Help! I Can’t Make Rent - What Are My Options?

past due

By Beth Kotz

While it's best not to make a habit of it, you might sometimes find yourself caught short when rent comes due. Whether you've failed to plan adequately, encountered emergency expenses or simply overspent your budget, there are steps you can take to deal with the situation. Don't let a temporary shortfall in cash lead to permanent eviction.

Examine Your Lease

Read carefully through your lease or rental agreement to see if it contains any language applicable to your situation. There may be a grace period allowing you some extra time to scrape together the needed cash. On the other hand, your contract may contain provisions for charging a fee whenever there's a tardy rent payment. It's always good to know where you stand before proceeding any further because this will inform the decisions you make and actions you take to resolve the issue.

Contact Your Landlord

Whenever there's a chance that you'll be unable to make rent, it's important to get in touch with your landlord without delay. It might be difficult to admit that you're not going to be able to discharge your responsibilities in a timely way, but this is much better than just not paying and hoping your landlord won't notice. He or she will definitely notice.

Because landlords have considerable discretion in determining how to deal with renters, you'll want to paint yourself in the best possible light rather than just waiting and praying for the best. Try to bring the matter up as soon as you know that you'll have problems paying. Most landlords are reasonably accommodating as long as you give enough advance warning.

Reach a Mutually Acceptable Agreement

Your landlord may agree to a partial payment on the due date with the amount owed to follow later on. If you've been a reliable tenant up until this point, then the owner of the property has incentives to keep you in your unit because vacancies cost money.

If your trouble with rent primarily stems from an inability to remember to pay on time, rather than a lack of funds, it might make sense to see if your landlord is open to receiving credit card rent payments. From a landlord’s perspective, this option may be appealing because it eliminates the hassle of cash or paper checks and ensures on-time payments. Setting up automatic rent payment each month with an online rent payment tool can make life easier for everyone.

Whatever agreement you wind up making, be sure to get the details in writing with your landlord's signature on the document. This will prevent possible troubles later on whether they're due to deliberate action or simple misunderstandings. Be sure to follow through on your promise to pay on the specified date. Otherwise, you'll not only be a late payer, but you'll also show yourself to be irresponsible, and your landlord will take this into account in all your future dealings.

Make Plans for the Future

Regardless of your current employment status or standard of living, it's a virtual certainty that you can make improvements in your financial arrangements.

Set up a budget each month, and try to stick to it. By documenting where your money is coming from and where it's going, you can probably identify a few key areas for economizing without drastically altering your habits and behavior. Looming rent deadlines will become much less ominous if you discover ways to more comfortably live within your means.

Consider Lifestyle Changes

If your financial struggles are the result not of a brief period of negative cash flow but rather long-term challenges, then it's time to make significant changes in your expenditures. You may have to cut back on luxuries like the latest electronic gadgets and costly entertainments. Depending on how severe your circumstances are, it might be worthwhile to explore your options for government assistance or private charity. Moving in with friends or family is another course of action that could enable you to economize on housing costs.

An occasional inability to cover your rent shouldn't pose too much of a problem as long as you communicate with your landlord ahead of time and in good faith. Still, it can be an embarrassing predicament to find yourself in, so it's a solid idea to enact measures in your own life that will prevent it from recurring.