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How to Get Help with Paying Rent – Assistance Programs & Resources

By Angela Colley

rent check cashThings happen. If you live on a tight budget, a small financial crisis can throw you off-balance. But if something major happens, like losing your job, you may struggle to afford even the roof over your head.

Not being able to pay your rent on time can be terrifying, since most rent payments have small grace periods and if you don’t pay in full, you risk being evicted.

Fortunately, you’re not powerless. There are things you can do to improve your situation and ways to get financial help when you need it.

8 Ways to Get Help Paying Rent

1. Talk to Your Landlord

You might be surprised how willing your landlord is to work with you, especially if you’ve been a good tenant in the past.

Plan out what to say before you talk to your landlord and have a good idea of when you can pay the rent and how much you can pay. If possible, offer to pay a portion of the rent now and the remainder later. Explain your situation honestly and offer alternatives, such as a different payment schedule or work in trade for the portion of rent you can’t afford.

If your landlord agrees to negotiate and lower your rent payments, ask if you can put it in writing. That way, you’ll have proof of your discussion if an eviction is filed later. Keep in mind that you’ll still have to pay a late fee if one is listed in your lease.

2. Find a Roommate

Chances are you’re not the only one having a hard time making ends meet. A roommate can make the difference between being able to pay your rent and not. Before you proceed, however, make sure it’s okay with your landlord. If your landlord balks, be clear that this may be the only way to afford the rent.

Your landlord will want to draw up a new lease or modify the old one to reflect the change. Plus, it’s a good idea to create a written roommate agreement between the two of you that details your responsibilities regarding the division of rent and utilities, at the very least. In that case, should problems arise with your roommate, you have a court-enforceable contract.

3. Ask Friends or Family

Borrowing money from friends or family can be tricky. If you don’t make good on the loan quickly, you run the risk of damaging the relationship, sometimes irreparably. On the other hand, borrowing from someone you know has advantages. You get to skip the formal application process and you’re likely to get a better rate.

That said, treat a “friendly” loan the same way you would any other loan. Agree on an amount, interest rate, and repayment schedule, and get it all in writing.

4. Take Out a Small Personal Loan

You can take out a personal loan from the bank to pay for anything, including your rent. Most banks will require a decent credit score and a verifiable source of income, but some may approve you with a co-signer or collateral.

Ways to Work offers short-term loans for low-income single parents. Though you do not need a great credit score, you will need a source of income. You can search for locations in several states on their website. Another way to get a personal loan is through peer-to-peer lending websites like Lending Club and Prosper.

Keep in mind you’ll have to make monthly payments on your personal loan starting the month after you take it out. Therefore, don’t sign up for a loan if you’re not sure you can make the payments on time. Just like with any other debt, missed payments can hurt your credit score.

hands lightbulbs money house

5. Get a Charitable Grant

Many charities offer one-time grants that cover the cost to rent during a financial hardship. How much you qualify for depends on the charity’s limits and your situation. Unlike a loan, however, these grants do not have to be paid back.

  • The Salvation Army. Local Salvation Army chapters offer one-time assistance to help you cover rent payments. You’ll need to apply in person and prove your hardship.
  • Catholic CharitiesCatholic Charities offers emergency assistance grants, which you can use to pay your rent. You’ll need to apply in person and talk with a case worker.
  • Modest Needs. Private donors provide the funding for Modest Needs, and anyone with a job can apply for a grant. Modest Needs offers the Self Sufficiency Grant, which provides up to $1,000 to cover one emergency expense. You can create a grant request on the Modest Needs website.
  • Society of St. Vincent De Paul. This is a smaller charity (they only have one or two branches per state). You will need to visit a location near you to apply.
  • Local Charities. Local nonprofit groups may also offer rent assistance and other grant money. There are various online databases of nonprofits across the U.S. that you can use to get started, such as 211.org, a program of the United Way.

6. Short-Term Assistance

Most states do not offer short-term rental assistance directly, but a state case worker can point you in the right direction. Local Housing Authority and Social Services offices maintain a list of short-term assistance programs offered in the area. Typically, you need to prove financial need to qualify and some programs require that you have a source of income. However, many places offer help if you’ve lost your job recently.

You may find a short list of programs available on your state government’s website, but you’ll get a more comprehensive list if you visit the social services office in person. Take your ID, most recent pay stub, and a copy of your lease agreement with you.

7. Apply for Long-Term Assistance

These programs will help you pay rent in a private home or help you find a more affordable place to live. You can receive assistance for several months, but the programs often have strict requirements and long wait times.

