Steps to Take if You Can't Pay Your Rent This Month

If you're struggling, know that you aren’t alone. Millions of Americans are feeling financial hardships right now.

One out of every six renters was behind on rent during the last part of 2021, according to a recent report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Its not all bad news however, as there are options for people facing financial difficulties and struggling to pay their bills because raising prices and cost of living increases.

Here are seven things you can do right now if you have a hard time paying rent.


Seven Actions to Take Now if You Can’t Pay Rent

As soon as you realize you won’t be able to make your rent payment on time, take action. You have options, but the earlier you act, the better the outcome will be.

1. Review your lease agreement

If you have a signed lease agreement, take a minute to scan through it. Your agreement might give you some key information stipulated by property owners, such as how late you can make your rent payment without incurring late fees. This is known as a "grace period," and it can give you some idea of how many days or weeks you have before you could be facing eviction proceedings.

2. Contact your landlord

For many people, unemployment pay and stimulus checks aren’t enough to cover rent and living expenses. Reach out to your landlord right away and let them know your situation. Be honest and upfront and provide all documentation that you can, particularly if you’ve been furloughed or laid off.

Be prepared for mixed reactions. Your landlord has bills to pay as well and might be relying on your rent payments. By being honest and upfront though, there is a better chance they will understand your situation and be willing to work with you toward a solution. Many people face similar problems, and there's also a very good chance they'll know of programs which can help.

3. Explore & apply for rent assistance programs

Some county and local governments are offering rental assistance programs. This is in addition to funding from the federal government that's already trickling down to state and local groups.

To find out more about these options, do a simple Google search for your local city and county government, and add the keyword "rental assistance." For example, if you live in Kirkland, Wash., try searching for "Kirkland, Wash. rental assistance" to find that city's rent relief program. also partners with SpringFour to provide free and local financial resources, including tools to tools to connect you to safe, affordable housing. Visit Local Resources page for more information.

4. Know your rights as a renter

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention eviction moratorium ended on Aug. 26, 2021. But you still have rights that prevent you from facing homelessness.

A good place to find more information is tenant's or renter's unions, which are located in many states and local areas. These groups advocate for renter's rights and may be able to help you understand what eviction protections and available assistance you have. Local volunteer legal aid clinics are also a good source of information and legal services, as is your state's Attorney General’s office.

5. Work out a payment plan

Are you able to pay a reduced rate? Try to negotiate a payment plan with your landlord. Provide the amount you can pay each month, the due date, and a date when the unpaid rent would be repaid.

Of course, the pandemic situation is ever-changing, so be realistic when setting that date. But writing out your intentions can show the property owner that you are serious about making good on your lease. Be sure to keep a record of your conversation through email or letters, so you can reference it if needed.

6. Look for charitable help

Look to your community for support. Though you might feel compelled to shy away from this option, remember that your situation is most likely temporary, and it’s OK to lean on others for support when you need it.

The best place to get connected with charities or other resources that can help is, a network of local volunteers who can help confidentially connect you to the right people and nonprofits in your area.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development website offers links to rental assistance resources and state financial assistance that you might qualify for as well. If you or someone in your household is a veteran, HUD and the U.S. Veterans Administration have programs that can help you pay rent.

7. Seek assistance from a friend or family member

While it can be awkward or uncomfortable to ask, borrowing money from a friend or family member can be a viable option if you need immediate assistance paying rent. One advantage of borrowing from friends and family is that it can be more affordable than other types of borrowing. However, there are things you should consider before borrowing from friends and family, and even though it is a less formal process, it's always a good idea to put the loan agreement in writing.


How does Federal Rental Assistance Work?

The federal government has made nearly $47 billion available to people needing help with a subsidy for rent, utility bills, moving expenses and more through the Emergency Rental Assistance Program, or ERA. The only catch is that there isn't one single place to claim your share of the assistance funds. Instead, all of that money is distributed to state and local programs, which you can get connected with here.

The rules for each program vary, so eligibility often depends on where you live and what your particular circumstances are. For example, you may be eligible to apply for money directly if you are a renter. In other cases, your landlord may need to apply for you in order to get payment for your past-due rent. Local programs will usually spell out the rules.


You Don't Have to Struggle if You Can't Pay Rent This Month

Feeling like you don’t have money to pay rent or that you might be served an eviction notice can be nerve-racking because housing is your safety net.

If you or a family member is struggling, stay calm and know that there are more options now than ever before. By knowing your rights, engaging in meaningful conversation with your landlord and applying for rental assistance programs, you will be back in control in no time.


This content provided is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute financial or legal advice. RISE is not acting as a credit counseling or repair service, debt consolidation service, or credit services organization in providing this content. RISE makes no representation about the reliability or suitability of the information provided any action you take based on this content is at your own risk.


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