Eviction for rent arrears

Find out about the eviction process and what to do if you have rent arrears. 

What to do if you have 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.

Breathing Space is a scheme that can help tenants with rent arrears. It pauses the eviction process for up to 60 days while you get debt advice.

Find out if you qualify for breathing space

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

Council and housing association tenants

Our guide on eviction for rent arrears has advice on what to do at each stage of the process.

Private renters

Most private renters are assured shorthold tenants.

You could be given 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

It's an illegal eviction if your landlord tries to evict you without a court order.

If you leave because of rent arrears

Don't leave a council or housing association home because of rent arrears.

Councils and housing associations should only use eviction as a last resort. You may be able to come to an agreement to pay back arrears.

You might decide to leave a private tenancy because you can no longer 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 a private tenancy 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 

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

In most cases, the council must try to prevent you becoming homeless.

More about finding a home after eviction.

Still need help?

Get legal advice if you're facing eviction or homelessness.

Last updated: 28 May 2021

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