Eviction for rent arrears

Your landlord must take certain steps before they can evict you for rent arrears. Find out about the legal process and what you can do before and after eviction. 

No evictions by bailiffs will take place until after 31 May except in very limited circumstances.

Evictions may still go ahead if the landlord has proved either:

  • antisocial behaviour

  • at least 6 months' rent arrears

The courts will continue to process cases during lockdown. You still need to read any letters from the court and attend the hearing if there is one.

What to do if you're in rent arrears

Eviction is a legal process. It takes time and many landlords only use it as a last resort.

There are 3 stages to eviction:

  1. notice

  2. court action

  3. eviction by bailiffs

Contact your landlord if you have problems paying your rent

You might be able to sort things out and stop the process going further.

What to do if your landlord gives you notice

You need to check the notice carefully.

Your next steps and what you can do depend on:

  • the type of tenancy you have

  • the notice your landlord gives you

Private renters

Most private renters are assured shorthold tenants

With this type of tenancy, you could be given either a section 21 notice or a section 8 notice or both.

With a section 21 notice your landlord does not have to prove that you owe rent. It's sometimes called a 'no fault' notice. Even if you pay off the arrears, the court can't prevent an eviction.

Find out more about a section 21 eviction

With a section 8 notice your landlord will need to give a reason for eviction. If they use a rent arrears ground, the court can sometimes stop or delay an eviction to allow you to pay off the arrears. This won't usually be possible if you owe more than 2 months' rent.

Find out more about a section 8 eviction

If your landlord tries to evict you without going to court first, it could be an illegal eviction.

Council and housing association tenants

Our guide for council and housing association tenants facing eviction for rent arrears has advice on what to do at each stage of the eviction process.

If you leave because of rent arrears

You might decide to leave your tenancy because you can't afford the rent.

Things to consider before leaving include: 

  • if you'll need to apply as homeless

  • whether you can find anything more affordable

  • the extra costs you'll have to pay if the landlord goes to court

Don't feel pressured into leaving early, especially if you have nowhere else to go. It usually takes a few months for the eviction process to go through court. 

Ending your tenancy

If you decide to leave, you must end your tenancy properly or your rent arrears will continue to grow until the property is re-let.

Your landlord might agree that you can end your tenancy immediately or at short notice. Get any agreement in writing to avoid disputes later on.

If you have a rolling (periodic) tenancy, you must give at least 4 weeks' notice unless your landlord agrees to a shorter notice period. 

If you have a fixed-term tenancy, you'll need to negotiate an early end to the tenancy or check your contract for a break clause.

Finding a new home 

It can be difficult to find somewhere new to live if you're evicted or owe rent at a previous address. 

Renting privately

Most private landlords and letting agents ask for a reference from your previous landlord.

Help from the council

You can ask the council for help if you're homeless or at risk of losing your home. You don't have to wait until you're evicted.  

The council must: 

The council might decide you're intentionally homeless if you left your previous tenancy before you had to or if the rent arrears were your fault.

The council might exclude you or give you less priority on the housing register if you have rent arrears, especially if you owe money to a council or housing association.   

It can help to come to an agreement to repay the arrears in instalments. 

Still need help?

Get legal advice if you're facing eviction or homelessness because of rent arrears.

Last updated: 7 May 2021

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