Need help paying rent?
COVID-19. Inflation and rising costs. A global housing crisis. People across the country have been feeling the economic impact of all of these events, particularly those who rent their homes. In fact, it’s gotten so difficult that many renters have been forced to find alternative options to pay their bills. Consider these statistics:
- 10.2 million people in 5.2 million American households use federal rental assistance to afford modest housing.
- 69% of those 10.2 million people are seniors, children, or people with disabilities.
- 55% of non-disabled, working-age American households receiving Department of Housing and Urban Development rental assistance include at least one worker.
- Rental assistance helps 8.7 million people in cities and suburbs, as well as 1.5 million people in rural areas and small towns.
- 23.4 million people in 10.9 million low-income American households pay more than half their income for rent.
As you can see, tens of millions of people need help paying their rent. If you are one of them, know that there are options available to assist you with your rent payments.
Where to get rent help
Federal and state assistance
There are plenty of federal and state programs that exist specifically to help US residents pay rent and utilities such as electric, gas, and water bills. Additionally, many of these programs assist individuals who have trouble paying for a security deposit on an apartment, for internet access, and even for late fees on past-due bills. The Consumer Finance Protection Bureau offers helpful information if you’re looking for rental and utility assistance. You can visit their website here to find rental assistance in your state or local area.
Emergency rent assistance qualifications
According to the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, to qualify for emergency rent assistance, there are a few requirements you must meet, such as your financial and housing situations.
- You must have an agreement to pay rent for your home or mobile lot, though it’s not required you have a signed lease. Eligible homes include apartments, houses, mobile homes, and other dwellings.
- At least one member of your household has:
- Qualified for unemployment or should qualify
- Lost income
- Owed large expenses
- Had other financial hardships
- Your household income is below a certain amount, based on where you live.
- At least one member of your household is experiencing housing instability, which means they are at risk of becoming homeless or would have trouble finding a stable place to live.
There are also several non-profit organizations across the country that offer assistance for tenants who have trouble paying rent and other household utility expenses.
United Way: This well-known organization helps low-income individuals and senior citizens with utilities, groceries, healthcare, and housing costs. Visit United Way’s housing assistance page here to see how they can help.
Salvation Army: The Salvation Army provides rent assistance to low-income families, which can be used to help pay monthly rent, utility bills, and other expenses. The Salvation Army offers a variety of rent assistance programs, including emergency grants, short-term grants, and long-term housing assistance. Each of these programs is available to all low-income individuals, including seniors, veterans, the disabled, and low-income families with children. Visit their affordable housing page to learn how you can get rent assistance.
National Low Income Housing Coalition: This non-profit group offers a searchable database to find a U.S. Treasury Department Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) program near you.
Additionally, you can go to https://www.findhelp.org/, enter your ZIP code, click on the Housing icon, and you’ll be presented with a list of local organizations that can assist you with your rent and utility payments.
What if I am behind on my rent payment?
Falling behind on your rent payments is always a difficult situation, especially if you’re having a hard time making ends meet. In this situation, there are a couple of options you can consider.
Explain to your landlord your situation
If you have a landlord or rent collector who has some compassion, explaining your situation may help you. Perhaps you and your landlord can come to an agreement or a solution by creating a plan of action to work around your difficulties–maybe a payment plan or flexibility when it comes to payment due dates. If you are able to resolve the situation with your rent collector or landlord, make sure you get the agreement in writing, as landlords are not legally required to modify the lease due to missed payments.
Know your renter’s rights and seek legal help
If you have missed rent payments and your landlord is attempting to evict you from your home for not paying rent, you should know that the landlord must provide a notice or court order beforehand. If the landlord does plan to give you an eviction notice, the next step would be for you to seek local legal help or social services so you are fully aware of your rights as a tenant. Keep in mind, tenant rights are different from state to state, and even from city to city. So it’s a good idea to find a local lawyer or social services worker who can explain tenant rights specific to you and your location.
What other rent options are available?
If you’re unable to work things out with your landlord, or eviction is likely the next step, there are a few more things you can do. First check with your local housing authorities. You can do so on the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) website. Visit https://www.hud.gov/states and click on your home state. From there you’ll be able to find your local housing authority office for information about evictions, other renter protections you might have, and next steps.
Additionally, some organizations provide emergency shelter and housing for those who have been evicted. Organizations like Catholic Charities offer emergency housing, and the Coalition for the Homeless has an eviction protection program that can help tenants avoid being thrown out of their homes.
Help is available
Facing eviction because of late or missed rent payments is certainly a scary situation. Unfortunately, it is a reality for many renters these days, in large part because of the shaky economic times we’re currently living in. But there is help available. Whether it’s through financial assistance from the government, non-profit organizations that offer various services and resources, or through temporary emergency housing, there are options out there that will keep you sheltered through this challenging time. These organizations and resources exist for exactly this purpose, so take advantage of the kindness and charity they offer. This will buy you some time to get back on your feet and in better shape financially so you can get those rent payments to your landlord on time once again.