Home > Personal Finance > I Can’t Pay My Rent This Month, What Are My Options?

Comments 0 Comments
Advertiser Disclosure


According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, housing is the most expensive budget item for average American households. It accounts for an average of 32% of all expenditures. With mortgage payments or rent drawing so heavily on consumer finances, it’s not surprising that sometimes people have to say, “I can’t pay my rent.”

A sudden loss of income, a personal emergency or a larger crisis—such as a global pandemic—can quickly cause someone to be unable to pay rent. But what happens if you can’t make rent? Find out what your options are below.

What Happens If You Don’t Pay Rent for a Month?

First, know that landlords typically can’t just change the locks and kick your stuff to the curb because you’re running a little late on the rent. In many cases, the landlord has to go through legal channels to terminate your tenancy first.

How the landlord terminates tenancy and seeks eviction depends on the laws of your state and the terms of your lease. But typically, it requires the landlord to provide written notice of the issue. You often have time after receiving the notice to correct the issue. If the issue is late rent, you can catch up payments or make arrangements with your landlord to do so.

It’s only if you don’t make good on the rent following a written notice that the landlord can move forward seeking eviction. In some cases, this might involve a lawsuit.

Steps to Take If You Can’t Pay Rent

  1. Check your lease. Find out exactly what your agreement says about rent, whether you have a grace period and what your landlord’s options for recourse are. This helps you understand when your landlord might take action against you and whether you have time to come up with rent money.
  2. Talk to your landlord. As soon as you know you can’t afford your rent, speak to your landlord. In many cases, honesty is the best policy here. You might be able to work out a deal to pay the rent late or make partial payments until you can catch up. Get any agreements about your rent payments in writing.
  3. Make payments. Make partial or late rent payments as agreed upon with your landlord. If you ran late and can now pay your rent, pay it via check and get a receipt, and if your landlord won’t accept the payment, send it via certified mail so you have proof that you made every attempt to correct the arrears. This can make a difference if the landlord attempts to sue you or evict you.
  4. Seek financial assistance. Some organizations offer loans, grants and other assistance to help people in financial hardship make rent payments. See the section below about getting help paying your rent for more information.

Rent Relief During Emergencies

If you experience financial distress related to a major national or natural disaster, you might be able to get rent relief. For example, the federal government passed rent relief measures as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act.

Under the CARES Act, it is unlawful to evict renters living in federally guaranteed housing. That covers around 28% of rental units in the United States.

Even if you aren’t living in a rental situation covered by these types of relief packages, you may have some options. If you’re a good tenant who has always paid on time before, landlords will likely work with you during times of known emergency. Just let them know as soon as possible that you might need help—they need time to make their own financial plans to deal with a crisis.

For more information about protecting your finances during the COVID-19 pandemic, check out the Credit.com Coronavirus guide.

Where Can I Get Help Paying My Rent?

If you can’t afford rent this month but know you’ll be back on your feet in the near future, you can probably work something out with your landlord. But if you can’t—or you’re not sure if you can afford rent next month either—you may want to look into assistance options.

Local and state governments, churches and area nonprofits are all agencies that might offer rent relief programs. Contact local housing authorities to find out more about options, but here are a few places you might start.

What Happens to Your Credit If You Can’t Pay Rent?

Remember that being late on your rent doesn’t just stress you out and make your relationship with your landlord difficult. It can also impact your credit. Some credit scoring models, such as VantageScore, might include rent payments, which may show up like an auto loan or like a charge card, depending on how your lease is structured.

Your good—or bad—rental history might also show up on rental screening products offered by the major credit reporting agencies. Being evicted or making no effort to work with your landlord can make it difficult to rent again. If you want to keep track of how late rent payments or anything else might be impacting your credit score, sign up for your free Credit Report Card.

Comments on articles and responses to those comments are not provided or commissioned by a bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by a bank advertiser. It is not a bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Please note that our comments are moderated, so it may take a little time before you see them on the page. Thanks for your patience.

Credit.com receives compensation for the financial products and services advertised on this site if our users apply for and sign up for any of them.

Hello, Reader!

Thanks for checking out Credit.com. We hope you find the site and the journalism we produce useful. We wanted to take some time to tell you a bit about ourselves.

Our People

The Credit.com editorial team is staffed by a team of editors and reporters, each with many years of financial reporting experience. We’ve worked for places like the New York Times, American Banker, Frontline, TheStreet.com, Business Insider, ABC News, NBC News, CNBC and many others. We also employ a few freelancers and more than 50 contributors (these are typically subject matter experts from the worlds of finance, academia, politics, business and elsewhere).

Our Reporting

We take great pains to ensure that the articles, video and graphics you see on Credit.com are thoroughly reported and fact-checked. Each story is read by two separate editors, and we adhere to the highest editorial standards. We’re not perfect, however, and if you see something that you think is wrong, please email us at editorial team [at] credit [dot] com,

The Credit.com editorial team is committed to providing our readers and viewers with sound, well-reported and understandable information designed to inform and empower. We won’t tell you what to do. We will, however, do our best to explain the consequences of various actions, thereby arming you with the information you need to make decisions that are in your best interests. We also write about things relating to money and finance we think are interesting and want to share.

In addition to appearing on Credit.com, our articles are syndicated to dozens of other news sites. We have more than 100 partners, including MSN, ABC News, CBS News, Yahoo, Marketwatch, Scripps, Money Magazine and many others. This network operates similarly to the Associated Press or Reuters, except we focus almost exclusively on issues relating to personal finance. These are not advertorial or paid placements, rather we provide these articles to our partners in most cases for free. These relationships create more awareness of Credit.com in general and they result in more traffic to us as well.

Our Business Model

Credit.com’s journalism is largely supported by an e-commerce business model. Rather than rely on revenue from display ad impressions, Credit.com maintains a financial marketplace separate from its editorial pages. When someone navigates to those pages, and applies for a credit card, for example, Credit.com will get paid what is essentially a finder’s fee if that person ends up getting the card. That doesn’t mean, however, that our editorial decisions are informed by the products available in our marketplace. The editorial team chooses what to write about and how to write about it independently of the decisions and priorities of the business side of the company. In fact, we maintain a strict and important firewall between the editorial and business departments. Our mission as journalists is to serve the reader, not the advertiser. In that sense, we are no different from any other news organization that is supported by ad revenue.

Visitors to Credit.com are also able to register for a free Credit.com account, which gives them access to a tool called The Credit Report Card. This tool provides users with two free credit scores and a breakdown of the information in their Experian credit report, updated twice monthly. Again, this tool is entirely free, and we mention that frequently in our articles, because we think that it’s a good thing for users to have access to data like this. Separate from its educational value, there is also a business angle to the Credit Report Card. Registered users can be matched with products and services for which they are most likely to qualify. In other words, if you register and you find that your credit is less than stellar, Credit.com won’t recommend a high-end platinum credit card that requires an excellent credit score You’d likely get rejected, and that’s no good for you or Credit.com. You’d be no closer to getting a product you need, there’d be a wasted inquiry on your credit report, and Credit.com wouldn’t get paid. These are essentially what are commonly referred to as "targeted ads" in the world of the Internet. Despite all of this, however, even if you never apply for any product, the Credit Report Card will remain free, and none of this will impact how the editorial team reports on credit and credit scores.

Your Stories

Lastly, much of what we do is informed by our own experiences as well as the experiences of our readers. We want to tell your stories if you’re interested in sharing them. Please email us at story ideas [at] credit [dot] com with ideas or visit us on Facebook or Twitter.

Thanks for stopping by.

- The Credit.com Editorial Team