process in Rhode Island or want to learn about potential defenses to a foreclosure, consider talking to a foreclosure lawyer.