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landlord and tenant

Can't Pay Your Rent? How to Work With Your Landlord During the Coronavirus Outbreak

[Updated: Aug 07, 2020 ] Mar 23, 2020 by Aly J. Yale
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The ever-growing coronavirus outbreak is putting financial strain on millions of American households. Hours have been cut, wages reduced, and in some cases, businesses completely shuttered.

As we approach the end of the month, it also has renters on edge.

Are you worried about how you'll make your rent payments due to pandemic-related cutbacks? Here are your options:

Give your landlord a good heads-up

The more notice you can give your landlord about your financial struggles, the better the outcome will be. Contact them as soon as you think there might be a problem making rent, and ask what options they can offer you. Can you pause payments for a month or two? What about giving you a later due date to better coincide with your payday?

Ask about setting up a payment plan

You might also ask about a payment plan. Maybe you could split your rent into two or three separate payments and spread them out across the month? Or, if you need a longer break, could they let you add this month's rent onto future payments once you get back on your feet? Many landlords will be willing to work with you -- especially given what's going on in the world.

Request a temporary rent reduction

Your landlord may be going through financial difficulties, too, and while they'd love to cut you some slack, they might not be able to. If you suspect this may be the case, ask for a small rent reduction instead. If they could knock a few hundred dollars off your rent, they'd still get income, and you'd catch a break. It's not the ideal situation, but it's a small win for both of you.

Look into rental assistance programs

There are a number of rental assistance programs -- both national and local -- that can help renters in need. Your best resource is the Department of Housing and Urban Development or your state or city's housing agency. You can also just Google "CITY/COUNTY rental assistance," and you'll likely pull up a few options as well.

Check your lease

Some leases have hardship clauses that allow you to break your lease if you experience some sort of change in financial circumstances. Read your lease thoroughly to see if there's anything similar. While it won't let you skip rent payments, it will allow you to move out -- sometimes penalty-free -- and find a more affordable property.

See if you can skip other payments to make up for it

Another option is to reduce the other monthly bills you have coming in. During the COVID-19 outbreak, dozens of companies are giving customers a break on payments. Allstate (NYSE: ALL), for example, is letting consumers skip two premium payments with no penalty. Use options like these to reduce your car or renters insurance, and put that extra cash toward rent until you can catch up.

Telecommunications companies and utility providers are offering similar programs, so take a look at your monthly bills and see what options you might have available.

Know your rights

Evictions are on pause on all HUD-owned properties, and many states have ordered all evictions halted across the board. Make sure you know what laws your state and city have in place to protect renters during this difficult time.

If you don't think your landlord is treating you fairly, or you suspect they might be violating any laws, a tenant advocacy group can help. Most major cities have government tenant rights departments you can get in touch with, and there are usually a number of nonprofit organizations in any given area, too. An attorney may also be able to help if you're unsure where to start.

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Aly Yale has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.