Eviction for rent arrears

Act quickly, seek advice and negotiate with your landlord to avoid eviction for rent arrears. Even if you end up in court, there is often a solution.

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. Call Shelter's advice helpline or use Shelter's directory to find a local advice centre.

Or contact Civil Legal Advice. You may be able to get help from their legal advisers if you qualify for legal aid.

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

How landlords deal with rent arrears

If you have rent arrears, your landlord could decide to:

  • 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
  • just ask you to leave, but only if you live with your landlord

Eviction of assured shorthold tenants

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.

Three steps to eviction landlord must follow

Eviction of council and housing association tenants

Many council tenants have a secure tenancy. Secure tenants can only be evicted after the council gets a court order and asks the court to send bailiffs.

Some council tenants have introductory tenancies or demoted tenancies. This means that they are living in the property on a trial or probationary basis.

The council can evict you very easily if you miss rent payments while you have one of these tenancies.

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

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

Eviction of other types of tenants

It is easy 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).

Ending your tenancy while you have rent arrears

You must end your tenancy properly by giving the correct notice if you decide you want to leave.

If you don't tell your landlord that you are leaving and give them the correct written notice, your arrears could increase and the landlord could still take legal action against you to recover the money you owe. 

For most tenancies, you have to give at least four weeks' notice. You may be responsible for paying the rent until the end of the notice period.

If you have a fixed-term tenancy, you may need to give more notice. You 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.

Finding a new home after eviction for rent arrears

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

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