  • Section 8. The Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program pays for the majority of your rent and utilities. With Section 8, you can live in a privately owned house or apartment complex. The Housing Authority pays your landlord directly once a month and you cover the remaining balance due. Every state offers Section 8. To qualify, your income must fall below the average for your area.
  • Privately Owned Subsidized Housing. Many apartment complexes offer partially subsidized housing. The complex owner gets a tax break for renting to you and you get a reduction in rent. How deep of a reduction you get depends on your income level. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has a database of privately owned subsidized housing complexes in the U.S.
  • Subsidized Housing. The government owns and manages apartment complexes for the benefit of very low-income families. Most urban areas typically have a long wait list, but once you’re in, you’ll pay far less than market value for your rental.
  • State Assistance. The federal government provides block grants to every state through the HOME program. State governments can then use the grant money to provide affordable housing. Some states also offer specialized long-term housing assistance to low-income residents.

You can apply for multiple housing programs and review your options at a local Department of Social Services office or at a local Housing Authority office. You can search for an office on the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s HA office database.

8. Seek Free Legal Guidance

Legal Aid Society has offices all over the U.S. and offers free pre-eviction assistance if you can’t afford a lawyer. Some offices provide mediation services between you and your landlord, and a few lawyers may even be willing to appear with you in court. Keep in mind, however, that you may have to pay court costs if your eviction case goes to trial.

Final Word

Start looking for assistance as soon as you know you’ll need it. Some banks and many charitable offices can take several days or weeks to approve you, and in other cases, you might be wait-listed. Moreover, make sure you let your landlord know if you’re going to be late with your rent payment, and see if you can negotiate a lower rent payment. You can even try to incorporate a work-trade, or search for a roommate to split rent costs with. The more options you pursue, the more likely at least one of them will work out.

Do you know of any other charities or grant programs people can use in times of need? If you’ve used any of these options, what has worked best?

(photo credit: Shutterstock)

Angela Colley
Angela Colley is a freelance writer living in New Orleans, Louisiana with a background in mortgage and real estate. Her interests include animal rights advocacy, green living, mob movies and finding the best deal on everything. She blames her extreme passion for never paying full price on two parents that taught her that a penny saved is two pennies if invested wisely.

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  • Sijackson04

    Angela,

    I was working for a company that managed my house and the owner hired a new property management company to take over. No one has gotten intouch with me from the new company to sign a lease with them but I got a three day notice to vacate! Also a lock smith showed up at my house without notifying me and changed the locks! Can they evict me and I haven’t even signed a new lease with these guys?

    • Angela Colley

      They should still be required to give you written notice (even without a lease in place,) but the laws vary by state. You can contact a Legal Aid office in your area or a Housing Authority office. Both agencies can help. Thanks!

  • Meg Anderson

    There’s also a NEW Kindle e-book out called How To Pay Your Rent On Time…..it makes a great gift for tenants and landlords alike….especially now with foreclosures and new tenants popping up all over America….

  • Run2bn8n

    i am frederick and i am woundering what month the budget comes in they told me i am next on the list when it is approved anaheim ca thanks

    • Angela Colley

      Hi Fredrick. The budget times vary by city. You can call your Housing Authority agent and they will be able to give you an exact day. Thanks!

  • Shannon Falter

    Dear Angela,

    You have posted Local Independent Charities of America in your article without approaching us about it first or obtaining our permission. As a result of your article, we are receiving many, many calls to our toll free number requesting rent assistance. I see that you have directed people to search for local charities using the web site, but this is not what they are doing. LIC itself does not offer rent assistance, and since your readers are not following the article’s instructions, we request that you remove us from the resources you list in your article. We are a very small organization and we serve our member charities, not the general public. We do not have the money or the time to field phone calls on our toll free number for people seeking help with rent because of this article! Please advise.

    • Dr. Bernard

      In other words you are yet another useless middleman.

  • Chuzy1120

    I’m a mother of eight w/2 sets of twins a grandmother of 5 n a wonderful hard working man we’ve lived in the same place for 12 yrs were we live is in a very small community it was our place I wntd to spend my whole life til I got a new neibhor n there dog try to attack my 1yr old twins 3 times n I was blamed for it seemed the land lords wntd to impress the neibhors well since then I’ve been harassed by her n my landlord n since I moved here I’ve been threatened of getting kicked out they’ve even told me some of my children have to move out because I have to many n not enough rooms I’ve got a three BDRM house two bthrm my kids are very good n are now uncomfortable to live here they told me I CNT have pix in my walls or plants or even paint any RMS we have black mold in our celling for the whole twelve yes I’ve been here cause by a leak in my roof they refuse to fix three broken windows they haven’t fixed nathrm sink leaks down my hallway for the past three yes they refuse to fix n they repainted my inside of my house n didn’t put our BDRM or closet doors bk on they got wet in the rain they hurrase me weekly my rent is always paid we bother nobody we keep to yourself me n my husband north been looking for work n there’s no work around we recycle or clean up peoples yard just to make ends meet we want to relocate to a better place were its closer to n for work schools n just to make a new start n gave our children a better life to show them there is a better place in the world we are hudrased on A weekly basis I’m afraid that my children will go down the wrong road there’s nothing there no jobs a lot of drugs n volience most kids are raised in the system n all mothers are single parents depression is crazy everybody seems depressed we have no moneys to move or not even enough money for x-mas n I don’t we a tell my children I CNT afford it this yr n they tell me wat they want for x-mas n it breaks my heart .I’m looking for some assistance that could possible help me my husband our children n grand children to move asap I’m tired of feeling hopeless n like I’m not living just existing I have dreams my husband children have dreams n I’m afraid if we stay here they will just be broken dreams I’ve got such Hugh hopes n so do our children I’m not a quoted I’m very determered when I want sum thing I go after it n always achieve my goals I feel so down n out rite now there is a better way n a better life out there n I wants show my kids there is hope n help n we will make it a achieve our goals if I cud just get a little help with sum asitance for money to move a down payment on a four to give BDRM home n a few months rent just til we cud get up on our feet again if there’s anyone out there that hears me n could help please write bk to me at [email protected] thank u n god bless even just for reading my prayers hopes n dreams

