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Money Management

What to Do When You Can’t Make Rent

If you find yourself in a tough spot and can’t make rent this month, there are steps you can take to minimize the negative impact. Whether you’re facing an unexpected job loss, a medical emergency, or something else that affects your finances, an eviction isn’t necessarily imminent. Knowing your rights and staying on top of communication with your landlord can help you work through this challenging time.

Know Your Rights If You Can’t Make Rent This Month

If it’s almost the first, and you don’t have enough in the bank to cover rent, don’t despair. The first thing to do is review your lease agreement and look up your state’s tenancy laws. Get a firm understanding of your rights and the timelines regarding catching up on payments. Keep in mind that late payments may incur additional fees.

In California, state law requires the landlord to give just three days’ notice for the renter to pay or vacate the property. It actually takes longer than that to physically evict someone, but it’s important to know the law. Keep in mind, the state has taken some measures to provide relief to renters who have been impacted by COVID-19, but the rules are constantly changing, so it’s best to make sure your research is up-to-date.

Talk to Your Landlord As Soon As Possible If You Can’t Make Rent

The sooner you talk to your landlord, the better. All communication should be done in writing so you have it for your records. Again, knowing the details of your lease agreement along with current state renters’ laws will help inform you on how to approach a solution. Here are some things you could try to negotiate:

  • Setting up a payment plan to catch up on your rent in installments
  • Asking for an adjustment to your lease agreement
  • Asking if you can do work on the property in lieu of rent
  • Asking to defer rent payments and repay them at a later date

If your landlord agrees to let you work off some of your rent, be sure to set an agreed-upon value of the work in writing. Make sure you keep records of all your communication. This way, if negotiations fall apart and your landlord takes legal action to evict you, you have a log of all your interaction.

Create a Plan to Get Caught Up on Rent

Once you’ve notified your landlord that you need more time, you should prioritize your expenses so you can get caught up quickly. Yes, all your bills should be paid on time, but in an emergency situation, keeping a roof over your head should be the priority. That might mean you dip into your emergency fund or pay other bills and lenders late. There are tactics you can take here:

  • If you have a car payment, ask your lender for a temporary deferment of payments.
  • There may be an option to delay payments to your student loan. Reach out to your lender.
  • For non-collateralized debt, like a personal loan or credit card, consider a strategic non-payment for a month or two. It will negatively impact your credit score, but being sent to collections is better than having your car repossessed or being evicted.

Once you’ve reassessed your budget and prioritized your expenses, pay whatever you can toward your rent. Something is better than nothing in this situation.

Apply for Help to Make Rent This Month

There are various local and state government agencies that might be able to help you with housing assistance.

If you don’t know where to start, search online for “rent assistance near me” and start researching your options. Depending on the county you live in, there will likely be specific resources for your area. You can also visit the U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development to learn about federal programs and read up on the latest regulations and news regarding housing assistance.

Speak to a Financial Counselor

Worrying about making rent creates stress in all areas of your life - especially when your financial situation feels out of your control. If you don’t know where to start, your Credit Union is here to help. As a Member, you have access to free financial counseling. You can sit down with an expert who will review your unique situation and work with you to create a plan for immediate and long-term financial health. We care about your financial well-being. Give us a call to talk with us today.

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