You can get cash assistance for your rent or housing assistance while you’re between paychecks, unemployed, or on leave from work. We’ve all struggled to afford our rent at some point or another in our lives, and it can be an extremely stressful time. That’s why there are so many great resources for getting assistance with rent when you need it.
Rent and Housing Assistance When You’re Broke: What Do You Qualify For?
There are hundreds of tiny (and not so tiny) variables that can affect what kind of assistance with rent you qualify for, and how much financial assistance you’re eligible for. There’s no set list of requirements for financial assistance with rent in the U.S. But start with your state and work from there.
Of course, if you’re a veteran, qualify for disability, of a certain age, have children you can claim as dependents, are unemployed, or meet other similar requirements; you’re going to be eligible for a larger source of rent assistance. You might be able to qualify for more months of rent being covered, or your get assistance with your utilities in addition to your rent. It all just depends.
As a rule of thumb, the first step of applying for assistance with rent should be to look into what kind of assistance you qualify for. States will vary, and so will private versus government housing assistance. Your job status will also be a key factor.
The first place you should go to is to go to the website for you state’s housing assistance programs. It’ll be some kind of .gov website that will give you a run-down of what assistance with rent looks like in your state, and what kind of process you’ll have to go through to obtain financial assistance with housing.
Remember- don’t bother applying for assistance with your rent if you don’t actually meet the requirements listed… they’ll check your facts, so it’s a waste of your time and theirs to try to lie. Just don’t do it.
After you check your state’s individual eligibility for state government-funded rental assistance, you’ll want to go a little more local. Most major cities have housing programs and organizations for assistance with rent set up that’s likely to be better than what the state can offer you.
Often, if you’re receiving no income, you can have temporary housing provided for you and your family until you’re back on your feet. These free or subsidized city housing programs are especially useful for specific groups of people: people living with HIV and are stigmatized, single mothers, people who are facing homelessness, veterans suffering from severe PTSD, etc.
City or state government can often provide residents with temporary rent-free or low-rent housing, and offer to cover the cost of utilities for the time being. It’s no luxury apartment, but for many people with low income or no income at all, it can mean the difference between facing foreclosure or apartment repossession.
Do a quick search online to see what city-provided assistance with rent you might be eligible for, and the website should be able to guide you through the application and approval processes.
Resources for Government-Funded Assistance With Rent When You’re Financially Struggling
Some government-funded initiatives to help people with low or no income get the rent, housing, and utility assistance they need include the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program. If you want an example of what state-funded assistance with rent looks like, this is Illinois’ housing assistance program.
Do you think you might qualify for disability? Check here for additional links to help you get started, and to find out if you qualify for this specialized form of temporary rental assistance. Individual communities and smaller cities offer local assistance with rent for qualifying applicants. Search for your local area- try your township, county, metropolitan area, town, or region.
You’ll probably just have to spend some time searching online to find the correct resources, but they almost always exist. Here’s an example of a community-based rent assistance program in the California valley region that covers several different areas.
It’ll take some time (which of course you’re short on right now) but it’s well worth it to compare different rental assistance programs that you qualify for; compare state-funded programs to national initiatives to local ones.
- Work from big to small government.
- Find out which programs you’re eligible for.
- Compare all the results to find the financial assistance that’s right for you.
Are Sources of Rent Assistance That Aren’t Government-Funded A Good Idea?
Yes and no. Private companies that provide assistance with rent for individuals with low to no income can offer immediate relief. But generally speaking, government-subsidized rental assistance will typically give you more time. Private assistance with rent is more akin to a traditional loan to help you cover rent, expenses, and bills for a little while until you can sort your financial situation out.
So while private companies that provide rent assistance for people with very little to no current income are an easy way to keep your roof over your head, they can be more hit-or-miss than the rental assistance that the government supplies. You also may be more likely to qualify for a broader range of government-funded rent and housing assistance than with a private provider.
But if you find a private source of assistance with rent that caters more specifically to your needs, it’s always still a good option… and certainly a better option that not having a means to afford your next rent payment!
Need Help Paying Bills: Your Go-To for All Things Rent and Utility
This is one of the best places to learn more about finding assistance with rent, utilities, and for ways to finance the essentials while you’re working through your financial rough patch.
According to their website, The largest program is HUD (Housing and Urban Development). Almost 1.5 million families use this program and it helps those in need pay their rent and security deposits. Other housing costs such as energy bills may be paid for as well. It is targeted to low-income individuals, including senior citizens and the disabled. In addition to offering grants that help pay rent, the government Rental Voucher Program also helps to increase the availability of affordable housing choices by allowing families to select privately owned rental housing.
