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How to Cover Your Rent or Mortgage in an Emergency


If you have ever wondered how to pay your rent this month, you are not alone. The COVID-19 pandemic saw a rise in domicile instability as unemployment increased, economic issues soared, and the Supreme Court ended the CARES’ Act’s eviction moratorium.

If you are struggling to pay rent, multiple organizations assist with your mortgage, or rental payment.

This assistance can include local eviction bans, federal or state government assistance, and ways to make quick rent money in an emergency.

If you are stuck for rent this month and do not know what to do, check out these 12 ways on how to cover your rent or mortgage in an emergency.

1.    Don’t Ignore the Issue

Whether you are dealing with a landlord or a mortgage lender, if you cannot make your payment this month, the first thing to do is act right away.

Never ignore the issue and hope that it will just go away.

Since banks have deadlines and your landlord is probably waiting for your payment to cover their own mortgage, they are not likely to forget that you owe them. So, do not ignore your landlord’s calls or emails. Facing the issue is the only way to move forward.

2.    Check Your Lease Agreement

Before talking to your landlord, it is a good idea to read over your rental agreement. This is because your contract may include a built-in grace period.

A grace period means that even if your rent is due, there is a specified time during which you can still pay it without risking penalties or late fees.

Keep in mind that grace periods can vary depending on state or local jurisdiction. Usually, a past-due grace period is five days. So even if your rent is late, you can pay it within the grace period stated in your lease. If you are within the time frame, you will not need to worry about eviction.

Since the grace period may not cover repeated late payments, make every effort to ensure that your future payments are either early or on time.

3.    Negotiate Partial or Delayed Payment

If you know that you will come up short this month, reach out to your landlord right away. Chances are he will appreciate your straightforwardness even if he is not happy about the situation. Keep in mind that you may have to pay a late fee. You can always see if the fee can be waived.

Explain why you are unable to pay rent this month. You can do this face-to-face, on the phone, or via email. It may help to provide documentation that shows a loss of income or that demonstrates your situation. It is likely that if you have been a good tenant who has just fallen on hard times, your landlord will want to work with you.

If you know when you can get the money together, agree to pay the total amount on a specific date. Ask if you can do a payment plan to pay a portion now and the rest in installments. You can also ask for a few extra days to get the rent together. Finally, commit to paying your rent on time in the future.

Once you agree on a plan, get your landlord to put it into writing.

4.    Apply for Federal Emergency Rental Assistance

If you are having trouble paying your rent, start applying for federal rental assistance right away. During the pandemic, many state or local programs offer billions of dollars in rental assistance.

This can help you stay housed even if you are struggling financially. The program also helps if you are a landlord trying to make ends meet during a tough economy.

How to Apply

You can apply for the U. S. Treasury Department’s Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) program through your local ERA program.

In some areas, your landlord must submit the request. The rental assistance funds are then paid to the landlord. In other areas, you can apply directly.

Here Is What Is Included in ERA Programs

ERA assistance can include rent, utilities such as electricity, gas, oil fuel, water, sewer, trash removal, or other home energy coverage. If your landlord typically includes utilities, then this is considered part of your rent.

The great news is that some emergency rental assistance programs might also cover other essential bills such as some late fees, home internet service, moving expenses, application fees, security deposits, and housing stability services such as case management, housing counseling, or legal aid.

Am I Eligible?

Here are the eligibility requirements for obtaining rent coverage assistance:

  • You must have a rental agreement. This can include a house, an apartment, a mobile home, or other housing location.
  • At least one household member must qualify for unemployment.
  • One household member must demonstrate lost income.
  • One household member has had significant expenses.
  • OR one household member has experienced some other financial hardship.
  • Your total household income must fall below a certain threshold. This amount is based on your location.
  • At least one household member falls into the housing instability category. This means that you or someone in your house is at-risk for homelessness or would have difficulty finding stable housing if evicted.

