Help paying rent during the coronavirus pandemic: Your options

Coins stacked on house to represent coronavirus rent reliefImage: Coins stacked on house to represent coronavirus rent relief

In a Nutshell

If you’re struggling to pay your rent because of the coronavirus pandemic, you may be able to get help from local, state or federal agencies, or from charitable organizations. This could include rent payment relief, rent payment deferrals and eviction suspension. We’ve collected information from some key agencies so that you can find out what they’re offering and how to get help.
Editorial Note: Credit Karma receives compensation from third-party advertisers, but that doesn’t affect our editors’ opinions. Our marketing partners don’t review, approve or endorse our editorial content. It’s accurate to the best of our knowledge when posted.
Advertiser Disclosure

We think it's important for you to understand how we make money. It's pretty simple, actually. The offers for financial products you see on our platform come from companies who pay us. The money we make helps us give you access to free credit scores and reports and helps us create our other great tools and educational materials.

Compensation may factor into how and where products appear on our platform (and in what order). But since we generally make money when you find an offer you like and get, we try to show you offers we think are a good match for you. That's why we provide features like your Approval Odds and savings estimates.

Of course, the offers on our platform don't represent all financial products out there, but our goal is to show you as many great options as we can.

As the economic fallout from the coronavirus continues, government agencies and private charities have stepped in to help support renters.

Some local governments have created rent relief funds, while many states and the federal government have implemented some tenant protections as well. And a number of charitable organizations are also stepping in to help with rent relief.

It’s important to know that eligible renters are currently protected under a federal eviction moratorium issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The moratorium on evictions, which has been extended twice since it was implemented in September 2020, is set to expire on March 31, 2021.

If you’re struggling to pay your rent during the coronavirus pandemic, take a look at this list of financial assistance efforts and eligibility requirements to help you find the relief you need.  



What can I do if I can’t pay my rent?

If you’re experiencing financial hardship because of the coronavirus, start by communicating with your landlord as soon as possible.

Write a letter or send an email explaining your situation. Your landlord may be eligible for mortgage relief from their lender, which might make them more willing to work with you.

If your landlord can’t fully suspend your rent payments, they may consider a different payment plan. Keep in mind that each landlord might operate under different guidelines. At the end of the day, your landlord wants to get paid for their rental and may be more motivated than usual to work with you on a payment plan.

Rent assistance and relief

If you’re not sure how you’re going to pay rent during the coronavirus pandemic, there may be local, state and federal rental assistance programs that can help.  

Local rent relief

Rental assistance programs: Some local governments have set up funds to help residents pay rent after facing reduced hours or losing their job because of the coronavirus.

Deferring rent payments: Some local governments have created programs that allow tenants to postpone making rent payments during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Where to get help: To search for emergency rental assistance programs in your area, reach out to your city and county governments. Check with your state to see what’s available as well. You can find the contact information for your state government at usa.gov.

Federal rent relief

Rental assistance: In December 2020, President Donald Trump signed into law a second coronavirus stimulus package that included $25 billion in emergency rental assistance.

The Treasury Department is now working with state and local governments to distribute the funds, which will generally be paid directly to landlords and utility service providers. The relief money will cover current and past-due expenses related to housing, including rent and utilities.

Where to get help: Renters and landlords can apply for assistance through state and local government programs. For more information, visit the Emergency Rental Assistance Program website.

Other organizations providing rent relief

If you’re not eligible for federal help — or your city, county or state isn’t offering rent relief at this time — these organizations may be able to help.

  • Local housing authorities — Local housing authorities like United Way have resources and recommendations that may help.
  • State housing finance agencies — To understand what help you may qualify for, contact your local public housing agency or call 1-800-955-2232.
  • State or county social service agencies — See if your state or county is offering immediate emergency rent relief or can refer you to an organization that does. Start at usa.gov to see what may be available.
  • 211 — Check 211.org or dial 2-1-1 to reach a resource that will direct you to rental assistance programs that may be in your area.
  • Salvation Army — In many areas, the Salvation Army offers one-time rent assistance. Rent assistance is typically limited to people earning less than 125% of the federal poverty guidelines. Contact your local chapter for details and to check whether you qualify.
  • Catholic Charities — Some Catholic Charities branches are offering emergency assistance grants that you can use to help pay rent. Visit the charity’s website to find out more.
  • Modest Needs — This national charity helps people facing short-term financial needs. It’s currently accepting applications to help people who’ve had their hours reduced or been laid off because of the coronavirus. You can apply for help with Modest Needs online.

Who is eligible for rent relief?

For federal rent relief, renters are eligible if they meet the following criteria:

  • Household income can’t exceed more than 80% of the area’s medium income
  • At least one member of the household must be at risk of homelessness or housing instability
  • One or more household members must qualify for unemployment benefits or have experienced financial hardship — either directly or indirectly — because of the pandemic

Households with lower incomes and with family members who have been unemployed for three months or more will be prioritized for assistance.

To see if you qualify for assistance, contact a HUD-approved housing counseling agency in your state.

Eviction protection

What it is: Many states and local governments have suspended eviction proceedings in their jurisdictions.

How it works: To find out if your state or local government is offering eviction protection and what that protection might be, find your state government’s contact information at usa.gov.

It may be tempting to stop paying rent if evictions have been suspended in your area. But keep in mind that these suspensions are almost certainly temporary, and evictions will resume at some point. If you can still pay rent, or otherwise work with your landlord, it’s important to do so to avoid falling behind.

Eligibility: Some states have specific requirements to qualify for an eviction suspension, so you’ll want to check your state’s website for eligibility criteria.

If you’re considering legal support to get eviction protection, you can search the Just Shelter website to find out what community resources may be available to you.


What’s next?

If you’re struggling to pay your rent, communicate with your landlord immediately and do some homework. Understanding who owns your building’s mortgage can help you determine what types of rental relief you may be eligible for.

But even if you’re unable to work out a rent solution with your landlord, you’re unlikely to lose your rental right away — especially since many state and local governments have created rent relief funds or suspended eviction proceedings.

If you need to get legal help, you may be eligible for free or low-cost representation. Check to see if there are any legal aid offices in your area if you need to go that route.

Find out more about emergency relief measures from local, state and federal agencies