Nearly a Quarter of Renters Are Behind in These 3 States. How to Cope if You're Struggling to Pay

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  • Research shows that nearly a quarter of renters in South Dakota, Alabama, and New Jersey are behind on their payments.
  • Nationwide, 15% of households are behind with their payments.
  • If you're struggling to cover your rent, the most important thing is not to ignore the problem.

26% of renters in South Dakota are behind with payments.

Around 6 million renters -- 15% of American households -- are behind with their payments, according to research by The figures vary hugely depending on the state. For example, in South Dakota, Alabama, and New Jersey, almost a quarter of renters are behind with their payments. In Idaho, only 3% of households are behind.

A quarter of renters in South Dakota, Alabama, and New Jersey are behind

There are several reasons why people are behind with rent payments. Living costs have risen across the board, and wages haven't kept up. In addition to the higher costs of groceries and gas, rental costs have also risen dramatically. Some people have had to dip into their savings to cover the higher costs, and others have fallen behind on their bills.

According to Redfin, the median national rent crossed the $2,000 mark for the first time in May. Its September data shows that rent growth is slowing, but monthly rents are still 9% more than they were the year before. In March, the year-over-year rent growth was a shocking 18%.

People in these three states are finding it particularly difficult to keep up with payments.

1. South Dakota (26%)

Not only does South Dakota top the list with the highest percentage of renters who can't pay, that figure has also jumped considerably in the past two years. In 2020, just 12% of renters were behind. Back then, it was states like Indiana and Louisiana that had the biggest problems.

2. Alabama (25%)

Alabama has been consistently among the top states with delinquent rental payments in recent years. Last year, 21% of renters were behind, and in 2020, that figure was 24%.

3. New Jersey (24%)

New Jersey is one of the few states to still have eviction protections in place for renters who fell behind during COVID-19. Households that meet certain income criteria cannot be evicted for missing rent payments between Mar. 1, 2020 and Aug. 31, 2021.

How to cope if you're behind with your rent

Falling behind on bills can be scary, especially when we're talking about paying for the roof over your head. But if you don't have enough money in the bank to cover your rent, ignoring the problem is not going to help. You could wind up in court and eventually face eviction.

One potential avenue to explore is speaking with a HUD-approved housing counselor. They may be able to help you apply for assistance, understand your rights, develop a budget, and find an affordable home. HUD is a government agency with a lot of resources around housing and renting.

Speak to your landlord, even if the conversation is difficult. If you had a period of unemployment but are now working again, perhaps you can work out a payment plan to cover the arrears. Be realistic and don't overpromise. If you come to an agreement only to break it further down the road, your landlord may be less understanding a second time around.

It's a stressful situation, but try to be reasonable and present ways that your solutions might benefit your landlord as well. For example, a repayment plan might reassure them they will get back what they're owed and while avoiding costly legal fees. You might also work jointly with your landlord to apply for rental assistance, as this can mean your application has a better chance of success.

On the topic of rental assistance, if you haven't yet looked into what's available in your state, do so now. Whatever your situation -- even if you're facing eviction -- there may be programs that can help. If your landlord has filed a lawsuit against you, find out what legal aid programs operate in your area. Free legal advice could help you navigate the process.

Bottom line

Falling behind with your rent can be traumatic. Unfortunately, it is a situation over 6 million households face today. If you're not bringing in enough money to cover the essentials, such as rent, you need to act now. It may be a question of taking on extra work for a short period of time. Or, in a worst case scenario, you might need to move to lower-cost housing. There's no easy answer, but there are organizations out there that can help you along the way.

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