A drop in income or an emergency expense can happen at a moment’s notice, making it difficult to afford your rent.
It’s not a unique situation: for millions of Americans, it’s become harder than ever to pay the rent.
Whether your financial difficulties are temporary or could continue for a while longer, here’s a list of strategies and resources to help you make rent.
Ways to get help with rent
Consider the following strategies and resources to help you pay your rent when struggling to make ends meet.
1. Negotiate a rent extension
One of the first things you can do when struggling to pay your rent is to contact your landlord. If you can’t pay on time, reach out and explain your current situation. Then ask for a rent extension.
Don’t feel uncomfortable or uneasy by asking. Being proactive is important. Your landlord will appreciate that you’re trying to be responsible. Ideally, approach them with some advance notice before your rent is due.
Being upfront with your landlord may help you get a longer extension, especially if your difficulties are temporary. And if you haven’t been late before, use that fact to your advantage. Remind them you’ve been a good tenant.
Once you reach an agreement on a timeframe, put it in writing. And if you can, agree to an extension you think is realistic to help you keep your end of the arrangement.
2. Find a roommate
Finding a roommate is an effective way to help you cover your rent. And if you split other expenses, like utilities, you can save even more.
What if you don’t have an extra room? One option is to add an inexpensive temporary wall, if your landlord and local regulations permit it. When walls aren’t allowed, consider a divider that doesn’t reach all the way to the ceiling, like a bookshelf divider.
Taking on a roommate may require you to sign a new lease or rental agreement. The reason is that most landlords require roommates to be on the lease to protect their own interests.
By signing the lease, your new roommate will become a cotenant, which means that in the eyes of your landlord (and the law), they’re just as responsible for paying the rent as you are. So if one of you were to skip town, the other one would be on the hook for the full rent amount.
Because of the commitment involved, you’ll want to spend some time finding the right person. Not just in terms of personality, but also in terms of financial stability.
3. Start an online side hustle
When you need to supplement your income, making money online tops our list. The hours are flexible, and just as important, you can make additional money remotely.
Here are several gigs that can put some extra cash in your pocket to help you cover your rent without leaving home:
- Become a virtual assistant. You can take on a virtual assistant job part-time around your schedule. As a VA you’ll assist clients with their schedules, calls, emails and other day-to-day tasks. If you’re good at managing tasks, this flexible side hustle could be for you. You can readily find VA jobs on the internet, but if you want more flexibility and control the better route is to be your own boss. Learn everything you need to know about a VA position in this blog post.
- Get into freelance writing. The internet offers plenty of opportunities to earn money working as a freelance writer. Online publications, blogs, and other companies need to publish new written content frequently. And many of them rely on freelance writers. Take advantage of this free introductory training to learn how to do it.
- Transcribe. Put your typing and listening skills to work as a transcriber. You’ll get paid to listen to audio files and convert them into text for you clients. All from the comfort of your home. If you’re a decent typist, find out if a career in transcription is for you with Transcribe Anywhere’s free transcription course.
- Take online surveys. Taking online surveys is a popular way to make money with little effort. We like Survey Junkie and Swagbucks. Survey-taking is not a path to riches, but you’ll add some cash to your wallet during your spare time.
4. Cut back expenses
Putting together a list of all your expenses can help you get a better handle on your spending. It’ll force you to question each item that’s using up your precious cash. If it isn’t essential, cut it back.
Going through the following set of questions for each expense might help you decide how to cut back:
- Do you need the expense?
- Can you scale it down?
- Can you replace it with something cheaper?
Let’s look at the cost of watching TV as an example.
First, ask yourself if you can do without the expense altogether. If you’re a cable subscriber, can you get by without it? Nowadays there are plenty of ways to watch TV without cable, for example.
Next, if you can’t eliminate a given expense, try scaling it down. If you’re a Netflix subscriber, maybe you can switch from a plan with multiple screens to one with just one screen, which is cheaper.
Finally, if you can’t scale down a given expense, look for a cheaper alternative. In the case of cable, if you want to keep it, shop for a cheaper provider to lower your bill.
