A 2018 research by the Pew Charitable Trusts found that “rent burdened” families increased from 19% in 2001 to 38% in 2015, when more than one-third of all American renter households paid more than one-third of their pre-tax income on rent.
In 2015, around 17% of renter households were considered “severely rent burdened” because they paid more than half of their pre-tax income in rent.
Even while millennials spend more on rent than earlier generations, families headed by African Americans and seniors of all races were more likely to be rent burdened and seriously rent burdened than those headed by whites and non-seniors, according to a 2018 RentCafe survey cited by USA Today.
The reality is that millions of Americans are always scraping by to pay their monthly rent.
Maybe you’re having trouble too. In case you find yourself in dire problems financially, whether due to a layoff that will only last a few weeks or a catastrophic health setback that might last much longer, here is where you can find assistance.
Methods for Obtaining Rent Assistance
If you’re having trouble paying your rent because of a lack of funds, try some of these solutions. To maximize your chances of success, you should work on multiple of them at once.
- Try to bargain with your landlord.
If you are experiencing temporary financial difficulties, your first option should be to discuss a payment plan modification with your landlord. Rent accrued throughout the lease term (in this case, $12,000 on a 12-month lease at $1,000 per month) must be paid in full, but your landlord may be prepared to extend the lease term or even forgive a portion of the overdue payment.
However, you shouldn’t expect your landlord to bend over backwards to accommodate you. If you make the stakes obvious, they are more inclined to budge. Since you are now unable to pay your rent in full and on time, you will need to terminate your lease and vacate the premises.
You should also be specific when making your request; a tearful tale that concludes, “So I can’t make rent this month,” is not as effective as “I can pay, in whole, the six months’ rent remaining on my lease over the following 12 months.”
The objective is to settle on a legally binding lease modification terms without resorting to attorneys or the judicial system. Your lease’s payment provision should be superseded by a formal contract as a consequence of this agreement, if possible, without rendering the entire lease null and void.
- Exchange labor or services for a lower rent.
If your landlord is willing to negotiate a change in the terms of your lease’s payments, they may need compensation.
Physical work is frequently that “something.” Your landlord will find a way to put you to work regardless of the size, condition, or amenities of the property. Maintenance tasks include things like sweeping and shoveling walkways and roads, mowing the grass, watering plants, cleaning common spaces, and fixing small things like dripping faucets or hanging pictures.
In general, the more complex the job, the more favorable the conditions will be. A friend of mine who cleaned her 20-unit apartment complex for a living received a significant reduction in her monthly rent. Although the employment only saved her a few hundred dollars a month, it did demand many hours of her time each week. A long-time neighbor of ours mows the little grass and shovels the snow from our brownstone’s walkways for a very modest $50 per month.
A labor discount can be requested immediately. A good opening line in a negotiation is “You can lay off your part-time groundskeeper.”
- Accept a Roommate
Dual bank accounts are preferable than a single one when it comes to rent payments. Add a roommate to your lease if you’re having trouble making the rent on your own. Roommates.com is a great resource if you’re looking for shared housing.
Unfortunately, accepting a roommate isn’t always as simple as it seems. Adding your roommate to your existing lease or signing a new lease together is the first step in establishing a legally binding relationship between you, your roommate, and your landlord.
Pre-lease credit and background checks are standard practice, and if any issues come up during that process, the lease might be in jeopardy. By the way, the same holds true for romantic partners; if your lease contains visitor limits, your significant other will have to join the lease before becoming a permanent resident.
It is possible that adding a roommate might be difficult or impossible due to other factors. It’s possible that your landlord will object to you taking on a roommate. Your roommate might leave you on the hook for the whole rent sum if the agreement specifies that all renters are jointly and severally liable for any unpaid amounts. You might not feel comfortable moving in with a stranger or putting a friendship at risk by sharing a small apartment or room. Countless such examples exist.
You should prepare for issues that may arise with a roommate in advance if you decide to take one on. The next step is to have a conversation with your landlord and explain that this may be your only option for paying your rent. Finally, if your landlord has given his or her blessing, you should create a roommate contract (or cohabitation agreement if you’re moving in with a love partner) that spells out your respective responsibilities and rights.
- Start a Side Business
It is possible to balance your personal life and a part-time or freelance career. If you work 10 hours a week at $12 an hour, you’ll have $120 in your bank account before paying any bills or taxes. It comes out to about $520 each month.
Work-from-home gigs in today’s market provide unique challenges. Some, like driving for ride-sharing apps like Lyft, force employees to bear a hefty share of the business’s fixed costs. Check the figures and hunt for jobs that will benefit your career before committing. Sign-up bonuses for new Lyft drivers can be several hundred dollars in some cities.
Are you prepared to increase your earnings? In this article, we will discuss four of our favorite supplementary income sources:
- Do you ever have days where your car just sits in the garage, unused? If so, you should consider listing it on Turo. When it’s not being used by you, you may put it up for rent on Turo and make some money.
- As an Instacart shopper, you may use your vehicle to generate money. Through the Instacart app, customers may place grocery delivery orders, and then Instacart Shoppers will make the deliveries. You may choose your own schedule and be paid every week.
