Having a roof over your head is the single and most important thing everyone wants. However, when you fail to pay your rent and get into rent debt, this could lead to unhappy landlords and possible evictions.
Are you struggling to pay your rent? If you are, it is essential to get help as soon as possible rather than getting yourself into deeper money problems.
In this guide, we will talk you through everything you need to know about rent arrears and what help is out there to deal with rent debt without having to be evicted by your landlord.
Find out when to spot the signs when you need debt help.
Who is responsible for rent arrears?
It might not always be you responsible solely for your rent arrears. For example:
- If you have a joint tenancy agreement, you are both responsible for the rent arrears if you live with a partner or flatmate. Unfortunately, if one of the tenants refuses to pay, the other tenant will need to pay for them.
- If you are taking over someone else’s tenancy, you are only responsible for the rent due after your agreement has begun.
Your landlord must always give details of your tenancy agreement in writing, clearly stating how much you need to pay and when you need to pay it.
If you don’t have a tenancy agreement, you are likely to have an assured shorthold tenancy agreement.
An assured shorthold tenancy or AST is different from other types of tenancies. This is because your landlord can evict you without reason. However, they must follow the correct procedure to do this.
What should I do if I can’t pay my rent this month?
Paying your rent should be on your list of essential payments. However, sometimes unexpected events can happen in your life, which stop you from paying your rent.
1. Check how much rent you owe
Before you contact your landlord, double-check that they ask you to pay the right amount.
Look at your tenancy agreement and see that your debt has not been miscalculated. It could mean that your landlord is asking for more than required.
2. Speak to your landlord
If you have always had a good relationship with your landlord, speak to your landlord and let them know you struggle.
A landlord would much rather be informed that the rent will be unpaid or missed to make alternative arrangements to temporarily cover the costs.
3. Set up a repayment plan with your landlord
You could ask your landlord if they could offer you the following short-term solutions:
- Reducing your rent for a short period if possible
- Give you a break in paying your rent
- Allow you to pay back extra on top of your rent every week or month
This is up to the landlord’s discretion, and if you have always been consistent in paying your rent on time, then your landlord may consider these options.
Get a repayment plan agreed upon and signed by your landlord. This way, you have evidence to use if there are any disputes.
However, it is essential to keep to your side of the bargain so try not to break the agreement as this could consequently lead to your landlord taking you to court.
It is important to remember that taking these options might mean a pause in the short term, but you would still have to pay the rent back.
Often, landlords have a mortgage to pay, and the rent will cover that mortgage payment to keep things afloat. However, if you miss a rent payment, your landlord could get into mortgage debt.
4. Get help paying back the rent you owe
If you are getting the following benefits such as:
- Universal Credit
- Pension Credit
- Income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
- Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)
- Income Support
Then, you might be able to ask for the 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 up to 20% of your benefits. This will mean your rent arrears will be paid off automatically rather than you having to make those debt payments yourself.
5. Maximise your benefits
Make sure you are getting all the benefits you are entitled to. You might be entitled to more benefits if your:
- Health has changed, which is making it difficult for you to work or even care for yourself
- Income has been reduced, which means you are unable to keep your money afloat
- Responsibilities have changed, which means you might be having to care for a family member, which is stopping you from working.
If you are already in debt and are receiving benefits, you could be entitled to additional support through housing benefits. The extra help could get you out of rent arrears. You could get housing benefits backdated up to six months if you can do this.
6. Analyse your budget
Paying your rent is a priority; it is essential to pay this over your non-priority debts such as your mobile phone or credit card debts as they hold less severe consequences if you miss payments.
You could look at making some savings on your monthly expenditure to free up some well-needed cash.
If you don’t already have one, download our budget planner and itemise your income and expenditure. It is only when you put things in black and white that you can see what areas you could cut back on. Here are some to consider cutting back on:
- Subscriptions Services – Netflix, Sky, Disney+, Amazon Prime…the list can be endless. These services are excellent when you have the surplus cash; however, if you have multiple subscriptions on the go, it might be worth looking at some that you could cancel.
- Food and Clothes Shopping – We are not saying you need to starve; however, consider how much you spend on your monthly food budget. Could you cut back on luxury items such as alcohol from your food shopping or opt for cheaper alternatives?
