With more and more areas of the country advising their citizens to “Shelter in Place,” it’s important that you are able to pay your rent without endangering yourself or others. Speak with your landlord about what payment methods they accept and encourage them to accept digital payments. The World Health Organization (WHO) offered the following recommendation, “We would advise people to wash their hands after handling banknotes, and avoid touching their face. … When possible it’s a good idea to use contactless payments to reduce the risk of transmission.”
But What if You Can’t Make your Rent Payment?
Review your Renter’s Insurance
Before making any payment arrangements, it’s a good time to see what protections you might already have in place. Call your renter’s insurance provider and see if you have coverage for the inability to pay due to unforeseen/ emergency circumstances.
Comb Through your Lease
There is a chance that your lease includes a hardship clause that will allow you to leave your lease if your financial situation changes unexpectedly. See if your lease contains a similar clause While you’ll still be required to pay your rent, you might be able to move out, with our without a penalty and make other living arrangements.
Talk with your Landlord
Schedule a call or virtual meeting with your landlord and discuss your current financial situation as soon as you think you might have a problem paying rent. The sooner you communicate with your landlord, the more likely you are to have a positive outcome. Ask what your options are. Perhaps your landlord can pause incoming payments for a few months and make arrangements for repayment. Another option is to agree to a reduced price that will allow you to stay current on your rent and repay the amount over the course of the rest of your lease. Remember that your landlord has their own financial obligations to meet and that if they are unable to offer help, the decision is not personal.
Pay Your Rent with a Credit Card
Offer to pay your rent with a credit card. If you have some money available, split your payment methods up and pay what you can and charge the rest to your credit card. Credit cards exist to offer short-term financial help to those who are strapped for cash. While you’ll likely pay a fee to pay your rent with a credit card, (PayRent charges 3.5% +$0.30) it’s often a lower amount than the cost of a late fee or an overdraft charge. This is a great option if you’re expecting incoming funds and just need to buy some time.
Seek Out Local Resources
Because the effects of this virus are widespread, both the government and private businesses are flocking to assist. Simply google “rent assistance” along with your city or state to see what help is being offered to renters. Here are a few other websites that are great sources for finding local rental assistance programs.
- Just Shelter
- United Way -You can also connect directly with them by calling 2-1-1.
- Department of Housing and Urban Development
Reduce Other Bills
If your landlord isn’t willing to budge on a lower rent or deferred payments, consider reducing your other bills to free up some cash. Many national companies are allowing their clients to defer payments for a few months due to the coronavirus.
For example, AT&T is not terminating service “of any wireless, home phone or broadband residential or small business customer due to an inability to pay their bill as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.” They are also waiving fees for those customers.
Verizon is also taking action saying “If you are a customer who is experiencing hardship because of COVID-19 and cannot pay your bill in full, we will not charge you a late fee or terminate your service until after 05/13/2020. “ Talk to your phone, insurance, internet, and other utility providers. See if they are offering any payment assistance or deferment programs.
All HUD-owned properties have paused evictions and states and cities across the country are halting all evictions. Educate yourself about renter protection laws and ordinances in your local area. If you feel like you are being treated unfairly by your landlord, talk to a tenant advocacy group or a government agency to know what your rights and protections are.