Rent Arrears

Rent arrears is rent money that has not been paid. The consequences of not dealing with rent arrears are serious – facing the risk of eviction from your home, for instance – therefore rent arrears are considered ‘priority debts’.

It is best to act quickly if you are struggling with rent arrears. As well as risking eviction, you may find that the local authority looks at the situation as you having intentionally made yourself homeless, which means they may choose not to rehouse you. It may also be more difficult in the future for you to be approved for credit or receive money from lenders. Contacting your landlord as soon as possible to open a discussion about your difficulties in paying the rent is the best course of action; if you need help with this, contact your local Citizens Advice Bureau.

One possible course of action for repaying rent arrears is to ask your landlord for a third party deduction. This works if you are receiving benefits such as income support, income-based jobseekers allowance (JSA), pension credit, and income-related employment and support allowance. This takes the pressure off of you to budget for extra payments, as a third party deduction means that payments are taken automatically from your benefits in small manageable amounts. Due to these small amounts of payment, however, some landlords may not accept third party deduction and may instead request from you a higher rate of payment.

Coming to an agreement with your landlord on a repayment plan that works for both of you is a common solution. Landlords understand that ending a tenancy early can incur other costs for you such as moving costs, deposits and payments for your new housing, so they are often happy to raise the cost of your rent by an agreed upon amount until the rent arrears are paid, rather than end your tenancy.

Social housing landlords (i.e. local housing or housing association) have policies in place to deal with rent arrears. They have to adhere to certain rules – like making available to you a reasonable repayments plan that suits your financial situation – before they can take you to court for the debt.

Private landlords are not bound by the same rules and may be tougher. But even if they do expect quicker repayment they cannot harass you to do this. If you do experience bullying behaviour, such as your landlord deliberately cutting off your supply to gas and electricity, you can reach out to a housing advisor to help you deal with it.

Your landlord may choose not to accept the payment plan you offer, but you should pay the amount you offered anyway as this may make a difference to how you are perceived if the landlord decides to take you to court.

If you both do agree to a repayment plan but you do not adhere to it, you will likely face legal action. Your landlord in this situation will probably be aiming to get you evicted, and if you happen to have a periodic assured shorthold tenancy you may not get the chance to argue your case in court. Under an accelerated possession procedure, your landlord has permission from a judge to evict you without a court hearing.

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