What to do if you’re struggling to pay your rent

Written by Tom James on 12 January 2021

With unemployment levels expected to reach a staggering 2.6 million by the middle of 2021, the sad reality is that many people across the UK will be struggling to pay their bills this year. Whilst redundancies are devastating for everyone, it’s fair to say that you’re even more at risk if you’re made redundant or have a reduced income whilst renting your home.

Why tenants are up against the odds

Where homeowners have the lifeline of taking a mortgage holiday up until July of this year, tenants have no such luck.

Landlords aren’t legally obliged to offer reduced rent to their clients, meaning that some tenants are currently facing the prospect of finding full rent without having a job, or paying their landlord out of reduced wages due to being put on furlough.

As a result of this (and the wider pandemic in general) one in ten private renters are currently behind with their payments, and one in three have lost income. This is made even worse by the new lockdown measures which came into play on 4th January, further affecting the ability of tenants to pay their rent.

If you’re struggling to pay your rent, it’s important that you get the right help and know what options and support is available. So, here’s what you should do.

If you rent through a private landlord or rental agency

Paying rent to a private landlord means you’ll have direct contact with them – so, getting in touch should always be your first port of call if you’re struggling. Hopefully, renting privately means that you’ll have a good relationship with your landlord, and they’ll be open to offering you (at the very least) a temporary reduction in your rent. And, if you’ve got a landlord who’s particularly accommodating you might get a payment break from your rent.  

If your landlord flatly refuses to do this (there’s no law saying they have to reduce your rent) then there are a few things you can do. You might be entitled to more benefits if your income has been affected by coronavirus, so this should be your next step to help you with payments. You should also contact Citizens Advice and see if you can get them to help explain things to your landlord – doing this might result in them agreeing to a reduction in your rent, even if only temporarily.

If you rent through a rental agency

A rental agency might be a bit trickier due to the fact that you don’t have direct contact with your landlord. Having said that, your lettings agency will have probably dealt with many people in the same boat as you since the pandemic began. So, it might be the case that they’ve agreed a uniform set of measures with the landlords they work with to help people struggling with rent.

Again, there’s no law saying that your landlord has to offer you a payment break. If your lettings agency come back to you and say that they still want a full rent payment, then you should see what benefits you’re entitled to if your income has been affected by Covid. Your lettings agency might also have other properties available where the rent is less expensive, so it might be worth seeing if you could move to a cheaper property temporarily until you’ve increased your income again.  

If you rent through a housing association

You may already pay a reduced or subsidised rent if you’re a housing association tenant. You might be able to have this reduced further if your income has been reduced because of Covid or if you’ve been made redundant. But this might differ based on whether you’re a starter (meaning you’re on trial tenancy), assured or fixed-term tenant. 

Either way, your housing association should have a rent account manager or similar who will be able to advise you on what to do or see if they can move you into other, less expensive properties that the association has available.

Why you should make rent your priority

If you’re struggling on multiple fronts at the moment with different types of debt on top of rent arrears, such as credit card bills or car finance payments, it can be overwhelming trying to work out what you need to pay and which one is the most important. Our guidance on the difference between priority and non-priority debts explains this in a little more detail.

The good news is that whilst there may not be any protections to stop you paying full rent at the moment, there has been some much-needed legislation to help you with other payments you might have.

New Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) guidance was announced towards the end of last year that provides people with payment holidays on credit cards, personal loans, motor finance and pawnbroking to people struggling financially due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The payment holidays can last for up to six months, and if you’ve already applied for one before, you can apply for a second one too.

This means that if you’re struggling to pay your rent because you’ve also got other bills to contend with, you might be able to take a payment holiday on your other expenses and put more of your monthly income towards your rent. Hopefully this can provide you some short-term relief and allow you to stay where you’re renting currently, allowing you to go back to making full payments once your income has returned to what it was previously.

News on the eviction ban

Just so you know, the British government has recently extended the current ban on evictions in England until ‘at least’ February 21st, and the Scottish government has also extended the ban on evictions until March 31st. If your landlord tries to evict you from your home before this date expires, they’re acting illegally, and you should contact Citizen’s Advice immediately.

If you’re struggling to pay your rent and feel like you need help, why not get in touch with us for free, confidential debt advice? One of our expert debt advisers will be able to work through your budget with you to let you know what bills you should be prioritising, and we might be able to offer you a debt solution that reduces the amount you’re paying each month.


Filed under Living in Debt

This article was checked and deemed to be correct as at the above publication date, but please be aware that some things may have changed between then and now. So please don't rely on any of this information as a statement of fact, especially if the article was published some time ago.

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