Can’t Pay Your Rent? Here Are 3 Helpful Options

If you are having trouble paying your rent—you’re not alone.

A recent study by Harvard University revealed there are close to 40 million Americans who are “living in housing they cannot afford.” These numbers might surprise you. However, with prices going up across the board, including rental prices, millions of American pocketbooks are being stretched to their limits.

As you can see, you’re not the only one struggling to pay the rent.

Being unable to pay your rent on time is a scary situation to be in, especially if you have children. If you feel helpless, keep reading.  

Good News: people needing help with rent are discovering various assistance options available for those who are at risk of becoming homeless. These assistance options come from government agencies, non-profit organizations and religious charities.

Before considering these options, here’s the first recommendation for those having trouble paying their rent on time:

1. Speak with Your Landlord

To prevent being evicted, you’re going to have to talk with your current landlord.

The assistance options below may come through for you, but you will still need to communicate to your landlord why you are late and what you are doing to remedy the situation.

You do not need to feel embarrassed. Being transparent with your landlord will let them know your situation is real and not just you goofing off.

Unemployment, medical bills or other disruptive life events can throw our budgets off course awhile. You may be surprised at how understanding your landlord responds, and perhaps together you both can plan out a way to solve the rent crisis.

Keep in mind, losing a tenant is not something landlords want. They don’t know how long it will take to fill the spot, so talk with your landlord and see if you can work this out.

Now let’s take a look at two additional options out there that are helping people keep their home by providing temporary assistance with rent. We will break them down into two groups that cover short term help and long term assistance.

2. Private Charities for Short-Term Help

When you fall behind a month or two in rent and you need a temporary fix is when you may want to contact one of the many charities that offer one-time rent payments in the form of grants, which means they don’t have to be paid back.

Each charity is going to be able to offer you different levels of assistance based on their financial limits and your specific needs.

Here are some charities to consider:

United Way. They offer a free database of local charities and nonprofits across the U.S. where you may find rent assistance and other grant monies for things like utility assistance. Visit to locate a program.

Modest Needs. If you have a job, you are eligible to apply for their grants which can cover up to $1000 for emergency expenses. Apply for a grant on their website.

The Salvation Army. As long as you can prove your hardship, a local Salvation Army chapter is ready to offer one-time rent assistance payments.

Jewish Federation of North America. Their mission is to help the poor in need. They do this through coordination with a pool of national charities. If they cannot directly offer rent assistance, they will guide you to someone who can. Contact them.

Episcopal Church. 

There are many Episcopal Churches around the U.S. who provide emergency financial assistance to families in need. When you can’t pay the rent, sometimes you also have a hard time feeding your family, providing clothing or paying utilities. They do all that and more.

3. Public Assistance for Long-Term Help

The government has programs and grants to help you pay your rent in a crunch. They can also assist you with finding a new place to live that’s in your budget. These programs usually offer long term help, however, you need to realize the assistance can take months to start. You will need to pass strict rules to be approved. So these options are not for emergencies.

State Assistance. The Home Program provides federal block grants to each state. The state governments then decide how to distribute the funds, and oftentimes they use it for rent and affordable housing.

Section 8. One of the best known federal government outreaches known as The Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program covers a family’s utilities and most of the rent. You get to live in a privately owned apartment or house that is owned by an approved landlord who receives the majority of the rent payment from the Housing Authority. If your income is below the average of your community, you can qualify.

Subsidized Housing. These are apartment complexes completely owned and managed by the government. Found in most urban areas, expect a long wait to get one. The wait can really help desperate families as the rent is far below market value.

Private Subsidized Housing. These apartment complexes are privately owned but are partially subsidized, which means you get a rent reduction based on income while the owner gets a tax break for renting to you. To find one near you, here is a database of privately subsidized housing complexes all across the U.S.


Rental assistance can be just what you need to stay in your current home and not end up living with a relative, or worse, become homeless.

If paying your rent is becoming difficult, impossible, or if you foresee it becoming a serious issue down the road, you should act now and not wait. When you let your landlord know your situation, you might be able to find a work-trade agreement for the time being. Another possibility to help yourself quickly is to find a roommate.

These are all options you should pursue as soon as possible to stay on top of your rental payments.