Difficulty paying rent? Here’s what to do.

Jordan Lyons
Griz Renter Blog
Published in
2 min readMar 18, 2020


A woman holding a cardboard sign reading “PHD WHO CAN’T PAY RENT.” Image via Christian Heilmann.

Lou Villemez, Director of ASUM Legal Services, describes steps that renters can take if they are not able to afford rent.

If you have lost income because of the COVID-19 crisis, you may be unable to pay your rent that is due on April 1st … May 1st … or longer. It is very important to plan for this, contact your landlord and try to negotiate a fix as soon as possible.

If you are unable to pay rent, unable to pay rent on time, or have to break your lease early and move out, you will probably owe money damages for breaking that contract. You may be able to reduce or eliminate those damages.

The sooner you take the following steps, the better your argument is to ask for a delayed rent payment, reduction in rent, and/or waiver of late fees:

  1. Take every step possible to maintain as much income as you can. This includes applying for other jobs and applying for unemployment insurance. Contact Financial Aid and find out about other benefits by calling 211 (literally dial 2–1–1 on your phone). Ask family members if possible. Every attempt you take to maintain your income, even if unsuccessful, helps your case.
  2. Document every application.
  3. Contact your landlord in writing:
  • Inform them that you may or will be unable to pay rent.
  • Explain in detail why you can’t pay rent on time and the steps you have taken to fix that problem.
  • Make sure to explain what you will do to keep trying to pay the full rent on time.
  • Propose a solution including delayed or installment payments on rent, a temporary reduction in rent, waiver of late fees.
  • Explain what happens if you can’t work out an agreement, including having to break the lease early and move out, or you will have to stay there and not pay rent on time.

If you receive court papers or are contacted by a collection agency you should get advice at the ASUM Renter Center ASAP!



Jordan Lyons
Griz Renter Blog

(he / him) Housingologist in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Former Director of the @ASUMRenterCenter https://jordanjlyons.wordpress.com