HUD can even help you find Section 8-sanctioned housing, so you’ll be protected on a more long-term level in addition to providing you with an immediate, if temporary, way to help pay your rent and utilities. They can also help you find privately-owned subsidized housing solutions, public housing units, and help find a better way to afford your rent in the future.
The goal is to get you the financial assistance that you need right now, while helping you to find a more permanent solution so you won’t have to worry about scraping up the money for rent last-minute again. This also will help you avoid stressing out landlords, since you’ll be protected under specific tenant laws for people with low or no income.
The Housing and Urban Development program is another great government-funded resource to look into when you’re trying to find assistance with rent when you’re not even sure how you’re going to afford groceries for the week. Now you won’t have to make those difficult decisions, and you’ll be able to get help paying for your apartment or mortgage payments. But moving to one of the apartments or homes that are Section 8-sanctioned or designed to house low income or otherwise qualifying families will help prevent the fear of homelessness into the future, and allow you to save money and build up your finances.
Leaving a home that you’ve been in for a period of time and leaving a neighborhood is never ideal, but if it means rent security and financial stability, it might be the best for you in the long run. Something to consider.
NeedHelpPayingBills.com and Home Forward are two great resources that will walk you through your options, step-by-step. They’ll have links to utility-paying resources, various programs, charities, and grants that are worth looking into, and helpful material to read. The more you know about rent assistance programs and the various ways to pay your rent, the better chance you’ll have at finding an immediate solution that works the best for your needs. So read up!
Alternative Ways to Help Afford Your Rent and Utility Bills
Maybe you’re not full-fledged unemployed, you don’t qualify for benefits, but you’re just living tiny paycheck to tiny paycheck. Sometimes surprise expenses and extenuating circumstances make it hard for us to afford this month’s rent. It happens to everyone, but it can make it harder to qualify for most types of rent assistance programs if you don’t meet the requirements.
So now what? Don’t panic- there are some common sense options for you to explore when you need assistance with your rent because your income is too low or infrequent to afford your home at the moment. Try:
- Local churches
- Community outreach programs
- Friends and family
- Community leaders
These people and small-scale organizations might not be able to give you a long-term solution to affording your rent, but they might be able to help you float the money for a couple months until you can get your finances back in order or move to some form of low-income protected housing. Your community and loved ones are likely to be more understanding than you think.
One of the first things you should do the moment you realize that you’re not going to be able to afford your rent? Talk to your landlord, utility service providers, creditors, and anyone who you would owe money to. Keeping an open and honest line of communication going between you and these providers will make them feel like you’re doing more to improve your financial situation, and you might be surprised at their willingness to help you out.
Talk to your landlord. Sit them down and present them with a proposal to give you more time on the rent payment, or to reduce your rent temporarily. They might be open to some kind of arrangement. Maybe you can pay interest on rent back payments due at the end of the year, or maybe they can give you a free month in exchange for helping out around the building doing maintenance and cleaning.
Make sure that you get it all in writing, and that you have it notarized if you’re both in full agreement to the terms. This will protect you both legally and financially, as well as protect both your good-standing in the tenant-landlord relationship. Chances are, they’d be willing to consider a reduced rent arrangement if you propose it to them professionally and fairly.
Some utility providers may also be able to offer you a grace period. It never hurts to ask! Explain your situation. Even if they can’t help you themselves, they might be able to direct you to a local assistance program that will be able to help you afford your utilities for some time.
With that weight off of your shoulders, you won’t have to worry about them being frustrated with you for simply not paying your bills, you won’t have your electricity shut off, and your credit score won’t be damaged when they report you not making your payments. Being honest and upfront about your current financial situation will help your service providers know what to expect, and they might have a policy in place that can benefit you.
Look into charities. They have fewer requirements than many of the government-funded rent assistance programs, but they’ll still offer you some short-term financial relief. Try:
If you’re worried about being evicted but can’t afford legal counsel, there’s a program for that. They provide people with low or no income with legal counsel that’ll help protect you from getting put out on the curb with all your stuff. No- you can’t just squat in your apartment without paying rent. But they can help you prevent eviction until you can find some short-term assistance with rent and utilities, or until you can pay what you owe and move into income-protected housing if need be.
You should also consider getting a roommate, finding a loan, or picking up some extra work to help supplement your low income. Point is- there are plenty of options still open to those with low or no income who need assistance with their rent and utilities. But now you know where to start!