- As a DoorDash Driver – Bringing in extra cash on the side by delivering food orders with DoorDash is a fantastic option. Lack of a vehicle? Certainly not an issue. Dashers can make deliveries on scooters, bicycles, or even on foot.
- Data Collector – Taking online surveys for pay through services like Survey Junkie and InboxDollars is a terrific way to earn some additional cash without having to leave the house. You won’t become filthy rich, but you can make enough to cover your living expenses.
- Editor/Proofreader: The last person to work on a piece of content before it goes public. It’s the last reader, the one who should check for typos and make sure the language sparkles. It may be anything from a novel to a scientific paper to an online post to a podcast transcript to a court transcript. A proofreader is needed if the publisher places a high priority on correctness and professionalism in their published works. Check out Proofread Anywhere’s no-cost, introductory proofreading session to see whether it’s the right fit for you. Based on their rate of production and level of expertise, proofreaders might earn anywhere from $25 to $50 per hour. Come see!
- Do you consider yourself a handy person who enjoys working on home improvement projects? It may be anything as simple as assembling furniture or painting a room, or it could be as extensive as installing a new sink or switch in the kitchen. Using Handy.com, you may earn money from your talents. Pay rates vary from $15-$45 per hour, depending on the nature of the work being performed.
- Launch a Crowdfunding Campaign.
No one should expect to get rich quick through a crowdfunding effort. However, if your campaign is effective enough to get the financial support of complete strangers, it might greatly alleviate your housing difficulties.
Start a crowdfunding campaign on one of the many sites available, like Kickstarter or GoFundMe. Keep in mind that if you don’t raise enough money to cover the remaining rent on your lease, you may end up with nothing at all. Provide a clear and compelling justification for why you’re in need of assistance, what’s at stake (housing instability, for example), and what you’ll do to get it.
Don’t launch a crowdfunding campaign until you’ve thought through the financial implications. Due to crowdfunding’s infancy, tax preparation can be difficult; while there is evidence to suggest that contributions made through crowdfunding platforms should be treated as gifts exempt from taxation, the Journal of Accountancy concludes that the issue is best summarized by the phrase “It’s complicated.” Before launching your campaign, you should show your proposal to a qualified tax expert.
- Obtain a Personal Loan
Credible is a good place to start when looking for a personal loan because of their transparent pricing and conditions regardless of your credit score. Unsecured personal loan limits for well-qualified customers often go up to $35,000 or $40,000, which is more than you are likely to need to make rent in the short term but less than the maximum amount that certain lenders may provide.
Don’t forget that a personal loan is just a stopgap measure for your home problems. Further, a loan creates a new recurring cost for three to five years after the loan is disbursed. Instead of placing the money from your loan into an account that you use to pay your rent, you should do so only if doing so would help you get out of debt faster and put an end to your current financial difficulties.
- Borrow Money from Family and Friends
Tenants in financial straits often seek help from well-off relatives and friends. There are a few things to think about, though, before you make your request.
- The Potential Impact of Feeling Obligated on Your Relationship. You wouldn’t want an overdue debt to ruin a friendship that has stood the test of time and weathered far more than an unpaid debt ever could.
- Payment Schedule and Expectations. Make it known before accepting a private loan if you are worried about your capacity to make payments in the near future. It’s possible to negotiate a longer payback period or a gift from the other side.
- The Precise Quantity You Should Have. While you’re waiting for your financial circumstances to improve or for you to get long-term housing aid, don’t take on any more debt than you absolutely have to.
The best method to safeguard your joint interests and your long-term relationship is to put everything in writing. This may feel strange to do before a summer BBQ or Thanksgiving dinner, but it is for the best.
- Request Charitable Grants
Grants for housing aid are available from both religious and secular philanthropic groups, both for short-term crises and for the long-term. If you are looking for private or public housing grants in your region and don’t know where to start, 2-1-1.org is a good place to start.
Use Modest Needs if you want to make a direct request for low-dollar donations. Regardless of where you happen to call home, you should be able to connect with community-based housing assistance programs that don’t need you to join a larger, nationwide network.
Downtown Congregations to End Homelessness offers emergency housing and financial aid to low-income families and people in the Minneapolis area, where I currently reside.
Help may also be available from groups affiliated with particular religions. There are several huge churches in big cities that may help those who are struggling financially by giving them temporary housing or small gifts. These funds are set aside for tenants who are in immediate danger of being evicted or who are currently facing severe housing instability.
- Reduce Your Expenses
Assuming your financial situation is not quite so terrible, you may still have time to get your spending under control and avoid falling behind or skipping rent payments. Everywhere you turn, you’ll discover ways to save money on the things you buy every day, like:
- Cutting back on eating out, especially when doing so would not significantly affect one’s budget (like a Subway sandwich for lunch).
- Decreasing one’s alcohol consumption or giving up drinking
- Better meal planning leads to less wasted food at home.
- Buying generics and taking advantage of promotions and coupons to reduce food costs
Some adjustments, like giving up your automobile, may have a larger impact on your finances than others, but every little bit helps. Join Trim if you want to maximize your financial savings potential.
