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Coming up Short on Monthly Rent


What to Do When You Can't Pay Your Rent

It may be very stressful to find yourself in a situation where you cannot pay your rent. Coming up short on the rent may be due to a one-time financial crisis like an accident or long-term stressors like not getting enough hours at work.  Whatever the cause, you need to take action to get out of the crisis and into a more secure housing situation.

First, be up front and honest with your landlord if you have a problem paying your rent.  Being honest and direct may inspire more cooperation from your landlord. If you want to stay in your current home, you should also read your lease or rental agreement carefully to understand your options.

Sometimes, however, you may need a more creative or long-lasting solution. For example:

  • Taking in a roommate--if your landlord allows it, you may be able to get a roommate to share the rent. Read your lease; some require every occupant to be listed. If this isn't the case, you may have a roommate move in without changing your lease. Remember, if the lease is in your name only, you are responsible for the rent, even if your roommate does not pay. Consider a written roommate agreement that includes the amount of rent she must pay, when she must pay it, how the utilities will be paid for (her share), and other details.  This agreement protects you and your new roommate.
  • Moving to a cheaper rental—there are costs associated with moving, from renting a truck or van to setting up utilities again, but over the long run this may be a good option for you.  You want your housing to be affordable every month.  Some communities have apartments and rental units designated as low rent. In general, it’s ideal to keep housing to 30% or less of your income.  However, in some cities, where housing costs are very high, this may not be possible.
  • Moving in with friends or family—if paying your rent is an ongoing problem and you cannot find a less expensive (and still safe and secure) rental unit, consider moving in with a friend or family member.  In this situation, you become the roommate.  To provide assurances to the individual with whom you will be moving in, set up a roommate agreement.
  • Applying for social services—many communities have emergency rental assistance programs.  Often, they are housed in community action agencies or you can call or visit 2-1-1.

Finally, long-term rental assistance programs may help you establish an affordable, safe, and secure home.  The public housing authority in your community is responsible for these programs.

Tools to Help

How to Cover Your Rent

A list of options for covering your rent and maintaining your housing.

Learn More

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What You Can Do Right Now

Information is great. But taking small steps now can lead to big changes.
  • Today
  • Contact your landlord if you think you may not be able to pay your rent. If you are a good tenant, they may be willing to work with you.
  • Next Week
  • Review your income and expenses. Is your current living arrangement affordable long-term?
  • If not, review the list of solutions for reducing your rent, such as getting a roommate or moving to a cheaper rental.
  • During the Next Few Months
  • Take steps to make your housing more affordable; advertise for a roommate, read apartment listings to look for a cheaper rental, or move in with a friend or family member.