Debt advice for tenants with unpaid rents

Local governments can invest in this strategy using State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF) from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).

  • This strategy can help support healthy living environments. The U.S. Department of Treasury has indicated that strategies that help achieve this outcome are eligible for the use of Fiscal Recovery Funds.
  • Investments in this strategy are SLFRF-eligible as long as they are made in qualified census tracts or are designed to assist populations or communities disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.

Program basics

  • Professional advisers work with tenants to address debt, helping to create repayment plans, budgets, and other good financial practices
  • Programs are delivered one-on-one, either in person or remotely
  • Many programs include mediation services between tenants and landlords, credit counseling, rental insurance, and other tenant protection services
  • Potentially more effective when used preemptively, before debt levels become substantial

Strength of evidence

Evidence level: Strong (second-highest tier)

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Strong (second-highest tier)

Ranked as having the second-highest level of evidence by County Health Rankings and Roadmaps


Target population

Low- and moderate-income adults and families

Program cost

Not available

Implementation locations

  • Nationwide

Dates active

Federal programs first authorized in 1968

Outcomes and impact

  • Some evidence of reduced participant debt levels and evictions
  • Reduced borrowers' risk of default and delinquency
  • 22% return on investment for landlords through reduced debt and associated costs, according to one UK estimate

Keys to successful implementation

  • Note: This content is under review
  • Debt counseling should be provided before tenants owe large amounts of rent or face eviction.
  • Landlords and public housing agencies should track overdue rent and encourage tenants to obtain debt counseling to prevent unpaid rent from accumulating.
  • Debt counseling that helps participants address multiple financial issues (beyond unpaid rent) produces particularly strong outcomes.

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