University of Illinois Extension

Keeping a Roof Overhead

Other Housing Costs

Insurance Payments

Homeowner or renter’s insurance protects you in case of loss or damage to property. During times of reduced income, it’s important to have property insured. If you can’t make an insurance premium payment, call or write your agent or the company. There may be some leeway (10- to 30-day “grace period”) for a late premium payment, but check your policy. Not paying insurance on your mortgaged home is considered defaulting on the mortgage.

Explain your family’s situation and offer a different payment plan. Check the possibility of smaller premiums through:

  • Changing to a monthly, quarterly or semi-annual payment plan with the same coverage. There is a service charge for making a smaller payment, and this is based on the amount of the payment. Check the total yearly amount difference, and select the payment plan that will give you the most savings and still fit into your family’s spending plan.
  • Changing the deductible.
  • Installing safety/security alarm systems.
  • Examining coverage on other buildings and structures on your property.
  • Changing to a more basic coverage.
  • Check for possible discounts if all insurance (house and auto) is with the same company.

Real Estate Taxes

If you are unable to pay taxes, contact your county tax collector to learn about procedures used when property taxes are delinquent. Interest fees accumulate on unpaid taxes, and you will have to pay this interest or it becomes a lien on your property just like the unpaid taxes. You’ll receive notice of any actions taken as a result of non-payment of taxes. You need to take the notices seriously. Eventually, unpaid taxes will result in the sale of your property through auction.

If there has been a natural disaster in your county and it has been declared by the Illinois state governor, President of the United States, or the supervisor of assessments, the board of review or board of appeals may make reassessment of any taxable real property that was damaged by the disaster. The property owner must make an application for reassessment. You will need to provide the parcel identification number and the legal description of the real estate.

If you own and live in your home as of January 1 of the tax year, you are eligible for the Homestead Credit (owner/occupied). Contact your county tax assessor to verify if you are receiving this exemption. You do not have to apply every year.

The Senior Citizen Homestead Exemption for homeowners over age 65 must be applied for yearly through the local tax assessment official by showing a copy of deed and proof of age.

Utility Payments

Utility cut-offs can occur for non-payment. Disconnection varies with weather and family health conditions. The Illinois Attorney General’s Office website has the details.

If you can’t make full payments on your utility bill:

  1. Contact the company right away — before the due date and before fuel is needed.
  2. Propose a new payment plan based on your current ability to pay. Take along information about your income and expenses when you go to your utility company.
  3. Check with your local power company to see if there are available fuel assistance programs.
  4. Talk with family members to decide how to safely reduce the use of your utilities to reduce costs. Health and safety considerations for family members are very important.

Phone Bills (Landline and Cell)

If you are unable to pay your phone bill on time, call the phone number listed on the bill and explains the problem. Unless you pay the bill or make other arrangements with the company, you will receive a Notice of Disconnection with the date your phone service will stop if the bill is not paid.

If you pay the bill late, they will charge an extra fee. If your phone is disconnected, you will have to pay the bill plus interest on the unpaid balance before your phone service is restored. You are allowed one free reconnection each year; otherwise you must pay the cost for reconnection.

Ways to cut phone expenses includes: eliminating all non-emergency long distance calls. Write letters instead. If you have a cell phone package, check to see when rates are the lowest and make your calls during those hours. A prepaid phone card will pay for your long distance calls. You may want to look at phone plans based on your phone usage. Check with your phone company for ideas on cutting service costs.

Cable Service

If you have cable service, consider choosing only basic service or having the service disconnected. Remember, there is a charge to reconnect your service.

Web Resources

Compare Bank Interest Rates

Illinois Office of Attorney General – Tenant Rights


Fox, Karen, Sarah Drummond, Susan James, and Linda Krute. Taking Charge in Changing Times: Keeping a Roof Overhead. Oklahoma State University Extension Service. 1993.

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