5. Get a personal loan
A personal loan can help you bridge a temporary shortfall in your housing budget when you’re hit with an unexpected expense.
Personal loans are amortizing debt, which means that you’ll need to have enough cash going forward to make the loan’s monthly payment.
A loan will help you cover your expenses, but you’ll need to be comfortable that your financial situation will get back on track soon. You’ll need to incorporate the new monthly payment into your budget.
You can get a personal loan from a bank, credit union or an online lender. And loan rates can be more attractive than those of most credit cards.
» Related: Find out more with our Complete Guide to Personal Loans.
6. Sell some of your stuff
Selling personal items to cover your rent isn’t something you want to (or can) do frequently. But in times of need, your new and like-new items around your home or in your closet could ease your housing troubles.
Use selling apps to sell your items online hassle-free and with little effort, depending on what you’re trying to sell. Most apps are available for iOS and Android devices, and require you to upload a picture of your items and post a description.
With some exceptions, most apps charge you a commission as a percentage of your sale, so keep that in mind when setting the price for your items.
Don’t have anything to sell? Check if you have any unclaimed money you might be missing.
7. Get a loan from family and friends
Your better off family and friends may lend you the money you need and can be more flexible about repayment. But borrowing from loved ones is not without its pitfalls.
When you borrow money from the people closest to you, you expose your relationship to potential damage if there’s a misunderstanding on the terms of the loan, or you can’t repay.
Even if it feels a bit awkward, it’s a good idea to draft and sign a loan agreement. Both sides benefit as you leave little room for errors. And signing a loan contract can have tax benefits for your lender, especially if things go south and the loan goes unpaid.
8. Turn to non-profit assistance organizations
When you need rent assistance because of a temporary emergency, there are several non-profit organizations you can turn to for help.
- United Way. United Way operates and provides funding to 211 centers in the US. Visit 211.org or dial 2-1-1 to access an extensive source of social services information, including available local rental assistance programs.
- Salvation Army. Salvation Army centers provide assistance services that include transitional housing help. In some states like California, the Salvation Army offers additional programs including emergency rental assistance. Search for your local chapter to review their available services.
- Catholic Charities. Catholic Charities offers a number of programs to help families in need. If your household qualifies, you may be eligible for a housing supplement to provide rental support. Find a Catholic Charities agency near you to find the assistance you need.
- Housing help for veterans. Organizations like Veterans Inc. provide housing and supportive services programs to veterans and their families. There’s also the US Department of Veteran’s Affairs, which offers rental assistance vouchers through its joint program with the department of Housing and Urban Development.
- Modest Needs. Another non-profit organization that provides short-term assistance to families and individuals is Modest Needs. Their grants won’t give you cash directly, but rather will send the money to the vendor in your application – your landlord, in this case.
9. Find affordable rental housing
If you struggle to pay the rent because your income is too low, you may qualify for help to get affordable rental housing.
But even if you don’t qualify for affordable housing, you may still be able to get a referral to a community organization that can help you.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) website lays out programs and rental assistance resources that can help you find subsidized housing in your area.
10. Contact your state housing finance agency
Another resource you may consider when you need help paying your rent is your state housing finance agency.
Housing finance agencies provide a wide range of support and assistance. Depending on your particular case, you may qualify for programs to help you cover your rent payments.
11. Seek out legal help
Sometimes, despite your best efforts, the eviction notice arrives. When that happens, you don’t have to be on your own. Know your rights and get free legal help to navigate the process.
- Legal Service Corporation. This non-profit was established by the government to offer legal aid to those who can’t afford it. The LSC funds independent legal aid organizations by making grants. You can find a legal help organization near you here.
- American Bar Association. You can hire a lawyer or find free legal help if you can’t afford one, at the American Bar Association. There you can find federally funded legal services, pro bono programs, and free legal answers online.
Bottom line on getting help paying rent
Unexpected expenses or a job loss can throw off your financial well-being. When you need rent assistance, take a step back. And know you have options you can pursue.
Take advantage of all the resources at your disposal. Contact your landlord to negotiate a rent extension, seek help from family and friends, get assistance from non-profits, find a side hustle or get a personal loan.
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