Paying off your rent arrears
About paying off your rent arrears
If you’ve fallen behind with your rent payments, you should take action quickly to deal with the situation.
If you don’t find a way to pay back what you owe, this could lead to lots of problems. You could lose your home and have problems finding somewhere else to live.
You might not be able to rely on the Housing Executive to rehouse you because they might consider you to have made yourself intentionally homeless. You might find it hard to get credit or borrow money in the future.
For more information about being homeless, see Finding accommodation.
For all these reasons, it’s really important to try and pay back your rent arrears.
You will need to contact your landlord as soon as possible to try and make arrangements to pay back what you owe. This page tells you how to go about doing this.
Before you contact your landlord, you should check that the amount you’re being asked to pay back is right. For more about this, see Things to check when you have rent arrears.
You should also check that you’re getting all the income you can, including any help towards your rent or other benefits you may be entitled to.
For more information about this, see Help with your rent – Housing Benefit.
You may need help to talk to your landlord about your rent arrears. You can get help from your local Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those which can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB. Your CAB can also give you advice about other debts you might have as well as rent arrears.
Getting help to pay off rent arrears
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.
You should also check that you’re getting all the income you can, including any help towards your rent or other benefits you may be entitled to. For more information about this, see Help with your rent – Housing Benefit.
If you’re getting benefits
If you’re getting certain benefits, you may 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 Support
- Pension Credit
- Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA)
- Income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).
Getting a third party deduction would mean your rent arrears would be paid off automatically and you would not have to worry about making extra payments to the landlord yourself.
However, third party deductions are usually only very small amounts. Your landlord doesn’t have to accept third party deductions and can ask you for a higher rate of payment.
For more information about which benefits and tax credits you may be able to claim, see our Benefits section.
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.
For more information about how to check what you've been asked to pay back, see Things to check when you have rent arrears.
Agreeing a repayment plan
If you can’t pay off your arrears in full, you should ask for time to pay them back. You can suggest that you will pay back extra on top of your rent each month or each week over a certain period of time, until the arrears are paid off. A landlord may agree to this rather than end your tenancy because they want to get back the money you owe.
If your landlord is a social housing landlord such as the Housing Executive or a housing association, they should have a policy for dealing with rent arrears. There are also certain rules they have to follow before taking you to court. These include agreeing a reasonable repayment plan that you can afford.
To find out more about the rules a social housing landlord has to follow before they can take you to court for rent arrears, see the Housing Rights Service website www.housingadviceni.org.
Private landlords may be tougher and expect payment more quickly. However, they still must not harass you or take other action like cutting off your gas or electric to try and force you to pay quickly. If your landlord threatens or bullies you in any way, get help from an expert housing adviser.
Your local Citizens Advice Bureau may be able to help or put you in touch with someone who can. To get details of your nearest CAB, including those who can give email advice, click on nearest CAB.
You can try and come to an arrangement to pay off your rent arrears with your landlord at any time, even if you’ve already received papers saying that your landlord is taking you to court.
It’s important that you agree a repayment plan that 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.
It’s also important that 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. You may be able to get Housing Benefit or other benefits help to pay your rent. Or you may be able to increase your household income in other ways or make cutbacks in your spending.
For more information about Housing Benefit, see Help with your rent – Housing Benefit.
Working out how much you can afford to pay back
To work out how much you can afford to pay back your landlord, you will 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 use the Budget sheet in our Budgeting section to help you do this.
The list should include any other debts you owe. Make sure that the amounts you put down are realistic. Once 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.
For more information about working out your household budget, see How to work out your budget.
If you work out that you don’t have enough money to pay back your rent arrears, you should get help from an experienced debt adviser. You can get help from your local Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those which can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.
What if your landlord won’t agree with your repayment plan
If your landlord won't agree the repayment plan you have offered, pay what you have offered anyway. This may make a difference if the landlord takes you to court.
Any agreement with your landlord should be written down and signed by both of you.
For more information about what happens when your landlord takes you to court for rent arrears, see You are taken to court for rent arrears.
You can get help to deal with your landlord and to work out a repayment plan for your rent arrears. Your local Citizens Advice Bureau should be able to help. To get details of your nearest CAB, including those who can give email advice, click on nearest CAB.
What if you don’t keep to your repayment plan
If you’ve agreed a repayment plan with your landlord but haven’t kept to it, they will probably take legal action to evict you.You could try going back to your landlord and asking them 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 may have just found out you can get Housing Benefit, you’ve got another job after being unemployed or someone has paid you back money they owe you.
However, you may find it very difficult to persuade your landlord to listen to you. If this is the case, you can get help to deal with them.
Your local Citizens Advice Bureau should be able to help. To get details of your nearest CAB, including those who can give email advice, click on nearest CAB.
If your landlord decides to evict you because of your rent arrears, they will have to follow the correct procedure. They cannot evict you without a court order.
If there is a court hearing, you may be able to persuade the court to let you stay on in the property, as long as you stick to the repayment plan in the future.
For more information about what happens when your landlord takes you to court for rent arrears, see the Housing Rights Service website.at www.housingadviceni.org