9 Money-Smart Moves if You Can’t Pay Rent

Having a tough time month to month? Don't fret. There are renter-friendly solutions and safety nets worth exploring. So let's get started.

If you’re struggling to pay rent right now, you’re not alone. Housing costs are on the rise, soaring to shocking heights nationwide. In turn, renters (and homeowners) are struggling to pay and stay where they’re at. But don’t move out before you’ve explored your options.

With just a few savvy budgeting hacks, you could probably make rent, no matter how impossible it might seem. Regardless, you should discuss your situation with your landlord and come to an agreement about what’s next.

If you’re a reliable renter, your landlord might be more willing to work with you than you realize. And it never hurts to explore all of your options, especially when it comes to keeping a roof over your head.

Know Your Renters’ Rights

If you’re worried about getting evicted, it’s time to do some research. Knowing the tenant laws in your state can only work in your favor. Many states have now passed their own laws protecting tenants and granting them new rights if and when they’re unable to pay rent.

“The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has a page on its website with crucial housing information for each state,” per The Penny Hoarder.

Couple celebrates moving into a new house

Before you just go along with what you’re told, it’s important to know for sure whether or not your landlord can truly evict you. Once you’re sure about your rights and theirs, you’ll know how to approach the conversation, and what step you need to take next.

As noted by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, if a renter or their landlord receives federal subsidies, tenant protections are in place. And in many cases, you will at least have the right to a 30-day eviction notice.

Treat Your Landlord How You’d Like to Be Treated

Never forget the power of approaching someone as a human being and having a real conversation. You might think of your landlord as a faceless entity you send money to but never interact with otherwise. But they’re a person, just like you. Chances are, they’ve struggled at some time or another. So when in doubt, lead with empathy and help them see things from your side, while considering their position too.

couple shaking hands with their landlord

There’s no way to know whether or not they are going to be sympathetic to your situation. But it’s certainly worth a try. It also helps to maintain a friendly rapport with your landlord from the start. So that when you do have a financial obstacle or a delay with the rent, they’ll be more understanding and trusting when you explain your situation.

Treating your landlord like a person may also make them more receptive to the idea of making some other form of arrangement so that you can continue renting from them. By understanding where both parties are coming from and what limitations exist, you’ll be able to arrive at a resolution that works for everyone. In other words, treat people how you would like to be treated if you want a mutually beneficial outcome.

Be Prepared to Negotiate

After thorough research and budgeting, approach your landlord with realistic solutions. By offering up a solution, you’ll show your landlord you’re serious about staying, you’ve thought this through, and you’re attempting to make their job easier in any way you can. Providing realistic solutions will show you’re taking initiative and you respect their time.

Maybe they’ll agree to partial payments. Maybe they’ll let you skip a month. Present your ideas and open the floor for negotiations. They could have some work they need to be done that you can do. You’ll never know until you start the conversation.

man using laptop next to exposed brick wall in apartment

If they’re open to it, bartering might be a route worth considering. Are you a world-class landscaper? Put those skills to good use and shave off some of your bills.

Let them know you are seeking extra shifts at work or even a second job. It helps to show your landlord you’re being proactive. Show them what a wonderful tenant you can be.

Chances are, they’d rather keep you than go through the process of finding someone else and putting in the money to get the apartment ready for another person. If you’re in a tight spot but think things will regulate the following month, see if they’d be willing to use your security deposit for rent. No matter what you go with, presenting options is one of your best courses of action. So find three or four ideas that will work for you and see what your landlord thinks.

Get Your Adjusted Agreement in Writing

Once you and your landlord have agreed on an alternative plan for paying rent, it’s time to get it all in writing. You want your agreement to be solidified, and it’s better not to leave things up for debate down the road. With a document stating the arrangement, there will never be any confusion about what your agreement entails. And when it comes to your home, why take the risk?

Close up happy businessman signing partnership agreement.

Misinterpretations can be costly. If your landlord agrees to new, modified terms that aren’t stated in the lease, get them to sign a new document that confirms your payment plan. Primarily, this is for your protection. They might come back one day and say they never agreed to this or that. This way, you will have the proof you need to stay in your home sweet home.

Documentation helps everyone stay on the same page. Draw up your lease addendum and have them sign it. And make sure both parties understand all the terms laid out in the document. If something is unclear, it might be wise to consult an attorney. Yes, I know that might sound financially counterproductive, but it doesn’t have to be. As noted by The Penny Hoarder, “Local legal aid organizations or pro bono lawyers may provide free counsel to low-income individuals.”

Don’t Go Into Deeper (and Deeper) Debt

Sometimes when we’re in debt, we can feel a sense of desperation. We want to fix our situation as quickly as possible, but often feel like a debt-free life is out of reach. But don’t let your fear of being short on rent lead you to needlessly drastic decisions.

Man looks at a bill in despair

Debt should not be a reason to put yourself in more debt. But oftentimes, this is a very real situation for people who need money quickly and don’t know where to turn. Taking out loans to pay rent might seem like a quick fix, but financial gurus and advisors typically advise against it.

If you’re in debt and it’s putting a significant dent in your budget, debt consolidation might be a wise route. Explore the National Foundation for Credit Counseling and find a nonprofit debt consolidation company that works for you and with you.

Read More: Debt Payment Strategies That Actually Work

Seek Housing Assistance

Your community is loaded with resources. In fact, there are local housing assistance programs and eviction prevention programs for emergency funding all over the country. Know your options and take advantage of the resources that are there for you.

There’s no shame in looking into housing assistance. And if you’re in a tight spot, it could prove to be the thing that helps get you back on your feet in a very real way. Talk to your landlord. They likely already know about the housing assistance options in your community, so find out what they know with helping you both out in mind.

Find a Roommate

Splitting the housing expenses can sometimes be a lifesaver. And if you want to stay in your rental but can’t afford it on your own, finding a reliable roommate might be one of the best options.

If you can’t make rent, lightening your financial load is key. A roommate could take off some of the weight, ease your troubled mind, and maybe even help you get into a financial position to start saving.

elderly female roommates eating dinner together and laughing

Just be sure your landlord approves of the new tenant before you seal the deal. And above all else, don’t rush into any living arrangement with a stranger. Make sure they’re a good fit first.

If you just can’t afford to stay but you’re bound to the lease, subleasing your place might be a more viable option. But again, always talk to your landlord and see if they’d be open to the idea before you start interviewing people.

Turn Your Clutter Into Cash

young woman taking a digital photo of a shirt she plans to sell

If you’re short on rent, sell something. Turning your clutter into cash will always be an easy way to make a little money, or maybe a lot. There’s always money to be made, especially with online marketplaces. Chances are, people are shopping right this second for something you have in your possession. Sell it to them for the right price.

Look through your valuables and see what’s simply taking up space. What could you make a pretty penny off of? Consider selling something with your stable home life in mind. It’ll prove worth it when it’s time to pay rent.

Explore Other Gigs

Young woman in car on phone with Uber Eats bag in passenger seat

Sometimes, the only realistic rent-paying route is securing a second source of income. Whether it’s a project, short-term gig, or ongoing side hustle, making a little extra money can go a very long way. Side jobs often pay faster than traditional jobs, so find something that works with your schedule and start making a little more.

Don’t let anything stop you from feeling at ease in your home. Do what it takes to keep your current roof over your head if that’s what you want. But don’t let anyone pull the rug out from under you. Know your renter rights, and options, and put some power back in your hands today.

Read More: Side Hustles: Making Money on the Side Without Breaking a Sweat

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