(WSVN) - You qualify for rental assistance to pay your rent, but your landlord won’t accept the money. Do they have to? Plus, can your insurance company raise your rates if you don’t get vaccinated? And what happens if you make a fake vaccine card? Lots of answers now from Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.

Shevella beat COVID twice, but the virus left health problems that kept her from from working and getting a paycheck.

Shavella Mainor, qualifies for help: “I had to use all my savings because I was out of work. Bank account right now is overdraft $144.”

That meant Shevella and her partner were late on the August rent.

Shavella Mainor: “I need help. I need a lot of help.”

Fortunately, the Federal Emergency Rental Assistance Program will cover their $1,900 August rent, but Shevella’s property manager wouldn’t accept the $1,900.

Shavella Mainor: “Why are you denying me my right to rental assistance? If the funds are there and the government are giving funds to help people, why are you denying me?”

The Broward Emergency Rental Assistance Program, which doles out the money from the feds, tried to reason with the manager.

Shavella Mainor: “He said all she has to do is fill out the email and return it. He said, ‘We have reached out to her twice, and she hasn’t done it.'”

Shavella says she was told the owners have accepted rental assistance for other tenants but not her.

Shavella Mainor: “I am just asking for one month. September, I will be back on track. The money will be coming from my bank account to go to her.”

And if the landlord doesn’t take the rent money for August, Shavella and her two children will be evicted.

Shavella Mainor: “I am hurt. I am angry. I am worried about my kids. I am grown. I can fend, but my kids are what I am worried about.”

Well, does a landlord have to accept federal rental assistance, Howard?

Howard Finkelstein, 7 News Legal Expert: “No, you cannot force a property owner to accept federal rent money, in part, because every government program has strings attached, and the landlord doesn’t have to accept those terms if they don’t want to.”

The federal government wobbled on lifting the eviction ban, so are evictions legal now?

Howard Finkelstein: “Legally, it’s a confusing mess, and it’s not clear what the federal law is now, meaning it will be up to each judge to individually decide on a case by case basis.”

A proof of vaccine question: can a business like a cruise line or a coffee shop or a restaurant require you to show them your proof of vaccination card?

Howard Finkelstein: “They can demand to see it, and you have the right to refuse to show it if you have one, but they don’t have to let let you in or serve you.”

And we are hearing about people creating fake vaccine cards. What can happen to them if they get caught?

Howard Finkelstein: “The FBI says it’s a federal crime to make or buy a fake vaccine card. It’s not worth having the FBI come after you to get on a cruise ship or into a restaurant.”

If you decide to not get vaccinated and get COVID, can your employer refuse to pay you for the sick days?

Howard Finkelstein: “If they make that their policy now, yes. They can refuse to give sick days in the future to unvaccinated employees who get COVID.”

Another question we got: can your insurance company raise your rates if you don’t get the vaccine?

Howard Finkelstein: “Not right now, but it might be coming. Congress passed a law to allow insurance companies to charge smokers more, and it wouldn’t be surprising if they did the same thing to people who had COVID or refused to get vaccinated.”

Shavella Mainor: “Just got clearance to go back to work.”

That’s good news. Even better? Shavella won’t be evicted because the property manager is accepting the $1,900 from the government for the August rent, and the best news? Shavella won’t have that person to deal with much longer.

Shavella Mainor: “My lease will be up in December. I will be gone. I don’t want to stay here no more.”

The coronavirus isn’t going away and neither are the problems it created. Stay in touch with us if you have questions you need answered.

Of course, you still have a ton of other problems that have nothing to do with the virus. If you need our help, get in touch with us. We will be here for you.

I thought you were going to say always be here for you. We won’t live forever.

CONTACT HELP ME HOWARD:
Email: helpmehoward@wsvn.com
Reporter: Patrick Fraser at pfraser@wsvn.com
Miami-Dade: 305-953-WSVN
Broward: 954-761-WSVN

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