Assistance: First Month of Rent and the Security Deposit

Tenants seeking first-month rent and security deposit assistance have a cash flow problem.

Section 8 lowers apartment rental payments. However, it does not help with these upfront costs.

Emergency Rental Assistance might help tenants affected by COVID-19, but as the pandemic wanes, so will the funding.  

Charities and churches rely on the generosity of donors and rarely have the resources to help every person knocking on their doors.

So, where can you turn? Private lenders will always be there for tenants with verifiable incomes and decent credit scores.

Security Deposit Assistance

Several private and government programs might assist prospective tenants who lack the cash to pay upfront for the first month of rent and security deposit.

Loan Programs

Private finance companies offer loan programs that can help with apartment security deposits and the first month of rent. Of course, you must pay the money back with interest, so plan accordingly.

Personal loans for rental deposits smooth out your cash flow. Instead of making one large lump-sum payment immediately, you repay the lender in smaller installments spread over six, twelve, or twenty-four months.

Government Programs

Federal and state governments oversee several programs offering security deposit assistance set aside for low-income families seeking to rent an apartment. These resources are most abundant because only the government can take money from taxpayers and give it to others.


Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) is a federal program administered by the US Department of Treasury. ERA helps families affected by the COVID-19 pandemic to stay housed.

Apply for ERA benefits through your local provider. The federal initiative allows (but does not require) state agencies to cover rent, utilities, and home energy costs.

Families that must relocate can get help with moving expenses, application fees, and security deposits.

Section 8

Section 8 apartment rental vouchers issued by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) do not cover security deposits. However, lowering the monthly rent across the lease term bolsters the financial position of low-income tenants.

Apply for Section 8 benefits through your local Public Housing Agency. Reduced monthly rental payments improve your debt-to-income ratio, making it easier to qualify for a loan to fund the one-time upfront payments.

Apartment Programs

Shopping around for apartments that offer the first month rent-free is a self-help form of security deposit assistance. Property managers hate empty units and sometimes employ innovative marketing programs to keep them occupied.

The first month’s rent-free sounds better than a slightly lower monthly amount spread over the lease term, mainly because it helps with cash flow. Many tenants move from an old complex that has yet to release their last upfront payment, leaving them temporarily short of funds.

Churches Helping With Rent

Your home church, where you tithe and fellowship regularly, is the one most likely to assist with security deposits and the first month of rent. Contact your local pastor or priest before looking elsewhere.

Most churches raise money from their faithful members to support their missions. Therefore, they have limited resources and prioritize help to those they already know. However, it never hurts to ask.

Catholic Charities

Some Catholic Charities offices offer help with security deposits, other upfront rental fees, and other services for impoverished families.

Apply for help at your local Catholic Charities office to see if they support a rapid rehousing effort to keep tenants recently evicted off the streets. 

St. Vincent de Paul

Some Society of St. Vincent de Paul (SVdP) locations might offer help with rent or apartment security deposits. The Svdp mission is “a network of friends, inspired by Gospel values, growing in holiness and building a more just world through personal relationships with and service to people in need.”

Contact your local SVdP office to see what initiatives they support for low-income families in your area and ask if you qualify. Volunteer labor is more readily available than direct financial assistance.

Charities Helping With Rent

It is possible to find charitable organizations assisting low-income tenants with the first month’s rent and security deposit. However, these non-profits may have different eligibility criteria and availability of funds.

Non-profits rely on the generosity of donors and often have limited resources. Therefore, the help you might qualify to receive varies by location, and you must contact the office in your area.

The Salvation Army

The Salvation Army provides emergency services, including food, clothing, shelter, and a safe space  — regardless of religion, race, gender, sexual orientation, or political affiliation.

Apply for help at a local Salvation Army office, understanding that their rental assistance mission highlighted on their website underscores how an office connects people to government resources, such as Section 8 or ERA (See above).

Here To Help Foundation

The Here To Help Foundation offers assistance to recently released prisoners in Michigan with security deposits and the first month of rent. They offer a grant of up to $1,000 provided the former inmates cover at least as much themselves.

Apply for Here To Help Foundation benefits by submitting an application for their Returning Hope to Returning Citizens mission.

Modest Needs

Modest Needs is a non-profit organization that might help low-income tenants with their security deposit or first month of rent. They provide short-term financial assistance to individuals and families in temporary crises.

Apply for a Modest Needs self-sufficiency grant by registering online. Document the emergency that caused you to move into a new apartment.