5 Things To Do If You’re Late or Can’t Pay Rent

the openigloo team

Reading time: 4 minutes

As rents continue to rise across the country, making full and timely payments can be challenging. Life happens, and certain circumstances may impact your ability to pay. Maybe a roommate left, or you lost your job, or had an unexpected expense. If you find yourself in a situation where you can’t pay rent in full or on time, here are a few things you should do:

1. Know Your Rights.

Many cities have laws and regulations about late rent payments and fees. In New York City, for example, the maximum late fee a landlord can charge is $50 or 5% of the rent – whichever is less. In places without regulations, you’ll want to reference your lease agreement and figure out how the landlord handles late payments. If the policy is straightforward, at least you can determine what the penalties should be and make sure they are being followed by management.

communication is the best policy

2. Communicate with your landlord right away.

This can be intimidating for many renters, especially if your relationship with your landlord is tense. But communication is the best policy, and it allows the landlord to plan and be in the know about when they can expect payment. You could also work with them on some sort of payment plan or temporary reduction. On openigloo, renters have shared reviews about their interactions with landlords about late payments. Renters shared how their landlords were flexible about reduced or deferred payments due to economic stress, especially during the pandemic. The bottom line is, don’t keep your landlord in the dark – they can’t accommodate or be helpful if they don’t know what’s happening. Here are some email templates to help get the conversation started.

When rent is late, but you’ll be able to make full payment later:


I wanted to let you know that unfortunately my rent payment will be delayed this month. {put a reason for the delay: i.e. I had a reduction in hours at work, there was a delayed paycheck from my boss, my roommate has left etc.}.

I will be able to complete the payment by {month, day.}. In the meantime, I’ve made a partial payment of $xxx and understand there is a late fee of $XXXX.

Thanks for your understanding and apologies for the inconvenience.


You shouldn’t spend more than 30% of your salary on rent

3. Revise Your Budget.

Life happens. You may no longer be able to afford your apartment. This may require you to reflect on your income and expenses and make reductions where possible. A standard rule of thumb is that you shouldn’t spend more than 30% of your salary on rent. Of course, in high-rent cities like New York, this can be a challenge. Do some budgeting and come up with a new number of what you can reasonably afford to rent. Start researching other housing options and communicate this to your landlord.

When you won’t be able to make ongoing full payments and need to move:


I wanted to let you know that unfortunately I am unable to make my rent payment this month. {put a reason: i.e. due to extenuating circumstances like illness, job loss, family issues etc.}

It will be difficult for me to catch up on this missed month and was hoping we can negotiate some payment plan to put me back in good standing. Additionally, my new budget for an apartment is $XXXX. If you have an availability in this price range, perhaps I can transfer units.

I want to make sure I don’t continue to fall behind so I wanted to let you know my situation as soon as possible.

Thanks for your consideration and looking forward to working together on a solution.


4. Explore community resources and programs that can help you with late rent payments

Many cities have tenant support programs and community organizations that can help protect tenants against eviction. Some of these programs may offer loans or grants to keep you housed.

Late or no pay rent Twitter img 2023

5. Explore tech solutions.

 Various platforms are working to help renters catch up on their rent, divide payments, and even get rewarded for paying rent on time. At openigloo, we’re helping connect renters with great landlords. Tenants can find, research, apply, pay, and sign for their chosen apartment. Our network of landlords are well-reviewed and often applauded for their flexibility. At openigloo, we strive to support each and every renter with a personalized customer experience. That includes coming up with solutions when things don’t go according to plan.

Not being able to pay rent in full or on time is extremely stressful – especially since every landlord and building operates differently. But a good place to start is to know your rights, communicate, revise your budget, and explore community and tech tools that can help. 

If you’ve had a communicative and collaborative landlord, be sure to share a review on openigloo. It’s anonymous and could really help the next renter with their search.