Falling Behind on Rent

Falling Behind on Rent

As a tenant, you are legally responsible to pay the full amount of rent on time in accordance with your lease agreement. If you do not pay your rent on time, your landlord can file an eviction action against you. It does not matter if you are disabled or lost your job, have a sick family member, have children, or if it is during the winter months—you can still be evicted. If you believe you will not be able to pay your rent in full and on time, you should tell your landlord as soon as possible. Do not wait until the rent is due or after the due date. Your landlord will assume the worst if he does not receive a rent check from you. Explain why you cannot pay and ask to make a payment arrangement. If your landlord agrees to a payment agreement, get it in writing and keep a copy. If you do not abide by the agreement, the landlord will be able to evict you.

If you are having trouble paying bills, your main priority should be to keep a roof over your head. Your rent should be one of your top priorities. You may be able to get help from a local agency for emergency rent payments. Assistance may be available only during certain months of the year and usually only once per year. Local religious and community organizations may also offer emergency financial help. Your local county assistance office may have emergency shelter assistance for people who need help paying their rent or paying a security deposit for a new place to live. You can also consider applying for subsidized housing through your local Housing Authority.

Keep your utilities on. If you have fallen behind in utility payments, you may be able to arrange a payment plan with your utility company. This will allow you to keep your lights and heat on while you look to solve your financial issues. Many leases require that the tenant maintain utilities in the unit for the duration of the lease. If you allow your utility service to be terminated, you may face an eviction action for breach of lease terms. There are many programs to assist people with little or no income with their heating and other utility bills. See Trouble Paying Utility Bills.

Your landlord is not legally allowed to interfere with your utility service, even if you are behind in your rent. Even when the water, sewer, gas or electric is included in your monthly rental payments, a landlord cannot legally shut off your utility service. This may be considered an illegal attempt to evict you without going through proper legal procedures and if this happens or if the landlord threatens this, you should consult an attorney or call legal aid. See Q and A Eviction: My Landlord Has Threatened to Lock Me Out.

TO SEE IF YOU ARE ELIGIBLE FOR PUBLIC BENEFITS such as LIHEAP (Energy Assistance), Food Stamps, Medical Assistance, CHIP, Cash Assistance, Child Care Works Program, School Meals, Longer Term Living Services, and Early Intervention, Intellectual Disability or Autism Services, visit www.compass.state.pa.us.

If you need help filling out your COMPASS application, call the HELPLINE at 1-800-692-7462 between 8:30 a.m. and 4:45 p.m., Monday through Friday. If you are hearing impaired, call TTY/TTD at 1-800-692-7462. If you have a question during non-business hours or prefer to use e-mail, you may contact them by email through their website.

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