Rent Arrears Debt


Living with rent arrears debt can be stressful. If you don’t pay your rent to either a private landlord or housing association you run the risk of being evicted.

It’s important that you treat rent arrears as a priority debt as failure to pay could see you lose your home.

How do I deal with rent arrears?

If you are in rent arrears, you must communicate with your landlord and explain any missed rent payments so you can come to an arrangement.

What are rent arrears?

If you miss payments to your your private landlord or housing association the money owed is called rent arrears.

Your rent should always be considered to be a priority payment and you should make every effort to ensure your rent payments are on time and paid in full every month.

If you don’t stay on top of rent payments you could risk being evicted.

If you’re worried about rent arrears or are in financial hardship and unable to pay your rent you should speak with your landlord as soon as possible. You may be able to set up a repayment plan that could prevent further more serious action being taken.

How can I check how much rent I owe?

If you need to deal with rent arrears, the first thing you should do is check how much rent you owe.

You should make sure that the housing costs your landlord says you owe adds up with your own records.

To do this you should check:

  • receipts (if you paid directly with cash)
  • bank statements
  • rent book or rent card (if you have one)

It’s important to check you’ve kept a record of all the money you’ve paid in rent and that they add up.

If you don’t have a record of payments, you can ask your landlord for a rent statement. You can also ask for a statement if you believe your rent book or rent card is unclear or you can’t find your rent card or rent book.

If you receive benefits, such as Universal Credit, your payments pay be paid directly to your landlord. You should contact your local council or Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to find out how much has been paid in rent payments.

Who is responsible for joint rent arrears?

It may be the case that you don’t need to cover the cost of missed rent payments on your own. Depending on your living arrangements you may not be responsible for paying your rent on your own.

If you live with another person, such as a partner or flatmate, and signed a tenancy agreement together when you moved in, you’ll have joint tenancy agreement. That means that you’re both responsible for paying rent arrears. If one doesn’t pay their arrears you’ll have to pay for them.

If you live with other people but signed a separate tenancy agreement you’ll only need to pay the rent payment you agreed. You’ll find your rent agreement in your tenancy agreement.

If you don’t stay on top of rent payments you could risk being evicted.

What if I've taken over another tenancy?

It’s important to be aware that you are only responsible for paying rent from the date your tenancy starts. That means you don’t need to pay rent arrears owed by the tenant before you.

However, if you took over another person’s tenancy – known as assignment or succession – you may be responsible for that person’s rent arrears in some cases. You should seek further advice if this happens.

If you believe you’re wrongly being asked to pay another person’s rent arrears you should remind your landlord when you moved in and explain the debt isn’t yours. You should highlight the date you moved in on your tenancy agreement.

What if I don't have a tenancy agreement?

When you move into a rented property it’s important to have a tenancy agreement in place. This will detail the basic terms of your rental agreement whether you’re a private tenant or housing association tenant. The terms will include how much rent you’ll pay and when you should pay your rent.

You should contact your local Citizens Advice for free advice if you don’t have a written tenancy agreement.

How can I repay rent arrears?

If you’re having trouble paying, the first thing you should do is contact your landlord and let them know of your situation.

It may work in your favour and help prevent serious consequences, such as court action and eviction, if you explain why you’ve not been able to afford to pay your rent.

You may be able to agree to a repayment plan to pay off your rent arrears. This will allow you to make smaller payments towards your rent over a longer period of time.

While you’ll still need to pay all the rent you owe, it could be easier paying it in smaller amounts.

If your landlord agrees to the plan to recover missed rent payments it’s important to have the plan written down and to sign it.

It’s important to remember that you’ll also need to stay on top of current rent payments during this time to avoid further arrears.

Council or housing association tenants

If you rent from a council or housing association your landlord should have a policy for dealing with rent arrears. You should speak with the council’s housing department or housing association for more details of this.

Private landlord tenants

Private landlords might be more persistent in chasing for rent arrears debt. However, they cannot harass private tenants or take extreme action such as cutting off your gas or electricity.

