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Paying off your rent arrears

This advice applies to Scotland

Coronavirus - protection for tenants

The Scottish government has introduced measures to protect renters. If you're behind with your rent, your landlord can't evict you unless they give you six months' notice. Your landlord must still follow the correct legal procedure in the courts.

If you're a private-sector tenant, your landlord must go to the First-tier Tribunal to get an eviction order. The tribunal must consider if it's reasonable to evict you in the circumstances.

Eviction ban

There is currently a ban on the enforcement of evictions in level 3 and 4 areas. You can’t be evicted in these areas unless your eviction is for antisocial or criminal behaviour.

The ban stops evictions from being carried out. It doesn’t prevent eviction hearings from taking place and an eviction order can still be granted by the tribunal or court. 

You can check the level where you live using the Scottish Government protection level checker.

Get the latest information about evictions on the Shelter Scotland website.

This information applies to Scotland.

Step 1: Take action quickly if you have rent arrears

If you’ve fallen behind with your rent, 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 difficulty finding somewhere else to live.

It’s really important to try to keep paying your rent when it's due 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. 

Before you contact your landlord, you should check that the amount you’re being asked to pay back is right. You can find out more about the things to check when you have rent arrears.

If your landlord is taking legal action because of your rent arrears, there are rules they must follow. You can check the process that must be followed if you’re a:

Step 2: Check benefits and income to pay off rent arrears

You must check that you’re getting all the income you can, including any help towards your rent or other benefits you may be entitled to.

You might be entitled to Universal Credit or Housing Benefit. You can check what benefits you can get by using a benefits tool on the UK government website

If you get Housing Benefit or Universal Credit but it doesn’t cover all your rent, you could get extra money from the local council. This is called a Discretionary Housing Payment. Find out how to apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment.

Who else is living in the home and can they contribute to the rent

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.

The Tenant Hardship Loan Fund

If you're eligible, you could get a Tenant Hardship Loan. The loan can be used to cover up to nine months' rent. This can be made up of:

  • rent arrears since 1 January 2020, or
  • up to three months of future rent payments, or
  • a combination of both - but only up to a maximum of nine months' rent.

The loan is interest free but you must pay the money back. You can pay it back over five years. You won't need to pay anything back in the first six months.

It's important not to take on more debt than you can afford. If you don't think you will be able to repay the loan, it might not be right for you.

Before you apply for a loan, you should check if you’re eligible for financial help that doesn’t need to be paid back. For example, Universal Credit or a Discretionary Housing Payment. Get advice from your local Citizens Advice Bureau.

You will need to pass an affordability check and a credit check before being offered a loan. You might want to get financial advice before applying. 

You can find out more about the Tenant Hardship loan and how to apply on the loan portal.

Step 3: Check if you’re getting benefits and how this can be paid towards your rent arrears

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 Support
  • Pension Credit
  • Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA)
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
  • Universal Credit.

Getting a third party deduction could mean your rent arrears are paid off automatically and you don't 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 Income Support, Pension Credit, JSA and ESA, and Universal Credit see our benefits section.

Step 4: Talk 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.

Working out how much you can afford to pay back

To work out how much you can afford to pay back to your landlord, you will need to check your household budget.

Make a list of all the money you’ve got coming in and all the money going out of your household. To help you do this, you can use a budget sheet

The list must 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.

If you have other debts it's a good idea to set up an account with another bank for your rent money. This will stop your bank from taking money to pay off a non-priority debt such as a credit card from your account which you are setting aside to pay your rent.

You may need help to talk to your landlord about your rent arrears. You can contact your local Citizens Advice Bureau. An adviser can help you explain things to your landlord and can give you advice about other debts you might have.

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. If you are able to keep paying your rent you may be able to apply for a Debt Payment Programme, known as a DPP to pay back your arrears and any other debts. 

For more information about debt payment programmes, check your options for dealing with debt.

Step 5: Agree 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 registered social landlord or a local authority, they should have a policy for dealing with rent arrears. There are also certain rules they have to follow before taking you to court. You can check what happens if your landlord applies to court and you’re a public sector tenant taken to court for rent arrears.

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. There are rules that private landlords must follow before taking legal action. Find out what happens when a private sector tenant is taken to the tribunal for rent arrears.

If you need to get specialist advice, you should consult an experienced adviser for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. Shelter Scotland provide a free housing advice helpline on 0808 800 4444. There may be a local Shelter advice centre you can visit in your area. You can find more details and get advice on the Shelter Scotland website.

You can try and come to an agreement 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 might be entitled to benefits to help with housing costs, like Universal Credit or Housing Benefit. Or you may be able to increase your household income in other ways or make cutbacks in your spending. You can check your benefits entitlement with a benefits tool on the UK government website. Identify where you can make cutbacks in your spending with our budgeting tool

Problems getting the arrears repaid

If your landlord won’t agree with your repayment plan

If your landlord won't agree to the repayment plan you have offered, pay what you have offered anyway. This may make a difference if the landlord takes legal action.

Any agreement with your landlord should be written down and signed by both of you.

If your landlord is taking legal action because of your rent arrears, there are rules they must follow. You can check the process that must be followed if you’re a:

You can get help to deal with your landlord and to work out a repayment plan for your rent arrears. Find out how to contact your local Citizens Advice Bureau

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, especially if there has been a change in your circumstances. 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 or the housing element of Universal Credit, 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.

You should also contact your local Citizens Advice Bureau - an adviser can help you explain things to your landlord. Shelter Scotland provide a free housing advice helpline on 0808 800 4444. There may be a local Shelter advice centre you can visit in your area. You can find more details, and get advice on the Shelter Scotland website.

If there is a court or tribunal hearing, you may be able to persuade the court or tribunal to let you stay on in the property, as long as you stick to the repayment plan in the future.

If your landlord is taking legal action because of your rent arrears, there are rules they must follow. You can check the process that must be followed if you’re a:

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 at the end of a short assured tenancy or if you have a common law tenancy.

There is more information about eviction on the Shelter Scotland website.

If your landlord is taking legal action because of your rent arrears, there are rules they must follow. You can check the process that must be followed if you’re a:

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