The rent is due on the first, and there’s no way you can pay it. It doesn’t look like you can pay it for a while, either, unless you start skipping out on food. You’re at a point where some tough decisions are going to be made. What do you do?

It’s a frightening situation to be in. While I’ve never been in a truly desperate situation, Sarah and I in our earlier years faced a period where we struggled mightily to pay the rent and found ourselves late a couple of times. We found that having a plan, knowing our rights and talking openly to our landlord made all of the difference in the world.

Let’s start at the beginning.

1. Know your lease — and your rights.

The first thing you should do is dig out a copy of the lease you signed and find out what exactly it states regarding late payments. What are the penalties listed for late payment? What are the guidelines for…

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