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3 May 2020

This is What You Should Do if You Can’t Pay Rent on Time

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Are you finding it difficult to cover your monthly living expenses? If so, you’re not alone.

Research shows that one-third of Americans didn’t pay their rent between April 1 and April 5 due to the recent coronavirus pandemic.

Maybe your job was impacted by recent events, or you’ve simply come upon a financial strain. Either way, when you can’t pay rent, the situation can feel hopeless and scary.

Today, we’re sharing a quick list of things to do (and what not to do) to help you keep your home and stay on good terms with your landlord during this trying time. Read on to learn the steps to take.

Editor’s note: If you like this article, feel free to join the conversation and leave your comments at the bottom!
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Be Honest with Your Landlord

First, understand that you’ll get further with honesty than avoidance.

As soon as you realize that you can’t afford rent, arrange a meeting with your landlord. You don’t have to wait until the day your rent is due. In fact, it’s best to let them know as soon as possible.

If you’re usually an honest and reliable tenant who’s never had a problem covering rent before, most landlords are willing to work with you and won’t force an eviction.

Not only is the eviction process laborious and expensive, but good renters can be hard to come by. Moreover, due to recent events, there are many state and local programs in place that prohibit COVID-19-related evictions altogether for up to 90 days. If you’re in federally-backed housing, the CARES act protects you from eviction for up to 120 days.

Bring Supporting Documents

When you speak with your landlord, bring along any documents that can help substantiate your claim.

If you’ve been affected by recent events, this might mean taking a copy of your unemployment application. Or, you can bring a letter from your employer explaining that you’re temporarily laid off until social distancing regulations are lifted.

If you’re in a temporary bind, make sure your landlord knows that. Remind them of your solid past payment history and if possible, give a timeline on when you expect to reclaim your financial footing.

Ask For Your Options

With your supporting documents in hand, explain your situation and see what kind of support your landlord can extend. Some might agree to defer your rent altogether while others will be more strict about meeting your obligations.

Once you know what options are available to you, be sure to get everything in writing. Ask your landlord to send you a copy of your choices via email or letter so you can make a copy and save it for future reference.

Request a Payment Extension

In addition to asking your landlord what kind of plan they would prefer, you can also propose a few of your own.

One approach is to request an extension on your payment deadline.

Ask if you can pay a portion of the rent now and spread the remainder of the payment out over an agreed-upon timeline. While you might still be required to pay a late fee, it’s better than footing the entire bill at once. Or, you can split the entire rent into regular installments that are easier on your pocketbook.

A third approach is to ask your landlord if you can pay a reduced rate over the next three months or so. Then, you could set a timeline to fill in the gap and repay the rest of the amount.

Make (and Sign) a Plan

If you’re able to reach an agreement with your landlord, you’ll immediately be able to breathe a little easier. Now, you can create a second set of documents that outlines the specificities of your repayment plan. A few key questions to address in this plan include:

  • How much money (if any) will you pay right now?
  • Will you pay a reduced rate? If so, when does it start and stop?
  • Will you spread your payments out over a few months?
  • What is the specific day by which you’ll pay your rent back in full?

As shown above, make sure to set a specific date for repayment. For instance, you can guarantee to pay the remainder of the rent by the 10th of the month. If your landlord is agreeable to the plan, you should both sign the form and keep a copy so there are no surprises.

Consider HUD Resources and Local Support

The above steps can work, but only if your landlord is agreeable to working something out. If you’re met with resistance, your most viable option might be to contact the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

Here, you can find rental assistance resources that might be able to help. The programs available through HUD range from support with your utility bills to help finding affordable rentals. There are additional resources listed on a per-state basis.

If none of these steps can help you, there might be local resources that you can reach out to, as well. Check to see if there are any local charities, such as a Salvation Army, that offer renter’s support. In addition, dialing 211 will put you in touch with the United Way, a non-profit organization that has myriad smaller, community-based support programs under its umbrella.

Can’t Pay Rent? Start With These Steps

It’s no secret that this past month has been one of the most trying and unprecedented times in history. If you can’t pay rent right now, you shouldn’t feel ostracized. Millions of Americans are also looking for support for the same issue.

In this case, your smartest strategy is to be honest with your landlord. This is always a great place to start, even if your issue isn’t related to the coronavirus at all. From there, you should be able to coordinate a repayment plan you can both agree to meet. If you’re unable to reach an agreement, HUD and other community resources can be sources of support and financial assistance.

Looking for more information on personal finance? We’re here to help. Check out this post to learn more about how COVID-19 is changing our economy and what that means for you.