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Tips for Talking to Your Landlord

If you are experiencing financial hardship or impacted by a disaster, you might be wondering what happens if you can’t pay rent. Thankfully, if you can’t afford rent, help may be available.

Different states have different rental assistance programs — you just need to apply. You may need your landlord’s help with the application, so don’t be afraid to reach out to them and explain your situation.   For guidance on how to tell your landlord you’re having trouble paying rent, read on.

Understand rental assistance options

Depending on your circumstances, federal and state programs might be able to help you cover a range of housing-related costs, such as late fees, moving expenses, and energy bills.

Your landlord might also be open to helping you in the short term by adjusting your payment terms temporarily. Here are some changes you could discuss:

  • Updating due dates to better align with your pay cycle 
  • Waiving late fees or interest on any payments made during hard times 
  • Possible temporary lowering of payment amounts for a specific period
  • Repaying overdue rent through a repayment plan over 6 – 12 months

Before you contact your landlord, you might benefit from speaking to a HUD-approved housing counselor. Because they are independent (i.e., they don’t have anything to do with your landlord), they are able to provide unbiased advice. They also often have experience helping renters overcome all kinds of housing challenges.

Explain your circumstances

Financial stress can happen to anyone, and you are not alone. Being realistic about what you can pay (and when) is better than overpromising to your landlord and then struggling with payments again later.

You want to remain calm when talking to your landlord. This will help you explain your financial hardship more clearly. Your landlord may also be more empathetic as they better understand the impact on your family, health, and well-being.

Share your research

It helps to communicate what information and resources you have found on rental assistance. Share any valuable links you have found online with your landlord. They may not have organized rent relief for tenants before, so they may welcome the options you present to them for consideration.

If you’re looking at federal or state programs, your landlord will need to understand how they work. Your research helps them see how it might benefit them and how they can support the application process.

Agree on what you’ll both do next

Whether you are considering applying for a rental assistance program or negotiating a private agreement, it’s a good idea to write down the next steps so you and your landlord know what you’re expected to do.

Along the way, save any emails and text messages and write down details of phone conversations you have with your landlord or rental assistance experts to help you keep track of the process.

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