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What to do if you Can't Pay Rent because of the COVID-19/Coronavirus Outbreak?

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Last revision: February 28, 2022
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The Coronavirus/COVIDS-19 outbreak, has in the past few months, infected millions of persons and claimed the lives of more than 200,000 persons around the world. This outbreak has had far-reaching consequences beyond the spread of the virus. There is a shortage in the production of goods and services due to the strict lock-down policies that have been implemented to limit the spread of the deadly disease, as many businesses around the world have been forced to shut down.

As the world is dealing with this global crisis, poverty rates have increased, with the rate of unemployment rising exponentially. Even though the virus has altered the lives of many, the cost of living remains unchanged. While some persons still work remotely, others have lost their jobs and businesses, and many will be unable to pay their rent. This article will explain what a tenant should do if they are unable to pay rent because of the global pandemic.

Definition of Key Words

Tenant means a person or an organization that retains the exclusive possession of a rental property in exchange for rent.

Landlord means the person that owns the rental property.

Rental property is the land or building that is rented to the tenant. The rental property may be leased for residential or commercial purposes. The former is described as a Residential Lease, and the latter is a Commercial or Business Lease.

What to Do If You Can't Pay Rent

Step One. Review your Tenancy Agreement

The first step is to check the Residential or Business Lease to which the tenant is a signatory. The Lease Agreement simply outlines the terms and conditions of a lease, such as the rent, the term of the tenancy, the rental property, the commencement date, and the termination date. The purpose of reviewing the agreement is to ascertain when the rent will become due and if there is any penalty on late rent.

The late fee is an extra charge a landlord imposes if the tenant pays their rent late or after the due date.

Step Two. Request An Extension of Time to Pay Rent

The next step is for the tenant to Request An Extension of Time to Pay Rent, which may be done orally or in writing. In the letter, the tenant should declare their inability to pay rent and explain why they are unable to pay rent on the due date.

There are many reasons why a tenant may be unable to pay their rent, which may include, the loss or lack of employment or lack of funds. However, it will be sufficient to explain how the coronavirus pandemic has affected the tenant's income, thereby making it impossible to pay the rent.

Step Four. Wait for the Landlord's Response

After this, the next thing to do is to wait for the landlord's response. Some landlords understand how difficult it is for tenants to pay their rent during these challenging times. Accordingly, while some landlords may grant the request to extend the time for the rent payment, or a Waiver of Rent for that period, some may ignore the request entirely. However, the important thing is that the tenant made an effort to communicate this to their landlord.

Step Five. Work out a Payment Plan with the Landlord

Whether the landlord grants an extension of time to pay rent or denies the request, the tenant will still be required to pay their rent. Consequently, the tenant can draw up a payment plan with the landlord. The payment plan is simply an arrangement made by the tenant to pay their rent which has become a debt. The landlord may allow the tenant to pay the rent in installments. For example, a tenant who pays rent yearly, may be allowed to pay a small amount daily, weekly or monthly to offset their debt. Also, the landlord may cancel any penalty or late fees due on late payment.


Apart from the spread of the virus, the global pandemic has affected many lives and businesses. Some persons have been laid off from their jobs due to a lack of business. While the virus persists, the standard of living remains unchanged as people have to buy essential things and pay their rent.

In situations where a person is unable to pay their rent because of the pandemic, the first thing to do is to discuss with their landlord explaining how the coronavirus has affected their income and request for extension of time to pay rent. The tenant may also request to pay their rent in installments or other arrangements in these difficult times. The most important thing is to communicate this to the landlord, who may at least, consider the request.

About the Author

Vivian Umelue is an attorney and legal templates programmer at Wonder.Legal and is based in Nigeria.

Templates and examples to download in Word and PDF formats

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