Rental Assistance Options

While today's economic climate has stabilized somewhat, many individuals and families are still struggling to pay bills in a timely fashion, including their rent. The good news is that there are a variety of options available to anyone who is facing late fees, court dates or even eviction; available at the local, state and national levels, rental assistance often comes from non-profit organizations, charities and in some cases, the government.

Communicating with the Landlord

A vital first step in the process of preventing eviction involves contacting the landlord or creditor to ensure that he or she is aware of the tenet's existing financial problems. While this conversation may be difficult, honest, forthright communication may result in an installment plan, temporarily lowered payments or another solution. While sharing such private information is often uncomfortable, it may be mutually beneficial to both the tenant, who needs continued housing, and to the landlord, who would likely prefer to avoid having to find a new renter.

Assistance at the Local Level

Whether families are currently facing a serious housing issue or they simply believe that eviction is imminent, local resources may be available to help them maintain possession of their rental. Many options are available only on a short-term basis, and tenants may need to prove that they have the ability to pay their own rent after the immediate problem has been solved. Charities, churches and other local organizations are common sources of assistance for renters who are facing eviction; while many programs require a referral from another agency, tenants willing to complete every step of the process are likely to find the temporary assistance that they need. Both the United Way and the Red Cross are common resources for renters who need short-term assistance, assuming that they have the means to pay their own rent in the coming months.

Similarly, those who are struggling to pay their utility bills may also receive assistance for temporary hardships. Unlike rental assistance programs, those that help with utility costs often operate on a first come, first served basis; others will offer onetime payments to those who qualify. Like rental assistance, help with other household bills is typically provided by the Red Cross and the United Way, although other charities and churches often participate in such programs.

Assistance at the State Level

Several options exist at the state level to help those facing a housing crisis; many of these organizations not only offer rental assistance in the event of in impending eviction, but also provide funds for security deposits and other fees in order to help community members ensure that they have stable housing. Accessible by contacting local agencies and assistance programs, individuals coping with housing issues may find several resources to help them uncover the solutions that they need. Similarly, more than 1,100 community action agencies throughout the U.S. are available to help those with financial problems determine whether or not they qualify for housing or other assistance.

Assistance at the Federal Level

The Housing and Urban Development program assists almost 1.5 million families with security deposits and rent, and while the program offers rental vouchers to reduce the cost of rent that must come from the tenant's earnings, they also provide mediation services, grants and landlord evaluations. Even when HUD cannot prevent an actual eviction, the organization may be useful in helping renters secure affordable housing in their area. While many believe that receiving assistance from HUD will force them into public housing, this is a misconception: Rental assistance is also available for those who wish to rent a privately owned property.

Help is Available

While families and individuals who are struggling with rent or utility payments are likely to find the help that they need, it is imperative to request assistance before it is too late. By starting early, contacting the appropriate organizations and filing the proper paperwork, renters will have plenty of options for remaining a tenant at their current residence. Whether tenants choose to seek assistance from churches or charities at the local level, seek help from state resources or apply for housing vouchers, grants or other help from HUD, many resources are available from groups that are working to prevent homelessness.


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