Last week we hosted a webinar featuring Amy Thomann, Head of Consumer Credit Education with TransUnion, about how to protect your credit during financial hardship. We talked about steps you can take right away to help keep your credit intact – or even improve it – in today’s challenging economic climate.
We discussed how to work with your landlord if you’re unable to pay your rent, how to work with lenders and creditors for your other bills and expenses, and what to be on the lookout for when it comes to protecting your credit from fraudsters. Here’s a quick summary:
- IF YOU’RE HAVING TROUBLE PAYING RENT…
Unfortunately for millions of Americans who are out of work or have experienced a loss of income, paying rent may not be possible for the foreseeable future.
- Talk to your landlord and let him or her know your situation. There is no shame in speaking up for some help and flexibility.
- Have a plan for what you want to ask for, whether it’s to forgive your rent for a few months or to give you extra time to make payments. Be realistic about what will work for you and be clear about what you can commit to.
- Approach the conversation with empathy for your landlord, who may also be facing financial difficulties
- Emphasize that you are a good, responsible tenant and want to continue living in your unit for the long-term. Landlords prefer to not have to find new tenants, especially now, so they will likely be willing to work with you if they know you plan to stick around.
- Be sure you are both clear on the terms of the agreement and get everything in writing.
- IF YOU’RE HAVING TROUBLE PAYING OTHER BILLS…
Look across your bills and call each lender or service provider to let them know your situation. It’s important to call sooner than later, as lenders and creditors are more flexible now due to Covid-19 but that may not last beyond the next month or two.
- Don’t just stop paying your bills without letting them know you’re facing hardship. This will likely impact your credit in a negative way.
- There are accommodations they can offer you, such as forbearance or the Disaster Code, which will give you flexibility and protect your credit from being negatively impacted. They will determine the best offer for you, but the important thing to do is make the phone call.
- If you can pay your other bills but are unable to pay your rent, it’s important to consider all of your payment obligations and contact every company or lender before deciding which bill(s) to pay. For example, it might make more sense to pay your rent (or a portion of it if you and your landlord reach an agreement) if you are given more leniency on other bills.
- Whatever accommodation is offered, be sure you understand the terms clearly and get everything in writing.
- TO PROTECT AGAINST CREDIT FRAUDS AND SCAMS…
Uncertain times bring out scammers who prey on people who are vulnerable. There are a lot of Covid-19 scams like fake stimulus checks and phishing scams to lure you to click on bad website links. Be cautious and check the source of information and website links you receive.
- If you think you might be a victim of fraud, contact any one of the three credit agencies – Equifax, Experian or TransUnion — and ask them to temporarily freeze your credit to prevent further activity.
- Set up a fraud alert so that if there is any activity under your name that impacts your credit, such as applying for a loan or credit card, you will automatically receive an alert.
- Check your credit report regularly to make sure everything is accurate.
- All three credit agencies are offering free weekly credit reports through April 2021 – go to www.annualcreditreport.com
- RentReporters also provides subscribers with a free TransUnion Vantage credit score each month.
The Covid-19 pandemic has taken a toll on individuals and businesses around the world. And unfortunately, it doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon. We at RentReporters are here to help you navigate through these difficult times with tools and information to help you stay in good financial health. We plan to host more live discussions in the near future. Please contact us at [email protected] if you have any questions or if there are topics you’d like us to cover.