Dealing with rent arrears

Rent arrears count as ‘priority debts’, which means the consequences of not dealing with them are serious. In some cases this may mean eviction so it’s important to take swift action if you’re having problems.

I’ve fallen into rent arrears…

Don’t ignore the problem. If you’re behind with payments, get in touch with your landlord as soon as you can. Be clear about your situation. Start by writing down all your income and expenses to see how much you have left. Then you can work out what you can afford to pay your landlord. We can help with this.

If you’re able to make a payment straight away, do so.

What if my landlord refuses to accept my offer?

If your landlord isn’t willing to accept your offer of payment, there are things that you can do. You won’t automatically lose your home:

    • Keep paying your rent, including whatever you offered towards the arrears
    • Show your landlord your budget as proof that your offer is all you can afford
    • Make a note of all payments and correspondence with your landlord.

    What are my rights as a tenant?

    Your rights depend on your tenancy and in particular:

    • When you moved into the property
    • Whether your landlord is private or a housing association
    • Whether you’re renting the whole property
  • If you rent privately, you may have less legal protection. Landlords usually have the right to seek a court order to evict you for rent arrears Check your tenancy agreement and if you have any concerns, seek specialist advice from Shelter

    If your tenancy agreement has run out, the court can make you leave your home as long as you have had two months’ notice in writing. With assured tenancies, in most cases the court can decide if it is reasonable to make you leave your home – unless you have over two months’ or eight weeks’ rent arrears and your landlord uses this reason to start court action.

    What can I do to help my rent arrears?

    If you’re on a low income, check whether you qualify for any benefits – such as Housing Benefit or tax credits. You don’t have to be out of work to claim benefits and you could qualify for more than one.

    With some benefits, you can arrange for an agreed amount to be taken from your benefit and paid directly to your landlord.

    If you are in arrears because you are waiting for Housing Benefit to be paid, contact your Housing Benefit office. Explain why your claim is urgent and ask for an interim payment.

    If you can’t afford to pay anything, get in touch with us for free help and advice.

    Can my landlord take me to court?

    Yes. This can happen if:

    • you are in arrears with your rent of more than two months/eight weeks
    • you have ‘persistently delayed’ paying your rent
    • you have an assured shorthold tenancy that has lapsed
  • However, before your landlord can take court action, you should receive a formal letter called a ‘notice seeking possession’. You don’t have to leave your home at this point.

    It’s always worth trying to reach an agreement with your landlord and paying whatever you can afford towards the arrears.

    Get free debt help

    If you are self-employed and worried about your finances, or find yourself in the early stages of debt, we may be able to help you find a solution.

    Running your own business can be lonely, especially when you’re facing money problems – we’re here to support you, by giving you free debt advice and a clear idea of your options. All you need to do is call 0800 280 2816.