Help if you’ve lost housing
If the COVID-19 pandemic has caused you to lose your housing, such as through foreclosure or eviction, you’re not alone. Help is available in your area.
Your physical health and safety is your first concern. For concerns about COVID-19, consult your doctor or visit . After you take care of your basic needs, you can use the steps below to work on your money situation and find stable housing.
1. Get the free help you’re entitled to
You may be able to get help finding housing and other services. Because applications can take time, start your applications right away and then take other steps while the process is moving forward.
Local programs are taking applications for housing help, if you have missed rent or utilities payments on a home you rent. In many cases, the money can be used to cover moving expenses, security deposits, rental application or screening fees, unpaid utilities, and motel or hotel bills. Housing, utilities, and moving to a new home can be costly, and help is available near you.
In many areas, the wait to be approved for housing can be long, so don’t delay if you qualify.
Sometimes there are multiple waiting lists for different rental assistance programs. When lists open, they are usually announced in local news and online. You can be on more than one waiting list at a time, in multiple areas.
If you’re currently serving in the military and having problems with eviction or serious money problems, . Army Emergency Relief, the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society, and the Air Force Aid Society can help you weather financial storms.
The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act protects you when you are on active duty, and some protections continue to apply after your active duty ends. Under these protections, you might have the right to:
- Cancel phone contracts without penalty
- Avoid repossession of property, including your car
- Terminate an auto lease without penalty
- Avoid foreclosure on your storage unit
Veterans who have experienced traumas in their prior service and have a less than honorable discharge may be able to upgrade their discharge to honorable, so they can qualify for the benefits they earned. .
2. Find safe temporary housing
As you recover and rebuild, you might find yourself relying on temporary housing. The tips below can help you do this safely.
It’s common for friends and family to help out when money is tight. It helps to have upfront conversations and clarify financial arrangements, so that your most important relationships can stay strong and stable.
3. Stay on top of bills
To smooth a transition to a new home, it helps to get a grasp on the other parts of your money situation. Taking charge of your paperwork and bills can help you to recover and rebuild.
It can be a good idea to keep your personal information and documents with you in a safe place—for example, on an electronic device that only you can open. Gather your important identification papers, account numbers, medical and prescription information, Internet user IDs and passwords, and other critical information that you’ll need at your fingertips.
It’s important to have a place where you can be reached, by phone, e-mail, or mail. That way, you can be contacted if you apply for benefits and jobs. You also can receive notification of due dates or past-due bills, or know if a bill (such as a medical expense) is about to go to collection.
Some shelters, places of worship, and food pantries allow you to receive mail at their addresses. You can sign up for mail services that provide a virtual address. If you choose a virtual address service, ask questions about the costs and how to cancel the service when you no longer need it. Once you have an address to use, go to your local post office and ask for a kit to change your address with the U.S. Postal Service, or , to make sure you don’t miss important mail.
If you’re on a waiting list for housing, the housing agency might contact you at your mailing address to make sure you are still interested. Typically, benefits like unemployment or food assistance do not require you to provide a mailing address.
Make sure utilities are turned off and no longer in your name. Give the companies your updated contact information so you can confirm when this is done.”
Make sure these companies can reach you by mail or e-mail, so that you continue to receive information about your accounts. If you prefer to receive information by e-mail, most companies have a “go paperless” option to allow you to manage your accounts online.
4. Keep an eye on your credit
Losing your home to foreclosure or eviction can hurt your credit. Even if you move out of housing before foreclosure or eviction happens, you might find your credit has been damaged. This can make it harder to find new housing.
If you are planning to take out a loan in the future – like a mortgage or a car loan – your credit history makes a difference in the cost of your loan. And, if you are a renter, landlords often check your credit report during the application process for an apartment or rental home.
Right now, it’s easier than ever to check your credit report. That’s because everyone is eligible to get free weekly online credit reports from the three major national credit reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian, and Transunion. The credit reporting agencies are making these reports free until the end of 2022.
Look for errors on your report—for example, a loan or credit card that belongs to another person with a similar name. If you see an error, take action to correct it.
You should submit a dispute directly to the credit reporting company who sent you the report and to the company that provided the information.
Submit a complaint
If you’ve already tried reaching out to the company and still have an issue, you can submit a complaint. Tell us about your issue—we’ll forward it to the company and work to get you a response, generally within 15 days.
If you left a rental home and still owe back rent, federal emergency rental help can let you repay the amount and clear up your renter’s records. Showing a late payment can be better than showing unpaid rent.
If you previously received assistance through a public housing agency, they may also have records of past debts. Ask your agency to update their files after the debt has been paid.
It’s a good idea to keep notes of your payments, in case you need to dispute the agency’s records.
If you are rejected for a rental you have applied for because of information in a background check, credit check, or tenant screening report, you have rights.
You have the right to receive a notice of the rejection, with the name, address, and phone number of the company that provided information about you. Then, you have the right to request a free copy of your screening report from that company. Look over the report, and if you see errors that should be corrected, file a dispute with the company that generated the report, and with the person or company that provided the incorrect information. For example, your state might have a law saying evictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic should not appear on tenant reports.
In general, you can’t remove negative information unless you can show that it is incorrect or outdated.
If you have tried unsuccessfully to correct errors on your tenant screening report, you can submit a complaint to the CFPB.
More resources to help you
Talk to a lawyer
Find more federal help
Government agencies can help you find information about unemployment, leave, health benefits, and other topics.