Contact your landlord as soon as you realize you may not be able to pay your rent. Clear communication is essential. Let your landlord know that while you may not be able to pay on time, you are looking for help. Ask if he or she will accept partial payments until the rent is paid in full — and write out a payment plan that you can afford.
Start by calling Washington State 211 at 2-1-1 from a landline, 206-461-3200 or 800-621-4636 or 206-461-3610 for TTY/hearing impaired calls. You’ll be asked to explain your situation and give your address and zip code for referrals to agencies serving the area where you live. The staff at the Community Information Line will tell you about agencies that can help with rental and move-in costs. They can also refer you to other resources such as financial education classes.
Do not wait to call once Washington State 211 gives you referrals. You may need to call a number more than once – or call back at a specific date and time – to get an answer.
Be clear about what help you need when calling agencies for assistance. Explain what happened that put you at risk of losing your housing. For example: “I lost my job last month, but I’m starting a new job in a week. I need help with this month’s rent.” Most rental assistance programs will expect you to have income to pay rent. If you do not, the CIL will help you find resources to assist you. If you have children, ask for the number of the closest DSHS office.
Be prepared if you are given an appointment with an agency to apply for rental assistance. Bring paperwork documenting what you owe, income verification, your lease and your landlord’s contact information. Some programs will have you create a budget or set goals to help you stabilize your housing.
Try to stay calm and patient. The process can be frustrating. Be organized and politely persistent to find the help you need.
Tenants Union Tenant Counselors are not attorneys, and this information should not be considered legal advice. Please read our full Tenant Union Disclaimer.