Paying off your rent arrears
If you’ve fallen behind with your rent payments, you should take action quickly to deal with the situation.
It’s important to try to pay your rent arrears if you can. If you don’t, you could lose your home and have problems finding somewhere else to live.
Check how much rent you owe
Before you contact your landlord, check they’re asking you to pay back the right amount.
If you're an assured or an assured shorthold tenant, it's important you know how much rent you owe. Try to keep your arrears below 8 weeks if you pay weekly or 2 months if you pay monthly. If you have more arrears than this, your landlord can give you a ‘section 8 notice’. This means they’re taking you to court to evict you.
If you can pay back enough of the rent so you have less than 8 weeks’ arrears at the date of the court hearing, the court might not evict you. Check what to do if your landlord has given you a section 8 notice.
If you’re an assured shorthold tenant and you have a lot of rent arrears, your landlord is likely to give you a ‘section 21’ notice to try to evict you. Check what to do if your landlord has given you a section 21 notice.
Talking to your landlord
Once you’ve checked that what you’re being asked to pay back is right, you should get in touch with your landlord. Explain why you've got behind with your rent payments.
If you can pay off the arrears in full, do this as soon as possible. Make sure you get a receipt from your landlord in writing.
Getting help to pay off rent arrears
You should check that you’re getting all the income you can - including any help towards your rent or other benefits you might be entitled to. You should check if you can get Universal Credit and if you can get help with your bills.
If there are people living with you, make sure they know about your problems with the rent and are helping you out if they can. For example, if you have adult children living with you, ask them to contribute something to help you pay off the arrears. Explain you could all lose your home if you can’t pay back what you owe.
If you’re getting benefits
If you’re getting certain benefits, you might be able to ask for an amount to be deducted from your payments and paid directly to your landlord. This is called a 'third party deduction'.
Third party deductions can be made from the following benefits:
Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA)
Income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
Getting a third party deduction means your rent arrears will be paid off automatically and you won't have to worry about making extra payments to the landlord yourself.
Third party deductions can be up to 20% of your benefits. If you can’t afford to pay that much, ask your landlord if you can pay them a smaller amount each week or month.
Paying back the rent you owe
If you can’t pay off your arrears in full, you should ask for time to pay them back. You can offer to pay back extra on top of your rent every month or week over a certain period of time, until the arrears are paid off. This is called a ‘repayment plan’. Your landlord might agree to this rather than end your tenancy because they want to get back the money you owe.
It’s important you agree a repayment plan you can afford to stick to. If you don’t stick to the plan, your landlord will probably take you to court and try to evict you. You can try to set up a repayment plan with your landlord at any time - even if you’ve already received papers saying your landlord is taking you to court.
It’s also important you keep up with your current rent payments at all times. If you can’t afford the full rent, your arrears will just get bigger.
If you rent from the council or a housing association
Your landlord should have a policy for dealing with rent arrears. For example, they should consider setting up a reasonable repayment plan before taking you to court.
If you rent from a private landlord
Your landlord might expect you to pay your arrears back quickly, but they must not harass you or take other action like cutting off your gas or electricity to try and force you to pay quickly. If your landlord threatens or bullies you in any way, talk to an adviser.
Check how much you can afford to pay back
To work out how much you can afford to pay back your landlord, you'll need to take a good look at your household budget.
You will need to make a list of all the money you’ve got coming in and all the money going out of your household. You can get help with making a budget.
Your budget should include any other debts you owe. Make sure the amounts you put down are realistic. After you’ve done this, you can show it to your landlord so they can see how much you can afford to pay back each month.
If you work out that you don’t have enough money to pay back your rent arrears, or you need help working out a repayment plan, talk to an adviser.
Asking your landlord to agree to your repayment plan
If your landlord agrees to the repayment plan, write it down and get them to sign it.
If your landlord doesn’t sign the agreement, you should pay what you offered anyway. This might make a difference if your landlord takes you to court.
If you don’t keep to your repayment plan
If you’ve agreed a repayment plan, but haven’t kept to it, your landlord will probably take legal action to evict you.
You could try asking your landlord to give you a second chance. Explain the reasons why you didn’t keep to the agreement and, if you can, show them that this won’t happen again. For example, you might have found a new job or started getting Universal Credit
However, you might find it very difficult to persuade your landlord to listen to you. If this is the case, talk to an adviser.
Can you be evicted even if you pay off the arrears?
In some cases, you could still be evicted even if you pay back the money you owe. This can happen if you have certain types of tenancy, for example an assured shorthold tenancy.
If you owe rent arrears and you're an assured or assured shorthold tenant, you should talk to an adviser.
Find out more about what to do if your landlord is taking you to court for rent arrears.
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Page last reviewed on 08 March 2021