Getting laid off or having your hours cut likely means you can’t pay rent or your mortgage — not to mention utility bills. It was difficult to foresee the chaos that would erupt when Covid-19 hit the US. Overnight, businesses shut down, working from home became the new norm, and millions became unemployed. Even with states gradually reopening, no one really knows when life will be back to normal.
Missing a rent or mortgage payment can be a frightening thought if you’ve never been in that position before. And, if you had difficulties paying rent before coronavirus, it’s probably a nightmare now. For many people, the best vacation they can hope for this year is a vacation from paying the rent or mortgage.
When it comes to putting food on the table or paying rent, most choose food. But you’ll have to pay your rent or mortgage eventually. So, you’re probably wondering what assistance is out there to pay your bills. Could you risk losing your place if you miss a few payments due to Covid-19? Where can you get help to pay your gas, electricity, and water bills?
This article helps you find assistance for rent, mortgages, and utility bills if coronavirus has wiped out your finances. You’ll also find valuable information on negotiating payment plans.
The Impact of Covid-19 on Housing Security
It seems that coronavirus has impacted every aspect of our lives. For most people, the financial impact has been devastating. According to a CNBC report, 63% of tenants have suffered coronavirus-related income losses. Because of that, 48% of respondents said they probably won’t make their rent payments in May.
Even the $1,200 stimulus check wasn’t enough to help many destitute families pay their rent. As a result of the dire financial hardship, many politicians have put forth proposals for a second round of stimulus checks. It remains to be seen if the proposed HEROES Act will get the President’s signature.
Coronavirus Assistance for Paying Rent
Many low-income families struggle to pay rent every month. But for millions of Americans, being short on their April or May rent payment was a new and unpleasant experience. Where can you turn to for help with paying rent?
The CARES Act is a $2 trillion relief package to help stimulate the economy. Under the CARES Act, there is a moratorium on evictions until July 25, 2020. Landlords who want to take action against a tenant who can’t pay rent have to give at least 30 days’ notice.
What does that mean if you can’t pay your rent? During this time, your landlord can’t charge you late rent fees or other penalties. However, there are a few crucial facts to remember:
- You’ll have to pay your rent eventually. It’s vital to have a payment plan in place with your landlord.
- The moratorium only covers federally-backed housing or housing that has a federally-backed mortgage.
- Some states have set up their own eviction moratoriums that cover all types of rental accommodation.
- The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) says that you still have to pay rent if you can.
Coronavirus Relief for Mortgage Payments
But what if you own your house and, because of Covid-19, you can’t keep up with mortgage payments? The CARES Act also included provisions for homeowners who’ve fallen on hard times. If you’ve lost your job or income because of the pandemic, your lender can suspend payments for up to 12 months.
Here are a few things to remember about Covid-19 relief for mortgage payments:
- The CARES Act applies to mortgages insured by the Federal Housing Administration or under the National Housing Act.
- Lenders can’t charge late fees or report non-payment to credit agencies.
- Foreclosures and evictions are suspended for a minimum of 60 days. However, that deadline passed on May 17.
- If your mortgage doesn’t qualify, you should contact your lender as soon as possible. Many lenders have forbearance plans to help borrowers.
- You have to resume your mortgage payments as soon as you can afford it.
- Forbearance plans could be extended if necessary.
Covid-19 Assistance for Paying Utility Bills
What if you can’t pay utilities because of Covid-19? Are you at risk of getting them disconnected? If you’re struggling to pay your other bills, it’s vital to contact your service suppliers asap. Many companies understand the crisis everyone is going through. They could offer you flexible payment options, waive late fees, or suspend shutoffs.
But remember, it’s up to you to reach out to your provider. The earlier you reach out, the less impact Covid-19 will have on your finances.
Related reading: How to get credit card relief during Covid-19.
How to Negotiate Payment Plans with Your Landlord or Lender
It’s crucial to speak with your landlord or lender if you need coronavirus assistance to pay bills. Even though they can’t evict you at present for mounting debt, you need to let them know what’s happening.
So, don’t wait until your payment is due before communicating. If you know that you’ll probably miss the next payment, speak with them. How should you do this? Here are a few tips on negotiating with a landlord or lender for forbearance:
- Don’t demand a rent strike as this is likely to offend them. Remember, they’re going through tough times as well.
- Be polite and courteous. You can remind them how long you’ve been a client and that you’re having difficulty making payments because of Covid-19.
- Prepare your documents. It’s good to show your past rental history, credit report, and any other relevant documents.
- Show your landlord exactly how much you can pay and your plan to make up late payments.
Taking the above steps shows your lender or landlord that you’re a responsible client. Remember that during the current crisis, landlords want to hold on to good tenants.
Other Assistance to Help Pay Bills During Coronavirus
You may also be entitled to financial assistance during the Covid-19 pandemic. Here are a few government resources to check out to see what extra help is available:
- Unemployment benefits — The government’s benefit’s website has information to see if you qualify for unemployment insurance.
- Food assistance — If you need help buying groceries, you could qualify for the SNAP program. Find out more here.
- Utility payment assistance — There’s also financial help available if you can’t pay for heating or cooling. These programs apply even if you live in a rental unit. Check out this government website for more information.
During these worrying times, there’s help available for paying your rent, mortgage, or utility bills. For the time being, you can’t get evicted or face foreclosure for non-payment of housing costs. However, it’s vital to speak to your landlord or lender as soon as possible if you’ll be late with your next payment.