Finally, you will need to submit a written and signed statement confirming that the information entered on the ERA application is correct and complete. You will also need to agree to use the funds for rent purposes.

Other Federal Financial Assistance

Federal programs such as the $2.2 trillion CARES Act and other funding can help you pay your rent since the programs do not specify how you must use the money.

For instance, the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 paid $25 billion in rental assistance to people who lost income during the pandemic.

Similarly, the American Rescue plan offers $21.55 billion for emergency rental assistance through September 30, 2027. The program expects to help both landlords and renters once funds are disbursed – check out this page to read more.

The 2021 legislation also provides:

  • $5 billion for emergency housing vouchers (active through September 30, 2030).
  • $5 billion to combat homelessness.
  • $100 million for rural housing provision.
  • $750 million for tribal housing assistance.

5.    Apply for Unemployment or Food Stamps

If you have lost your job, you can report this loss of income and file for unemployment. Due to the Coronavirus pandemic, it is also easier to apply for Food Stamps and receive other meal plan benefits to feed you or your family.

While this does not directly pay your rent, it can help cover grocery needs while reducing your food bill.

The less money you spend on food, the more money you can throw at your rent or mortgage payment.

While government assistance may not be everyone’s first choice, if it is a choice between taking assistance and facing homelessness, these programs are here to help get you back on your feet.

6.    Check into COVID-19 Mortgage Relief

Not everyone who experiences monthly payment issues must answer to a landlord. There are forbearance options available if it becomes difficult to pay the bank each month. Forbearance means that, if you are eligible, your mortgage lender will pause payments for a set length of time.

To be eligible, you must:

  • Own a single-family home.
  • Experience reduced income due to COVID.
  • Have a federal-backed or FHA-insured mortgage.

7.    Check Out Non-Profit Resources

While most people know that the federal government offers emergency hardship assistance to stabilize U.S. housing situations, many do not know that charities and organizations can help with rental payments.

These organizations include The Salvation Army, which can help with a month’s rent, local government rental assistance, or area forbearance programs. You can also check evictions moratoriums since these vary by state.

8.    Dial 211

During the aftermath of the national emergency and its financial impact, many local nonprofit organizations or religious charities may provide rental aid. United Way makes it easy to find these services when you call 211. However, the resources available may depend on national shortages and supply.

9.    Ask Family or Friends for Assistance

Many people do not like asking for money from friends or family. But people cannot help if they don’t know that you are struggling. Talk to a family member or close friend about a loan. Put any repayment promises in writing. Have a set time in which you plan to repay it.

If someone wants to cover your expenses as a gift, you might want to take them up on it if there are no strings attached. However, if you do not feel comfortable with that, you can try crowdfunding on GoFundMe or other platforms.

10.   Check If Your Lease Permits Subletting

It is time to get out that lease agreement again. If you do not know already, check to see if your contract allows you to sublet. If it does, then you can consider subletting a room or area to another person. This can help with your rental payments.

11.    Pare Down Your Other Expenses

If you are falling behind on rent, take a hard look at your other expenses. Do you have forgotten subscriptions that you do not need or use? Where can you cut corners?

Some things, such as food, transportation, medicine, and the internet, are likely non-negotiables. You can often find a better internet plan, less expensive food at Aldi’s, refinance your house, or renegotiate a car loan.

12.    Apply for Industry Grants

Have you worked for a specific industry? Check out grants that your industry offers for hardship funding. For instance, the Restaurant Strong Fund has assisted restaurant workers who lost jobs due to COVID-19 shutdowns. Read to learn more about this issue.

The Bottom Line

If you are drowning in bills or your income is not enough to cover your basic housing needs, there is no shame in doing everything legal that you can to preserve your housing stability.

If you are looking to make quick money in an emergency, you can try online freelancing, sign up for trial studies, start driving for rideshares or delivery services, or sell unwanted items online.

During this time of economic pressure, know that you are not alone. With federal services and community assistance available, you have the resources to keep you or your family housed and safe.