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Landlords participating in rental program must have a biz license

Department of Commerce staff

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The American Samoa Government is expected to see a peak in the number of business licenses issued for the rest of this year as well as renewals for the new year due to landlords, who plan to participate in the federal Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP), being required to have current business licenses.

Some tenants during a Department Commerce workshop for renters, held last week, said that they are aware that their landlords don’t have business licenses.

The US Treasury Department awarded American Samoa a total of $17.9 million under the ERAP, which can provide residential rent and utility assistance to eligible individuals and families who have been impacted directly or indirectly by the COVID-19 pandemic.

DOC, which administers the ERPA in the territory, conducted tenant and landlord workshops last week and another tenant workshop was held last Friday morning at the Malaeimi Stake Center hall of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — where DOC official Lina Petaia told the more than 200 attendees that it’s required to have the landlord’s email address on the tenant’s application for the ERPA.  (See yesterday’s edition on the DOC workshop for renters.)

Petaia said that landlords were informed during their workshops that they need to provide their names, and also email addresses to their tenants, who apply for this program.

Petaia points out that landlords have their own requirements for the application process — such as proper identification, must have a business license, a voided check or bank statement — which is needed as the rent money goes directly to the landlord, not the tenant.

She said that several people who attended the landlord workshop, were honest saying that they do not have business licenses. And the DOC’s response is that this is the time for them to get it and apply at DOC.

“It’s important for the landlord to have a business license” not only for the rest of this year, but also the renewal for next year in order to receive the rental payments in 2022, she told the audience.

During the question portion of the workshop, there were at least four questions pertaining to landlords and Petaia emphasized that landlords are required to have business licenses and a tenant’s application is not accepted without the landlord having a business license and also applying for the program.

She said that landlords were told during their workshop of the importance of getting a business license to be eligible to apply for this program.

A female renter said that her landlord lives off island and “I know my landlord doesn’t have a business licenses.” The renter wanted to know if she can apply for a business licenses for the landlord, so that she can submit her application for the ERAP assistance — which brought laughter from the audience.

Petaia responded that DOC has the business license application available on its website online [] as well as the application for this program. So no matter where off island the landlord resides, she said they can apply online. And this information can be shared with the landlord.

According to a DOC posting on its Facebook page, the final ERAP workshop both for tenants and landlords was held last Saturday at Gov. H. Rex Lee Auditorium.