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Breathing space for rent or mortgage arrears

The breathing space scheme can help if you've missed rent or mortgage payments.

You need to be referred to the scheme by a debt adviser.

The breathing space scheme gives you time to:

  • reduce your arrears

  • get help with money and debt

  • come up with a repayment plan

It can also help with other debts, for example, personal loans, credit cards and missed payments on utility bills.

Watch out for debt management companies that charge for their services.

Some use the words 'breathing space' in adverts or on websites but offer debt management plans that you pay for instead.

How breathing space works

When you are on the scheme, your landlord or lender and other companies cannot:

  • evict you for missed rent or mortgage payments

  • start or continue court action to get their money

  • charge interest or fees on the payments you've missed

Breathing space is not the same as payment holiday.

You should still pay your normal rent or mortgage if you can afford to.

There are 2 types of breathing space: standard and mental health crisis.

Standard breathing space

Common questionsAnswers
How long does it last?60 days
How often can you use the scheme?Once a year
How do you apply?Through a debt adviser
Do you have to work with a debt adviser while on the scheme?Yes
Do you have to pay your rent or mortgage while on the scheme?Yes, if you can

Standard breathing space lasts 60 days and you can only get it once a year.

You will need to:

  • work with a debt adviser to find a long term debt solution

  • report any changes to them, such as if you find a new job

The adviser will review your situation after around 30 days. They can cancel the breathing space if you do not stay in contact or give them enough information.

How to get a standard breathing space

Only a regulated debt adviser can put you on the breathing space scheme.

Contact a debt advice charity, for example:

You will need to give details of your income, spending and debts.

Mental health crisis breathing space

Common questions Answers
How long does it last?It ends 30 days after your crisis care ends
How often can you use the scheme?When you are getting crisis care
How do you apply?On the Mental Health and Money Advice website
Do you need proof of mental health crisis?Yes, a mental health professional must confirm your care or treatment
Do you have to work with a debt adviser while on the scheme?No
Do you have to pay your rent or mortgage while on the scheme?Yes, if you can

A mental health crisis breathing space does not have a time limit. It usually ends 30 days after you stop getting mental health crisis treatment. You can have it more than once a year.

You are not expected to work with a debt adviser or find a longer term solution to your money problems.

How to get a mental health crisis breathing space

You can only get a mental health breathing space if you're getting crisis care or treatment:

  • in hospital

  • at home from a specialist mental health team

You can apply yourself or ask a mental health professional or a social worker to apply for you.

Your application will be checked by the mental health charity Rethink.

Someone from your mental health care team should:

  • fill in a form for you

  • get a confirmation of your crisis treatment

The form and guidance for mental health professionals are on GOV.UK.

You will also have to fill in a short breathing space referral form on the Mental Health and Money Advice website.

You do not need to speak to a debt adviser. But a debt adviser will check your application forms.

When breathing space will not help

Breathing space is not an option if you have any of these:

  • debt relief order (DRO)

  • individual voluntary arrangement (IVA)

  • bankruptcy order

You could get help to find another solution to rent or mortgage arrears and other debts from a regulated debt adviser.

You can still get breathing space if your DRO, IVA or bankruptcy order has ended.

Eviction for other reasons

The breathing space scheme can only help if you're being evicted for missed mortgage or rent payments, for example, if your landlord has given you a section 8 notice.

Your landlord could still:

Most private renters and some housing association tenants have an assured shorthold tenancy.

If you're at risk of eviction or repossession, you could get free legal help or representation.

Last updated: 6 March 2023

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