With times seemingly harder than ever, many families are seriously cutting back in order to make ends meet. One of the most costly bills families face is rent. The cost of living is proving to be too much for many Americans. When people don’t pay rent they can face major challenges, like eviction. For many, it can seem like once you get behind, it can be difficult to catch up again. Fortunately, there are some steps to consider to improve your situation.
Things You Can Do When You Can’t Make Rent
If you’ve found yourself in a situation where you don’t have the money to pay rent, there are some solutions for you! If you have fallen on hard times, it doesn’t have to be permanent. Consider these tips to help with your situation:
- Find a roommate
- Make and stick to a budget
- Apply for housing assistance
- Use funds from your emergency savings
- Get another job for extra income
- Consider your rights as a tenant and/or seek legal advice
- Talk to your landlord
Find a Roommate
You might love having the place to yourself, but having a roommate could potentially cut your rent in half! If you’ve got a spare bedroom, this is definitely a good option to consider. In another scenario, if you’re currently living in a one-bedroom apartment, you might not have any extra room to spare. However, let’s say that your rent is $1,400 per month for a one-bedroom. If you found a two-bedroom apartment for $1,800, with a roommate, the split would only be $900 per month! That means you could be saving an additional $400 on rent every month. That’s a huge saving and could be what you need to get ahead!
Make and Stick to a Budget
A budget is a plan to decide how much money you will spend each month. It’s a very important tool, especially if you have a savings goal in mind. A good starting point of making a budget is knowing your average monthly income. To understand how much money you make per month, first, you’ll need the average number of hours you work every week. As an example, if you work 35 hours per week and make $18 per hour, your average weekly income before taxes is $630. This will give you a monthly income of $2520. Now, you do want to keep in mind that your actual paycheck will be lower than this number because of taxes. Regardless, it is important that you understand your gross income.
Once you are familiar with your monthly income, you’ll need to understand your expenses. Expenses are your bills but they are also any other thing you spend money on. This could be groceries, dining out, a new work uniform, etc. In this example, let’s still assume that your rent is $1,400. After factoring in water, heat, and electricity, your total rent and utilities come to $1,700. Your car insurance and car note are $550 together. Your phone bill is $100. And finally, you spend $500 on groceries each month. That is $2,850 that you’re spending on just the basics, which is more than what you make! We have not even considered monthly subscriptions or other potential expenses! This is just one way a budget can help you understand what you’re spending your money on. When you determine what to cut back on, your rent situation can improve!
How Much Rent Can You Afford?
The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) defines what they believe to be affordable housing. They define affordable housing as rent and utilities not exceeding 30% of an individual’s income. When creating your own budget, consider the 30% rule. This way you can better determine how much rent you can afford.
Apply for Housing Assistance
As we said before, if you’re in a situation where you’re struggling to make rent, you’re certainly not alone. If you’re having a hard time right now, you might be eligible to benefit from a housing assistance program. There are multiple options for you to consider at both the state and local levels. Additionally, the federal government also offers a variety of housing assistance options. The HUD funds federal programs like:
Housing Choice Voucher Program (Section 8)
This program is a great option if you would like to find a rental in the private market. In some cases, Section 8 recipients are even able to stay in their current homes. Section 8 provides vouchers to qualifying families and individuals. The vouchers are used to cover some of the cost of housing expenses like rent. When finding a place to live in this program, you need to ensure that the landlord accepts vouchers as payment. Additionally, local Public Housing Authorities (PHAs) have certain standards that the property is required to meet. An example includes an inspection of the home. The PHA will do the inspection! Once everything checks out, the recipient can move into their new rental. They are then responsible for paying whatever the voucher does not cover each month.
Unlike the Housing Choice Voucher Program, Public Housing consists of government-owned properties that recipients rent. This means that recipients of this housing assistance program don’t move into homes listed on the private market. The government is essentially your landlord in this case. The units are rented at a rate that the family can afford.
Use Funds From Your Emergency Savings
As a general recommendation, an emergency fund should be enough savings for 3-6 months worth of expenses. Do you have an emergency fund? If you do, struggling with rent could be the right time to put it to use. It’s understandable if you don’t have an emergency fund. But now would be the time to consider saving up to build one. If you are starting with no savings, a good first goal is to save up to $1,000. After you’ve done that, you can start building up your savings to a bigger cushion.
Pick Up a Second Job Or An Additional Stream of Income
Unfortunately, the state of the economy has left many people in a tough spot. It’s becoming more and more popular to find additional sources of income. If you’re needing extra cash for rent, a simple way to increase your income is to work extra hours. As an example, if you pick up an extra 10 hours per week at $18 per hour, that’s $720 per month.
Consider Your Rights as a Tenant and/or Seek Legal Advice
As a tenant, you have certain rights. Understanding what rights you do have could help you when you need it most. Researching the rights tenants have in your state is a start. However, talking to a tenant lawyer is the best way to understand all of your options. A consultation with a professional can be free. They can also answer any particular questions you may have, as well as take care of any legal proceedings if they’re necessary for your situation!
Talk to Your Landlord
If all else fails, talk to your landlord. Arrange a time to meet with them to discuss a plan of action that works for you both. After all, landlords are humans too, and might be empathetic to your situation. When approaching your landlord, remember to be honest and respectful!
If you find yourself not able to make your rent, there are a number of steps you can take to better your situation. Your situation can improve, you just need to know what steps you can take. Now that you understand what options you have, it’s up to you to actually take the next steps. A couple of the solutions that could help you are finding a roommate or explaining your situation to your landlord. Whichever you choose to do, remember that if one option doesn’t work out, there is more that you can try!