What should you do when you can’t pay the rent?

Private Property South Africa
Lea Jacobs

If you’re frequently unable to pay your rent or late with your payment then it’s essential to follow these budgeting tips.

It’s probably happened to most of us at least once: the rent is due, but you’ve blown your budget and you don’t have the money to pay the landlord.

By their very nature, emergencies have a nasty way of popping up at the most inopportune moments and having to use rent money to repair a vehicle or for an unexpected medical crisis can leave you lagging behind on the rent. Of course, frittering away your rent money on a birthday party or a romantic weekend escape is just being irresponsible.

As a tenant you need to know the difference between a true emergency and just being a spendthrift. Regardless, your landlord is going to become annoyed if you are living in his property and are regularly not paying (or are paying late) for the privilege.

You need to budget for rent because it’s all that stands between you and living on the street or moving back in with Mum. With a little self-control, the following tips will help keep your landlord happy, and a roof over your head:

  • Budget
    The first rule is to live within your means. If you can’t afford that weekend away, don’t go. If you can’t afford an expensive Christmas present, don’t buy it. If there’s not enough money for a night on the town, stay at home and watch Netflix. Prioritise your spending, with rent at the top of the list.

Use the following methods to squirrel away funds to cover your rent should you have unexpected expenses in any particular month.

  • Credit cards/savings/revolving credit/overdrafts
    Don’t max out your credit cards. Discipline yourself and keep a reserve of at least one month’s rent available. If you do have a blowout and dip into this, top it up again as soon as possible.

    - Borrow from friends and family
    This might not be the best option, but may become necessary if the situation is dire. Remember you will have to pay this money back – regardless of from whom you borrowed it. Your parents may not mind lending the odd hand, but they are going to stop being sympathetic if the money isn’t paid back or if you borrow cash on a monthly basis.

  • Sell or pawn surplus items
    This isn’t ideal, but such drastic measures may have to be taken if the situation is serious enough.

  • Scrutinise your cash flow
    Recognise bad spending habits and make a plan, such as working out what you need spend each day for the rest of the month before you go shopping. Cut back on luxury items such as cakes, cool drinks and coffee shop visits if these are stretching your budget. Work out how much you can afford to spend before you go out for dinner and don’t deviate from this. The internet is a wonderful resource to help with cutting back on food expenses. Search for restaurants that offer specials on certain days of the week or even better, sharpen your culinary skills and learn to prepare gourmet dishes at home for less.

  • Look for cheaper entertainment options
    View entertainment activities as a treat and not as a must-have. There are numerous ways to keep yourself entertained without breaking the bank. Subscribe to a movie streaming channel instead of popping out to rent DVDs. If you have to go and see a new release, limit yourself and consider forgoing the popcorn and cool drink in the interests of economy.
    Libraries usually have an excellent choice of books that often include the latest bestsellers which, considering the price of books, could end up saving you a fortune.
    Entertain at home. A good old bring and braai can save the hosts a fortune. Don’t assume that the only time you can ask friends to bring food along is when you’re going to throw it on the fire – try hosting a potluck dinner where guests bring a dish of their choice. It’s good fun and is a great way to broaden your culinary horizons.
    Visit friends and family instead of going out to a restaurant or bar. As daft as it sounds these places aren’t generally the best environment for socialising. More often than not they’re crowded and noisy and although the atmosphere may be pleasant, it isn’t really conducive to good conversation.

Most important of all

Speak to your landlord the moment it becomes apparent that you’ve run into problems and that you’ll be paying your rent late. Don’t leave him in the dark and if necessary, inform him of the steps you will be taking to ensure that the money will be paid. The odd late payment won’t generally concern most landlords, however, those who consistently pay late may well be asked to secure alternative accommodation.

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