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

Make rent your priority. Pay off your rent arrears before you pay other non priority debts.

You can ask to have your universal credit or housing benefit paid directly to your landlord if you're struggling.   

Speak to your landlord

Don’t ignore messages or letters from your landlord or letting agent. Speak to them about your situation and let them know you will send them a repayment plan.

They may be willing to keep you as a tenant if payment problems can be sorted out.

Come up with a repayment plan

Make sure you’ve tried all options to get help with your rent and put together a repayment plan. You can apply for a discretionary housing payment  (DHP) if your benefits or universal credit do not cover the cost of your rent.

Double check how much you owe in case you or your landlord has made a mistake.

Plan to pay an affordable amount each week or month and send this to your landlord. Make sure you have money left over to cover food and other priority debts.

Consider setting up a direct debit or standing order to pay a regular amount to your landlord. This might mean they decide not to take further action, such as going to court or asking for deductions from your benefits. 

Try and get any agreement in writing.

You can get help from a debt adviser to put together a plan.

Deductions from your benefits

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
  • employment and support allowance
  • income support
  • pension credit

You or your landlord can request deductions if you owe at least 4 weeks' rent and this has built up over at least 8 weeks. 

You may be able to request deductions where your arrears have built up over a shorter time depending on your circumstances. 

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

Your landlord can ask for deductions if you get universal credit.

These can be much higher than deductions from other benefits. You might be left without enough money for food or other essentials.

Find out what to do if you’re struggling because of universal credit deductions.

If you can’t pay off your rent arrears

Your landlord may take steps to evict you if you can’t pay off your arrears. The eviction process takes time. You won’t have to leave your home straight away.

Ask for help from your council if you get an eviction notice from your landlord.

Last updated 19 Dec 2019 | © Shelter

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