We live in trying times; the past year has been horrible for most people. We’re going to look at some things in general that you can do during regular times to mitigate the damage that can happen due to losing your job, becoming sick or just a simple downturn in the economy. After that, we’ll take a look at these specific times, how they’re different, and what you can do.
What if You Can’t Pay Your Rent This Month
Assess the situation first. How long do you expect this situation to last? Is it for one month only, or will it be challenging to determine how long the hardship will last? If it’s temporary and you know that you can pay next month’s rent, then things aren’t so bad. Landlords are people too, and if you communicate with them in good faith, then it’s likely they will negotiate and let you pay the current month in future installments while keeping up with the next month’s rent. If the future is unpredictable, you have to make a long-term plan, and something has to change; either you’ll have to relocate or come up with alternate ways to earn income.
Steps to Take if You Can’t Pay Rent
Check Your Lease
Find out precisely what your rental agreement says, whether you have a grace period and what your landlord’s options are. This allows you to understand when your landlord can take action and if you have time to come up with rent money.
Talk to Your Landlord
As soon as you know you can’t come up with your rent, talk to your landlord. Don’t put it off! Honesty is the best policy here, and you will need all the goodwill you can get. Speaking to the landlord right away will instill trust and clarify that you aren’t trying to be sneaky about things. You may negotiate a deal to give the rent late or make partial payments until you can catch up. Get any agreements about rent payments in writing.
Make partial or late rent payments in good faith as per the agreement with your landlord. If you paid late and can pay your rent now, pay it by check and insist on a receipt, and if your landlord won’t accept the payment, send it by certified mail; then you have proof that you made every effort to make things right. This can carry some weight with a court if the landlord tries to sue you or evict you.
Seek Financial Assistance
Some organizations give loans, grants, and other help to people with low income. In some states, the welfare department has programs for assistance to help without enrolling in the mainstream program. Private Churches and charities are other sources to look into. Then, of course, you should ask your circle of friends and family if they can help too. Here are some other ideas that are nation-wide:
- Call 211 or check org, a free service from United Way Worldwide. It helps people put people in touch with a variety of resources.
- Salvation Army. The Salvation Army offers many emergency assistance and homelessness prevention programs, including help with rent. You can find a Salvation Army office near you here.
- Catholic Charities has assistance programs to help with rent when facing imminent eviction due to an emergency.
- Modest Needs also helps with emergency rent assistance. You have to fill out a grant application, but it’s online.
Know Your Rights
This is wise in any case, but especially when facing eviction. In many states, there are strong landlord/tenant rights. In general, it takes about 90 days from the day your landlord gives you your first written eviction notice until the police can forcefully remove you from the house or apartment. It’s not advisable to wait that long, but if you need the time to make other arrangements, then it might be what you have to do. You’ll still owe all of the past due rent, and it will hurt your credit rating.
Make Long-Term Plans
If your hardship is long-term, not temporary, it’s wise to think of the future. Finding alternative living arrangements may be the best thing you can do in the long run to avoid getting into a mountain of debt. It might not be as comfortable, but you have to consider moving in with friends or family. Maybe looking into a cheaper, more affordable apartment is the ticket. During a worldwide crisis, terms are negotiable, including first, last, and deposits.
Now Let’s Talk About What to Do if You Can’t Pay Your Rent Due to Coronavirus.
Take Advantage of Any Eviction Bans or Moratoriums
At different times during the pandemic, the federal government and many states and cities have initiated emergency bans on evictions. Find out whether there’s currently a moratorium on evictions where you live and how long they might continue. Remember, any eviction ban is temporary and will end at some point.
Even if your region has a ban on evictions, your landlord might still charge you late fees and other penalties for the broken agreement. Also, if you’re late on your rent and you haven’t got a contract with your landlord about what you owe, your landlord will probably file for eviction as soon as he’s legally able to do so. Because your landlord can sue for unpaid rent and late fees once the ban ends, it’s better to try to pay as much of your rent as you can each month.
Assess Your Financial Situation
Evaluate whether there are things you can do to pay as much of your rent as possible. Here are some ideas to ponder:
- Do you expect a tax refund, a bonus, or some other amount of income shortly? If so, you might be able to leverage that if you’re unable to pay now because of a loss of income, you can probably work out a payment plan or promise to pay the money to your landlord when you get it. Indeed, most landlords would rather negotiate a reasonable deal than have the hassle and expense of eviction.
- Are there assets you can sell? Consider selling any nonessential things you might have or even essential things you can get by using cheaper versions. For example, could you sell your newer car and replace it with an older model and still earn a living?
- Can you work a second job or do self-employment?
- Do you have family or friends that might help you or loan you money?
- Can you find a roommate to help with the rent expenses?
- Do you have nonessential activities or hobbies that you can live without?
- Can you move into a less expensive rental? Are you a month-to-month tenant near the end of your lease? Do you think your landlord might let you out of your lease early, so you can find a place you can afford for the long term?
And lastly, ‘though most financial experts don’t recommend dipping into your retirement account until you reach retirement age, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) does allow you to take an early hardship withdrawal from your 401K to prevent eviction.
Below is a copy of the CDCs emergency injunction which ended January 31, 2021. We need another put into place for at least one year.