How to deal with rent arrears

Take action to deal with rent arrears. You could be evicted if you don't.

Prioritise your rent payments

Paying your rent is always a priority. You can be taken to court and evicted if you don't pay the rent.

If you can't pay the full rent on the day it is due you should:

  • pay as much as you can afford 
  • make a plan to pay off any arrears

Joint tenants

If you have a joint tenancy, you're individually and collectively responsible for paying the rent.

This means that if one joint tenant doesn't pay, the landlord can ask any of the joint tenants to make up the shortfall. You might have to pay more to avoid rent arrears even if you've already paid your share.

Talk to your landlord

Contact your landlord if you're having problems paying your rent.

Don't ignore letters or phone calls from your landlord or agent. Your landlord may be willing to keep you as a tenant if the payment problems can be sorted out.

Check how much rent you owe

Landlords and tenants can make mistakes. Make sure you agree on how much is owed.

Keep records of:

  • all payments made by you
  • any housing benefit or universal credit payments 
  • rent in advance paid at the start of the tenancy 

Claim benefits to help pay your rent 

You can usually claim housing benefit or universal credit housing costs if you're on a low income.

Ask for payments to go direct to your landlord

These benefits are usually paid direct to you. It might help if the payments are made direct to your landlord instead. 

Find out when you can request this if you claim:

Rent arrears caused by benefit delays

You can ask for a payment on account after 14 days if you've given the council all the information it needs to process your housing benefit claim.   

Universal credit claims take at least 6 weeks to process. You can ask for a short-term advance while you wait for your first payment.

Other benefits

Use the Turn2Us benefits calculator to check if you can claim any other benefits.

Apply for a discretionary housing payment

You can apply for a discretionary housing payment (DHP) if:

  • you're entitled to housing benefit or universal credit housing costs
  • these benefits don't cover your full rent

The council decides whether to give you a DHP and how long the award will last.

Pay off arrears in affordable instalments

Rent arrears are a priority debt. This means you should prioritise rent arrears over certain other debts.

Pay as much as you can towards your arrears. Ask if you can pay a regular amount each week or month. Don't agree to an amount you can't afford.

Try to get any agreement you make confirmed in writing.

A debt adviser could help you to budget and agree a repayment plan.

Find out where to get help with debts

Deductions from benefits to pay off arrears

You can ask Jobcentre Plus or the Pension Service to pay off rent arrears through deductions from any of the following benefits:

  • jobseeker's allowance (income-based)
  • employment and support allowance (income-related)
  • income support
  • pension credit

You can request deductions if you owe at least 4 weeks' rent. Your landlord can make the request if you owe at least 8 weeks' rent.

A maximum of £3.70 per week can be deducted and paid straight to your landlord.

If you claim universal credit

Your landlord can request deductions from your monthly universal credit payment to pay off arrears if you owe 2 months' rent.

Deductions from universal credit are higher than from other benefits.

Find out more about what you can do if universal credit deductions for debt are causing you to struggle.

Still need help?

A housing adviser can help:

Contact a Shelter adviser online or by phone

Last updated 27 Jul 2017 | © Shelter

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