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Paying off rent arrears

This advice applies to Scotland

If you’ve missed a rent payment, you’re in 'arrears' – this means you owe rent to your landlord.

Don’t ignore your landlord’s letters. If you are behind with your rent, your landlord can start a case in court to evict you. So it’s a good idea to talk to your landlord straight away and discuss how to pay the rent that you owe.

Councils and housing associations aren’t as quick as private landlords to take you to court, but they might still do it if you don’t make arrangements to pay off the arrears.

Before you speak to your landlord, check that the amount you’re being asked to pay back is right. See Things to check when you have rent arrears

Rent arrears are a 'priority debt'. This means you need to pay them before debts like overdrafts.

Check if you can get help to pay your rent

You may be able to get help to pay your rent by claiming housing benefit from your council’s housing benefit department. If you are claiming universal credit you should get  a housing element to cover some housing costs.

If you are already getting housing benefit, but it doesn’t cover the whole of your rent, you may also be able to get a discretionary housing payment.

Make sure that you are getting all the benefits that you can. You can get a benefit check at your local Citizens Advice Bureau.

Work out your budget

It’s a good idea to look at what money you have coming in and how much you normally spend. This will help you work out a budget. You might be able to find ways of cutting back on your spending. You can use our online budgeting tool or speak to an adviser at a  Citizens Advice Bureau.

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 at a Citizens Advice Bureau.

Speak to your landlord about a repayment plan

Once you’ve looked at your budget, you can speak to your landlord about how much you can afford to pay towards your arrears over a certain period of time. You’ll need to commit to paying a regular amount each week or month on top of your usual rent payments. This is known as a ‘repayment plan’. Make sure that you offer to pay something realistic, that you can stick to.

Example

You normally pay £500 a month in rent, but last month you missed your payment and now your landlord is chasing you for the money.

Instead of paying what you owe in one amount, you could contact your landlord and suggest paying them back in 5 monthly instalments of £100.

You’d add this to your regular rent payment of £500, so for the next 5 months you’d pay your landlord £600 a month.

It’s a good idea to write your repayment plan down. Talk to a specialist adviser at Citizens Advice if you need help doing this.

Pay your arrears out of your benefits

 If you get benefits, ask your landlord if they’ll let you pay using 'third party deductions' - these are regular payments that come out of benefits like Income Support, Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) and Universal Credit.

You should talk to an adviser at Citizens Advice if you’re thinking about using third party deductions. It can take a long time to pay off a debt this way and your landlord might want the money sooner.

Get help

If you need help to speak to your landlord, contact an adviser at a Citizens Advice Bureau.

If you’re being evicted

Talk to an adviser at a Citizens Advice Bureau if you’re being evicted by your landlord for not paying rent.

You can read more about what happens if your landlord takes you to court for rent arrears.

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