What happens if I can't stick to a repayment plan?

If you’ve agreed to a repayment plan with your landlord but can’t stick to it your landlord will likely take court action to have you evicted.

It’s always worth getting trying to contact your landlord to explain the reasons why you couldn’t pay and explain that it won’t happen again. For example, you may be able to prove your rent repayment was late because of housing benefit delays.

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Can I get help to pay my rent arrears?

If you’re worried about covering the cost of your rent arrears and are on a low income you may consider claiming housing benefit, now known as Universal Credit, as well all the benefits you’re entitled to.

You can find out what benefits you’re entitled to and can make a benefit claim on the Government website.

If you’re receiving certain benefits you may be able to ask to repay your arrears with payments deducted from your benefit. The payments, known as third party deductions, can be paid directly to your landlord.

Third party deductions can be made from the benefits below:

  • Income Support
  • Universal Credit
  • Pension Credit
  • Income based Job Seeker’s Allowance
  • Income related Employment and Support Allowance

While there are advantages to having the funds to repay rent arrears taken from your account automatically, it’s important to ensure you account for this in your budget.

Third party deductions are typically 20% of your benefits. If you can’t afford to pay that much, you can ask your landlord if you can pay a smaller amount.

What can my landlord do if I owe rent?

If you owe rent arrears your landlord will likely take court action to have you evicted in a process known as seeking possession.

Eviction isn’t a straight forward process and landlords must take various steps in order to action it. These include:

  • If you have a social housing landlord, such as a local council or housing association, they must follow rent arrears pre-action protocol. This informs the landlord of what they should do before they begin court action.
  • Your landlord must give a notice of seeking possession or a notice to quit.
  • If you haven’t left before the end of the notice period the landlord can apply to the court for a court order and you’ll receive notice of a court hearing.
  • If you don’t leave the property by the date stated on the possession order your landlord can ask for a warrant of possession.
  • You’ll then receive a notice of eviction from bailiffs that will detail when the eviction will take place.

It’s important to be aware that a landlord can’t evict you without following this strict protocol and can’t make you leave your home without a court order. If they try to do this then they are breaking the law and you should seek legal advice or speak to Citizens Advice as soon as possible.

If you owe rent arrears your landlord will likely take court action to have you evicted in a process known as seeking possession.

Can you be evicted even if you repay rent arrears?

There are some instances where you could still be evicted even if you’re repaid the rent arrears owed.

This is dependent on the type of tenancy you have – for example if you’re an assured shorthold tenant.

If you’re an assured or an assured shorthold tenant you should seek advice about rent arrears debt as soon as possible.

Will the local council house me with rent arrears?

Local authorities tend to have a different stance on this.

However, for the most part many local councils won’t allow you to apply for a new house if you are in rent arrears from a previous property.

If you do have rent arrears from a previous property you will likely be asked to repay what you owe before moving.

Some local authorities may view the rent arrears from another property differently an can be treated as a non priority debt as you can’t be evicted for this reason – even if it’s the same landlord.

The only exception to this would be if court action has been taken against you.

Can I do a mutual exchange with rent arrears?

If you’re a council tenant or housing association tenant you may wish to consider a mutual exchange with another tenant with the permission of your landlord.

However, if your landlord refuses on the basis of rent arrears you will be required to repay rent you owe before your swap will be approved.

Where can I find debt help?

If you’re unable to pay your rent it’s highly likely you’re struggling with household bills and other debts too.

As rent arrears are considered to be a priority debt it’s important to find help as soon as possible. If you’re looking for debt advice, talk to Your Debt Expert. Our teams specialise in providing confidential debt help that can help regain control. Contact us today on 0800 082 8086.

Where can I get more advice on Rent Arrears Debt and other debt solutions?

To discuss your options and get the support you need to deal with your debt today, contact us now on 0800 082 8086 or click the button below to get started.