Rental utilities in all 50 states

  • If you can’t afford rent, talk to your landlord, manage your expenses, and seek help through community programs.
  • Emergency rent utilities are government-funded resources that landlords pay on behalf of tenants.
  • Aid is often processed by the state or province, so check your local jurisdiction to see if you qualify.

have American rents increased 18% average over the past five years, higher than both inflation and wage growth. As wages rise in the US, they do so at a significantly slower pace compared to the rent. In the past year alone, wages have increased by about 5%, while rents have increased by 15%.

These numbers are not just statistics, but a scary reality for renters, who are about one third of the US population† If there comes a time when you can’t afford the rent, there are options designed to help.

Steps to take if you can’t pay the rent

While every situation may be slightly different, there are expert-recommended best practices that anyone can adopt. “You don’t want to pretend it’s over,” says Regina CarmineNACCC Certified Financial Advisor and HUD Certified Housing Advisor at the Pittsburgh Center for Financial Empowerment† “You really need to tackle it right away or ahead of time if you can.”

1. Talk to your host

As soon as you realize that you cannot pay the rent in full, you should contact your landlord or property manager as soon as possible. “It’s the first thing to do, and probably the hardest thing to do,” says Carmine. While it can be inconvenient, it’s important to establish an open line of communication, and this way your landlord may be more willing to come to an agreement that benefits both parties.

You must collect any documentation you have that shows that you have lost income or why you are unable to pay rent. “It’s better to be prepared with more information than you need to,” says Carmine. “Tell the story so they don’t have to ask.”

When you enter into that conversation, it can help to be prepared with a proposed solution or compromise. “There are certainly a lot of similarities,” says Dana Amundson, MSW, LGSW and the housing program coordinator at Mediation and recovery services, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Amundson helps landlords and tenants to reach agreements in similar situations. She usually sees payment plan resolutions, which often span a month or longer depending on how much is owed.

“It’s very important to be realistic about what you can agree to,” she adds, because it doesn’t help anyone if a party can’t stick to their side of the agreement. She has also brokered relocation plans, where the landlord and tenant enter into an agreement to help the tenant break a lease early with no consequences. Once you’ve come to a solution, put everything in writing.

2. Find a list of organizations that can help you

After speaking with your host, you can explore organizations that may be able to provide emergency housing or rental costs if you qualify. modest needs offers grants for emergency costs, including rent and utility bills. The Help with renting multi-family homes program provides rental assistance to owners of USDA-funded rural rental housing projects or farm labor housing projects on behalf of tenants. The Salvation Army also offers one-time rent assistance to those struggling to pay rent (check with your local Salvation Army to see if you qualify, as funds and programs vary from city to city). “If you call 2-1-1 and say you need help with the rental, they put you in touch with a dozen organizations in your area,” adds Carmine.

In addition, some nonprofit organizations provide rental and emergency assistance to people in specific professional sectors, especially the arts, who have lost their source of income or experienced financial difficulties.

3. Manage your expenses

Since you will be working with your landlord and any programs that can help, managing your money outflow will be another important step. “When we look at how we manage debt and make sure our cash flow is positive or at least neutral, budgeting is the magic word,” he says. Michael Coco a CFP® professional with Fair Advisers† He suggests writing down each expense and categorizing it as a need or a need. “There are basic things — like food and shelter — that we all need, but there are other things that go a little too far that we need to think about and look inward.”

Carmine suggests creating a “priority budget.” For this type of system, you prioritize some expenses and minimize others that aren’t paramount. “It starts with the real estate, especially your rent and your mortgage,” she says. From there, consider other expenses like utilities, bills, food, and entertainment. Ideally, cut back or minimize things at the bottom of the list to make sure everything is paid for at the top. “When you look at it on paper, it’s really an eye opener for most,” adds Carmine.

Both financial professionals also recommend calling utilities and other service providers to negotiate rates. “Sometimes, just 15 minutes of conversation can cut your bill by $25 to $30 a month,” says Cocco.

But cutting back may only go so far, so it’s also important to think about all the ways you can earn extra income, whether that’s seeking further compensation from a boss or applying for other positions. “Some people may not have a job,” Cocco adds. “In that case, I would encourage people to look into government programs that could potentially help.”

4. Consider rent assistance

If you’re struggling to pay rent, rent assistance programs may be able to help. These programs are often administered at the state or provincial level and provide emergency assistance to eligible applicants, usually in the form of non-refundable grants. “I’ve never had any of these programs claim reimbursement,” says Carmine.

Often these are economic aid programs funded by the government to help people in different communities in times of need. “We always recommend that people contact their local county resources, and those county employees can help you apply in your jurisdiction,” Amundson says.

How do you qualify for rental assistance?

Eligibility for rental assistance can vary from state to state and even by province. Many states have COVID-related assistance that requires you to demonstrate financial need based on the pandemic. “They change qualifications very often,” says Carmine, noting that it’s easiest to check with your local program to make sure you meet the eligibility requirements. If you don’t, she recommends checking the program regularly for updates.

In some cases, tenants submit an application themselves, in other municipalities the landlord must first submit an application. For this reason, it is extremely important that the conversation takes place in advance with the owner of the property. Amundson often sees these conversations taking place in mediation. “It helps to figure out together who’s going to do what, who’s going to give what paperwork, that sort of thing,” she says.

Find Rental Tools in Your Country

Carmine suggests working from a top-down approach when it comes to finding rental assistance programs in your area. “I’d start big,” she says, advising people to go to the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development and Consumer Financial Protection Agency† From there, individuals can search their state or province plus “rent emergency assistance” or call 2-1-1.

*Program is closed; The information in this table is current as of June 27, 2022.

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