- Take-Aways and Going Out – Getting 20% off your Uber Eats takeaway can be tempting; however, on the odd occasion, you are allowed to treat yourself, but look at how often you are getting them. Could you limit it to a weekly treat or even a fortnightly one?
7. Move to cheaper accommodation
If you keep getting yourself into arrears, you might want to move somewhere where the rent is cheaper. You might need to downsize, but smaller sized properties also mean a reduction in your council tax and possibly other costs, such as household running costs.
Are you in arrears with your council tax? Read more on how to get help with your council tax debt.
8. Dip into your savings
We all love a ‘rainy day fund or the good old savings account; however, you need to pay your rent and then use your savings because if this isn’t for a rainy day, then what is?
You are better off paying your rent rather than getting in trouble with your landlord and risk losing your home.
Find out helpful tips on increasing your income to help clear debts.
What happens when my landlord is threatening me with eviction?
Sometimes, the above options are not feasible, or you and your landlord have broken a repayment plan.
If you have rent arrears and you miss more than one payment, then your landlord will try to evict you, or they are ‘seeking possession’.
Your landlord must write to you to give notice that they are seeking possession. If you get a notice, it won’t always mean you have to leave by the date that is stated in the letter.
Instead, most landlords will need to apply for a ‘possession order’ from the court before they can evict you, and they can’t apply for a court order until the notice period has run out.
What is a possession order, and what should I do if I get one?
If your landlord wants to evict you for your rent arrears, they will need to apply for a ‘possession order’.
In your court hearing, your landlord may be granted one of the following:
Outright Possession Order
This means you will have to leave the property by a specific date. If you don’t go, your landlord could apply for a ‘warrant of eviction’.
Suspended Possession Order
This means you are allowed to stay in your house if you keep up with your rent payments as well as pay back your rent debt.
Postponed Possession Order
Similar to a suspended possession order, this means you are allowed to stay in your house, but you do need to pay back the money that is owed to your landlord.
However, the main difference between a postponed and a suspended possession order is that, unlike a delayed possession order, you will need to go through another procedure if you break your agreement. With a suspended possession agreement, you won’t be given a warning of eviction; you will be just given 14 days before you must move out.
What is a warrant of eviction, and what should I do if I get one?
If you don’t leave by a specific date or you have not stuck to the agreement set out in court, your landlord has the right to evict you.
This involves applying to the court for a possession date, and then once they’ve got this, they will apply for a warrant of eviction.
You can only be forced to leave your property once your landlord gets the warrant. Before applying for a possession date, your landlord will have to:
- Write to you at least 14 days before making the application
- Give details of the arrears you owe
- Give you notice that you are going to make the court application
- Tell you your rights
If you think any of those details are incorrect, or the money your landlord is saying is owed wrong, then you should reply to your landlord as soon as possible.
Once they have applied for a warrant of eviction from the county court and it is granted, your landlord will be able to instruct bailiffs to evict you.
The warrant will give you a time and date for the eviction, and if you haven’t left the property by then, then the bailiffs will come into your home and force you to leave.
When you get the eviction notice, you must decide whether to move out before the date. You could:
- Persuade the court to give you more time to find a suitable place to live.
- Apply for homeless help and see if the council can rehouse you
- Speak to your landlord and see if they will let you stay because your financial circumstances have changed.
How does rent arrears affect my credit rating?
Rent arrears will not affect your credit score until your landlord submits a court case against you.
Before you get a court summons, it is essential to speak to your landlord, as having a default notice or CCJ on your credit file could be even worse for your credit rating.
Default notices and CCJs hurt your credit file and stay on your file for six years.
Find out more about default notices and how they can affect you.
Generally, it is your past 12 months’ payments that potential lenders will look at and how many payments you have missed. If your credit rating is looking poor, then lenders and landlords will be reluctant to offer you a rental agreement.
Find out more on how you can improve your credit score.
What support is available to help with my rent arrears?
Millions of families are already struggling to pay their rent. Rent arrears could lead to eviction, so getting the right support and assistance is essential. Don’t suffer in silence and take action.
Whatever stage of the process you are in, there is always a solution to help you through your financial worries.
Contact our debt advisors for more help or look at some of the debt solutions available to you.