You might expect them to review your financial records in search of unnecessary outgoings. Furthermore, they will attempt to reduce expenses such as internet and cable TV subscriptions.
- Participate in a Credit Counseling Program.
Find a credit counseling agency that provides low-cost debt management programs if your credit or income is insufficient to qualify you for a personal loan to pay down existing debt.
Your credit counseling partner will function as a mediator between you and your creditors for a small monthly fee of $100 or less as you attempt to pay off your obligations by a certain date, often two to five years from now.
Although your rent won’t be included in your debt management plan, the reduced payments on your revolving debt may make it simpler to pay your mortgage or apartment lease each month. Paying rent will likely become less of a struggle if you’ve achieved and maintained financial independence.
- Consult with Lenders About Hardship Programs
Discuss hardship programs and temporary forbearance with your creditors if you can’t pay your rent because of credit card or student loan debt.
Most creditors are flexible with borrowers who are experiencing temporary difficulties, however the specifics will differ by lender. Hardship programs are similar to debt management plans offered by credit counseling groups; however, they are tailored to a single lender and cut out the middleman. Common benefits of these kinds of arrangements include reduced or eliminated interest rates, extended payment periods, set monthly payments, and reduced or eliminated fees.
Your credit score may temporarily drop if you join a hardship program, and your enrollment status will likely be reported to anybody who requests a copy of your credit report. However, the long-term benefits of reducing costly debt will likely surpass any short-term inconvenience.
- Consider One-Time Fundraising Opportunities
You may just need a short-term boost to get back on track financially if you’re confident that your difficulties will be short-lived, such as when you’re temporarily unemployed but making steady progress in your job hunt.
There are several one-time avenues to generate funds. It may be a good moment to investigate the possibility of claiming unclaimed funds from a state treasury or a class action settlement fund, to sell unwanted items at a garage sale or online auction, or to consider more intimate, but possibly life-altering, choices like sperm or egg donation.
- Hire a Tenants’ Rights Pro Bono Lawyer
To discover a tenant’s rights attorney in your area, look up your state on the HUD’s Tenant Rights resources website. Your tenant’s rights attorney can represent your interests if you feel your landlord is in violation of your lease agreement, zoning regulations, or state or federal renter safeguards (such as anti-discrimination statutes).
A tenant’s rights lawyer will not, however, be responsible for covering your rent. You may not have much legal recourse if your landlord is acting ethically, and the law cannot be changed to suit your needs. However, if you find yourself in a position where you need to cancel your lease early due to financial hardship, you may want to have the contact information for a tenant rights attorney handy.
- Request Rural Rental Housing Assistance
Income-based rural rental housing aid may be available to those who reside in rural areas (often, areas outside of U.S. Census Bureau-defined Metropolitan Statistical Areas) and whose monthly rent payments exceed 30% of their adjusted monthly income.
Visit Benefits.gov for specifics on eligibility, how to apply, and other questions concerning this program. You may locate more reasonably priced rural rentals through the USDA’s rural housing help site even if you don’t qualify for federal housing assistance.
- Apply for Temporary Housing Assistance
People who are temporarily struggling financially can get housing aid from a variety of local, state, and even federal organizations. For instance, in Oregon’s Multnomah County and its two main cities, Portland and Gresham, Home Forward manages emergency housing aid. If there is a 2-1-1 number in your area, dial it, or go online to find your local housing authority.
Renters who anticipate continuing financial difficulties may apply for long-term housing aid during the three months they receive assistance through a short-term voucher or subsidy program.
- Request Long-Term Housing Assistance
There is a wide variety of housing aid programs for the long term. There are two that deserve special attention. The stereotypical public housing complex is a sterile, isolated “tower complex in the park,” however many municipalities really manage diverse and welcoming communities for low-income residents. For example, the city of Minneapolis manages a large number of “scattered-site” single-family and duplex homes spread out among quiet residential areas.
The Section 8 low-income housing aid program under the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) provides a second lifeline for thousands of low-income families, despite the program’s many practical shortcomings (in many jurisdictions, landlords may legally refuse to rent to Section 8 tenants).
- Lease Termination
The choice to terminate a lease on a rental unit should not be taken lightly. You shouldn’t break your lease unless you’ve tried everything else and you’re in a truly dangerous position, such as if your spouse is violent or if your home is structurally hazardous.
However, if you fear being evicted and living on the streets, you may feel compelled to terminate your contract. First, make sure you have a place to stay, whether that’s with a friend or family member who’s prepared to take you in temporarily or with privately owned subsidized accommodation into which you can easily transfer. It is important to start the application process for longer-term housing assistance if you believe your financial difficulties will persist.
You have an obligation as a tenant to educate yourself on applicable federal, state, and local housing laws. You have the authority to carry out the rights granted to you by those commitments. Landlords, on their part, have no choice but to follow the law to the letter; tenants cannot use a lack of knowledge as an excuse.
Having a firm grasp of your legal rights and the determination to act on them might lessen the financial and legal repercussions of a broken lease, even if the financial difficulty that has prompted you to seek rent assistance is not the landlord’s fault.