  • Quepid

    i am in a losing battle and dont know where to turn im posting this in the hopes someone can tell where to go. my son has been diagnosed with several illness and one he wont be able to get rid of . ive been staying with him and taking care of him(i came from another city to do so) he lost his job due to being ill and ive been looking to no end.we are now in the hospital on our 8th day and looking at being evicted… im scared to death and need some help!!!!!!!!!

  • Eberhart Todd

    Hey I lost my job,and my girl is due to have a baby in 2week she pregnant and do not return back 2 work until march. Ian looking 4 work but we r behind in rent we need help just 2 pay rent just 4 this month. I will be working by February 20. Do anyone have I idea?

  • kate

    My name is Kate i want to share my testimonies to people in this forum When
    I married my husband I was already pregnant and so I didn’t have a job. He had
    a really good job though so I was able to stay home and take care of our son
    when it was born. When we had our second child we moved to a bigger house, but
    then strange things started to happen. Things would fly off the walls and doors
    would slam at night. Our oldest son talked about seeing figures and hearing
    voices. We consulted a medium and they said the house was haunted. After living
    there about a year more with only minor occurrences we moved out. That was when
    the bad luck started to happen. Everything started to fail, with my husband’s
    job, our money and our luck in general. I went back to the same medium and they
    told me that a spirit had followed me and placed a curse upon me for disturbing
    it and not being respectful in the previous house. He tried to remove it but
    was unable. The misfortune kept going on and getting more severe as I tried to
    search out someone to break the curse. But when I found Dr Shiva at HINDU spell
    he finally did it. Things started turning around almost immediately after he
    cast the spell and have been great from there my husband is back to me and also
    find a good job! This was really a miracle for us, thank you DR Shiva at HINDU SPELL
    TEMPLE you are the best from the bottom of my heart!CONTACT HINDU TEMPLE VIA
    THIS EMAIL:[email protected]…CAN NEVER STOP TALKING ABOUT YOU SIR
    HIS EMAIL ADDRESS IS [email protected] CONTACT HIM NOW FOR SOLUTION TO
    ALL YOUR PROBLEMS Posted by. MISS KATE MOORE

  • Katetoo

    Am facing eviction for the second time, this time because my daughter lost her job and cannot find another. The real story is there is ABSOLUTELY NO HELP available in Florida. We did this song and dance before when they auctioned the house out from under us for their piddly back taxes just three years ago after my company shut down. United Way/211 is useless as a teat on a boar!!! (I wonder what they actually do?) Oh that’s right… refer you to just one frigging place that blows you off. These days it takes no time at all to evict so like it mentions above you better be hot on the trail of some kind of help. You can hardly find food but that is about all any of the charities attempt to do these days. During our last bout of homelessness my appreciation for Walmart actually went up because they allowed us to loiter outside during the scary nights. We spent our days in the library. Taco Bell isn’t too bad about you hanging around nor is Dunkin Donuts. This time we are up the creek because I am on oxygen 24/7 and get so winded when I move more than a few feet. The good news is the oxygen tanks can be delivered to Walmart’s parking lot as long as Medicare and your supplemental pay for it. I worked hard all my life to make some white man rich just to be discarded like a piece of trash. I am sure most of the people posting and looking for help did to and that helps with the shame of all of this. Here’s hoping we don’t get raped or killed this time.

  • Lamar

    Hi im Mr Battle, im writing to get information and help with paying my rent…. the rental place where I reside at sent a warrant paper saying I had to go to court on Aug 26… I showed up and had to answer to the warrant. They gave me another court fate for Sept.4th before that date the assistant manager got together and she said pay 693.00 by Aug 30. So come Aug.28th I bring in a money order for 600.00. And told her I would bring the 93.00 wen I get paid on Sept.6… here is Sept 5th I receive another note sayin IgI got to pay 1190.50 by Sept 7th… I don’t know what to do this is my first time being this behind… but I was recently laid off July 8 th 2013.

  • Linda

    Stupid article.

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