Help for renters
If you’re having trouble making rent payments as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, you’re not alone.
Federal, state, and local governments are offering help with housing expenses and avoiding eviction. Find out what this means for you, and what you can do.
Take action to avoid eviction
You need to take action to protect yourself from eviction. These protections aren’t automatic. Keep reading to find out how.
Sign the CDC Declaration and send it to your landlord
You may have the right to stay in your home. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) halted most evictions to prevent the spread of coronavirus. But, you must take action to use this right.
Find out if your state or local government is stopping evictions
Some state and local governments have temporarily stopped some evictions to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Find other eviction protections
In your area, or in your situation, there could be other ways to make sure you can stay in your rental home.
Ask your landlord if they are getting mortgage help
If your landlord is getting mortgage forbearance relief, you may be protected from eviction.
Active duty servicemembers, you may have more rights
The Servicemember Civil Relief Act (SCRA) gives most active duty servicemembers certain eviction protections, and requires landlords to get a court order before evicting a service member.
See if the CARES Act still protects you
Most CARES Act protections have expired. But if your landlord is trying to collect fees or evict you for unpaid rent or fees charged between March 27 and July 24, 2020, you may have some protections.
Get help paying rent and utilities
Find emergency help if you can’t pay rent and utilities
You can apply for help from state and local organizations.
- Money can be used to cover rent, utilities, and other housing costs incurred due to COVID-19
- Payments usually go directly to landlords and utility companies
- Money may be available to help with moving costs
You or your landlord may be able to apply, depending on where you live.
Get year-round help with utility bills
Contact your local Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) office to get help paying your energy bills.
- or call the National Energy Assistance Referral Hotline at (866) 674-6327
Income recertification can help renters who get help from HUD
If you already get rental help from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and your income has changed, you might qualify for lower rent. Or, you might qualify for a hardship exemption that allows you to skip one or more rent payments.
Ask for "income recertification" through your Public Housing Authority (PHA) or landlord. Do this as soon as possible. The change in rent could apply to unpaid rent.
You can certify your income by email, text, or fax. Be sure to give your PHA your original signature later. Talk to them to learn how.
Make a plan to catch up on your rent
Eviction protections don’t erase the rent you owe. Find help with unpaid rent, then make a plan to pay back your remaining rent to avoid eviction when protections end.
Talk to a local expert. A lawyer or housing counselor can help you understand your options or negotiate with your landlord. Many housing counselors provide services to renters and homeowners.
Tell your landlord that you want to make a payment agreement. Don’t agree to a plan you can’t afford.
Options you may want to ask your landlord for:
Repayment plan. You can ask to delay payments and agree to catch up once you start earning more income. This means you may have to make bigger payments once you get back on your feet.
Rent reduction. If you can make smaller monthly payments, you can ask your landlord to lower your rent until you can afford to pay more. You can also combine this with a repayment plan.
Forgiveness. If you can’t afford any rent, you can ask your landlord to forgive your rent for a short time.
Remember: you have rights as a tenant. You have the right to ask for rent reduction if your home needs repairs or has other problems, even if you are going through a financial hardship. When you and your landlord agree on a way to catch up on your rent, make sure your agreement doesn’t sign away these rights.
Tenant and debt collection rights
State and local renters’ rights
Generally, it’s against the law for your landlord to:
- Force you out by changing your locks without a court order
- Demand fees, interest, or other charges that you did not agree to
Report a bad landlord
You can submit a complaint against a landlord if they:
- Violate federal, state, or local eviction protections
- Refuse to make necessary repairs
- Fail to pay for utilities under their control
- Endanger the health and safety of tenants
Domestic violence survivors have rights
It is against the law to evict you because of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking that someone else commits against you. This is sex discrimination, and it violates the Fair Housing Act, which protects tenants in most kinds of housing. Federal laws don’t stop landlords from evicting abusers for committing domestic violence against you, even during the pandemic.
For tenants who get federal help with housing, the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act also protects survivors from being evicted or losing their housing subsidy.
Report housing discrimination
- Sexually harass you
- Refuse to rent to you
- Evict you
- Change or set different rules for your rental agreement
because of your race, color, national origin, religion, sex, family status (marriage status or living with children), or disability.
You may be protected by the Fair Debt Collection
Practices Act (FDCPA)
If you owe money to your landlord or utility company and someone else is trying to collect the debt, that person could be a debt collector. For example, if you are behind on rent and your landlord’s lawyer threatens to evict you if you don’t pay, the lawyer is probably a debt collector. Debt collectors must follow the FDCPA.
Talk to a local expert
This can be a lot to navigate. There are local experts who can help, for free or at a low cost.
If your landlord is threatening to evict you, or you need help understanding your rights, talk to a lawyer. You may qualify for free legal aid, based on your income.