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Paying off your rent arrears

This advice applies to Scotland

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 as it falls 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. 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.

If your landlord is taking you to court because of your rent arrears, see You are taken to court for rent arrears.

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. For more information about this, see Help with your rent – Housing Benefit, and you can find out whether you might be entitled to benefits by using an online benefits tool on the GOV.UK website at www.gov.uk.

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.

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

Universal credit is being introduced in the United Kingdom gradually to replace all means tested benefits. You may be in an area of the country where you are being asked to change to universal credit from another benefit. When you have rent arrears it may be helpful to have a benefits check to make sure that you receive the help with housing costs that you are entitled to. You can get help from your local Citizens Advice Bureau - where to get advice.

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).
  • 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, 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 your landlord, you will need to take a good look at your household budget.

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 [ 41 kb] to help you do this. 

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 get help from your local Citizens Advice Bureau - where to get advice. Your CAB can also give you advice about other debts you might have as well as rent arrears.

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. You can get help from your local Citizens Advice Bureau - where to get advice.

For more information about debt payment programmes, see What options are there 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. To find out more about the rules a landlord has to follow before they can take you to court for rent arrears, see You are 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.

If you need to get specialist advice, you should consult an experienced adviser for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau - where to get advice. Shelter Scotland provide a free housing advice helpline on 0808 800 4444. There may be a Shelter Housing Aid Centre you can visit in your area. You can find more details, and get advice on-line, at scotland.shelter.org.uk.

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 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. You can check your benefits entitlement with an online benefits tool on the GOV.UK website at www.gov.uk. Identify where you can make cutbacks in your spending with our budgeting tool

For more information about Housing Benefit, see Help with your rent – Housing Benefit

Problems getting the arrears repaid

What 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 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 - where to get advice.

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, 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, 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.

If you need to get specialist advice, you should consult an experienced adviser for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau - where to get advice. Shelter Scotland provide a free housing advice helpline on 0808 800 4444. There may be a Shelter Housing Aid Centre you can visit in your area. You can find more details, and get advice on-line, at scotland.shelter.org.uk.

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 You are taken to court for rent arrears.

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 at http://scotland.shelter.org.uk.

For more information about the legal action your landlord can take to evict you when you have rent arrears, see You are taken to court for rent arrears.

Further help

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