Eviction for rent arrears

If you are faced with eviction for rent arrears it is important to take whatever steps you can to prevent this from happening. It may be difficult for you to find a new place to live if you have been evicted for rent arrears.

Landlords can evict you for rent arrears

Your landlord can take you to court if you have rent arrears. The landlord can ask the court to order you to pay any unpaid rent and evict you from your home. You might have to pay court costs as well as the money you owe.

The sooner you get advice the better. Even if you end up in court, there is often a solution. Call Shelter's advice helpline or use Shelter's directory to find a local advice centre.

Alternatively, contact Civil Legal Advice. You may be able to get help from their legal advisers if you qualify for Legal Help funding. Be prepared to answer questions about your income and savings so the helpline adviser can tell you if you qualify.

Act as quickly as possible or your options may be very limited. Don't wait until the last minute.

Landlord's options for dealing with rent arrears

If you have rent arrears, your landlord could decide to do any of these things:

  • negotiate with you to pay back the money you owe
  • apply to the court for a money judgment to force you to pay back the arrears
  • apply to the court to have you evicted
  • if you live with your landlord, just ask you to leave

Negotiating with your landlord

Contacting your landlord shows that you are serious about trying to fix the problem. It gives both you and your landlord an opportunity to go through the available options.

You may need to ask for time to pay the arrears back in stages or time for a housing benefit claim to be processed. 

If your landlord decides to go ahead with court action, it will help your case if you can show you explained what caused your arrears and made suggestions for how to tackle them.

Some tenants are easier to evict

Most private tenants have assured shorthold tenancies. A court order is needed for the eviction of an assured shorthold tenant. Landlords usually follow a straightforward process to get a court order. Only a court bailiff can carry out the eviction.

It is even easier for private landlords to evict you if you are an excluded occupier (this includes most lodgers) or an occupier with basic protection (for example if you are a student in halls of residence).

Some council tenants have introductory tenancies or demoted tenancies, which means that they are living in the property on a trial or probationary basis. If you miss rent payments while you have one of these tenancies, the council can evict you very easily.

If the council hasn't started the eviction process before the end of the trial period, then your tenancy becomes a secure tenancy and it is harder for the council to evict you.

There are similar rules for housing association tenants who have a starter tenancy (normally an assured shorthold) or a demoted tenancy.

Contact an adviser as soon as you think you may have problems paying the rent.

Ending your tenancy to limit the amount of arrears

When you decide to leave your home, you must end your tenancy properly. You must tell your landlord that you are leaving and give the landlord the correct written notice to avoid increasing any arrears that you have.

If you simply move out, you still need to end the tenancy by giving the correct notice. You may also be responsible for paying the rent until the end of the notice period.

For most tenancies, you have to give at least four weeks' notice.

If you have a fixed-term tenancy, you may need to give more notice and are usually responsible for paying the rent until the end of the fixed-term.

Check your tenancy agreement or contact an adviser if you are not sure how much notice you need to give.

Your landlord can usually take you to court for any money that you owe, even after you have left the property .

Rehousing following eviction for rent arrears

It may be difficult for you to find a new place to live if you don't pay off your rent arrears or are evicted.

Some councils may say you can't go on the waiting list for a permanent home because of rent arrears.

Your local council may decide you are intentionally homeless if you have been evicted because of rent arrears. Even if you are homeless, the council may not have a duty to rehouse you.

Private landlords ask for a reference from your last landlord and might not accept you as a tenant if you've been evicted for rent arrears.