Where to Find Rent Assistance During COVID-19

Can’t pay your rent? There are options.

Distressed woman covering her face as she looks at computer
•••

 JGI/Tom Grill / Getty Images

Table of Contents
Table of Contents

Many renters are still struggling financially due to the coronavirus pandemic. The eviction moratorium might have prevented you from being removed from your home, but it didn't cover rent payments or help lighten the load financially. Here's what you need to know if you’re still having a hard time paying your rent during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Know Your Rights as a Renter 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued a federal eviction moratorium in early September 2020. It was then extended through March 31, 2021. The American Rescue Plan, adopted on March 11, 2021, allocated another $30 billion for rent relief but did not extend the deadline. The CDC did that, first through June 30, 2021, then again through July 31, 2021.

The eviction moratorium was extended for a third time by the CDC on August 3, 2021, to remain effective until October 3, 2021. The main difference in the renewed moratorium was that the eviction ban was limited to counties that are "...experiencing substantial or high levels of community transmission..." of the coronavirus.

Unfortunately, the U.S. Supreme Court then stepped in on Aug. 26, 2021, to decide that the CDC had overstepped its authority in issuing the extension. The moratorium was repealed. The Supreme Court issued an order vacating it.

Understand Your Local Rights, Too 

Many states and municipalities have also put their own eviction moratoriums in place. Check with your local housing department to find out where your state or city stands. Some state and local moratoriums were extended beyond the federal one.

You should also understand your rights as a tenant. Read your lease thoroughly. Note any grace periods you may be entitled to, and what options your landlord has for recourse. Your city should also have tenant protections in place, so you might check into renter’s rights in your area. Your local housing agency is a good place to start.

Notice Rights in Cases of Eviction

Those who missed rent payments should still first receive 30 days' notice before being evicted now that the eviction moratorium has been lifted. This applies to those living in multifamily properties with mortgages backed by either Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. You cannot be forced out of your home until at least 30 days after you were first told to leave the property if this describes your situation.

This protection has been extended for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac mortgage holders until September 30, 2021.

Talk to Your Landlord

Your first step is to talk to your landlord if you're currently unable to pay your rent. They might be willing to work with you on payment options.

“Contact your landlord and discuss a deferred payment plan,” Howard Dvorkin, a certified public accountant (CPA) and chairman of Debt.com, told The Balance via email. “This is definitely worth a shot, as most landlords do not want to pay the fee to file a lawsuit, go to court, and find a new tenant.”

Consider talking to your landlord about these options:

  • Deferred payments: You pay your overdue rent by a later, agreed-upon date.
  • Partial or flexible payments: You are permitted to make smaller, incremental payments across the month.
  • Security deposit payments: Your landlord uses your security deposit toward the overdue rent.

You may also be able to pay your rent by credit card, depending on where you live. This can ensure that you’re not delinquent on your rent, but it will result in additional credit card debt and potentially more interest paid on your credit card over time. Try to make sure you’re prepared to pay off your card as soon as possible to avoid further financial distress.

Find Local Assistance 

You can look to federal, state, and local resources to help cover your rent if you're not successful in working directly with your landlord. There are some resources you can tap for help if your financial hardship is due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Rental assistance funds that were already approved before the August 2021 Supreme Court decision are still being distributed, and other assistance programs are available as well. The National Low Income Housing Coalition and the U.S. Department of the Treasury both provide detailed lists and search tools online to let you track down rental assistance programs in your area.

There’s also Fannie Mae’s Disaster Recovery Program, which offers housing counseling and can connect you with additional federal and state resources that can help. Fannie Mae’s recovery experts can also help you better communicate with your landlord.

You can also look to various state-based programs in addition to these pandemic-specific resources, as well as United Way’s 211.org, which can connect you with various assistance resources in your area.

Resource Services
Centers for Disease Control Transmission level tool
Centers for Disease Control Declaration form for eviction moratorium
U.S. Treasury Emergency Rental Assistance
Fannie Mae Disaster Recovery Housing counseling, federal and state housing assistance information, support in tenant-landlord communications
State-by-state housing and rental programs Varies by state
United Way 211.org Pandemic-related assistance, essential needs assistance, disaster assistance
National Low Income Housing Coalition State and local rental assistance programs, state- and city-funded rental housing options
National Legal Aid & Defender Association Legal representation
Freddie Mac Financial counseling, budgeting help
USA.gov Financial assistance for food, housing, and bills
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Federal renter protection details

Dvorkin suggested seeking legal counsel immediately if your landlord does move to evict you. “You don’t have to have a lawyer in court for an eviction,” he said. “But many cities offer free legal counsel and other landlord and tenant resources to help you understand rights and how to proceed.”

Check with the National Legal Aid & Defender Association to learn more about your options for free legal representation.

The Bottom Line

It does not necessarily mean you’ll be evicted if you’re struggling to pay your rent due to the coronavirus pandemic or any other financial hardship. Talk to your landlord and identify any local resources or assistance programs you may be eligible for to ensure that you’re not evicted. There are many options available to help you keep your home and avoid further distress.