How to deal with rent arrears

Speak to your landlord

Don’t ignore letters from your landlord or agent. Explain any missed rent payments.

Let your landlord know you're getting advice and will pay what you owe as soon as you can.

Councils and housing associations should offer support if you have money problems.

Even private landlords may let you stay on if payment problems can be sorted out.

If you have less money because of coronavirus

You may be able to come to an arrangement with your landlord to pay a reduced rent if your income has been affected by the pandemic. 

Read our advice on negotiating a rent reduction.

Make rent a priority payment

Rent is a priority payment. Rent arrears where you live are a priority debt.

You're at higher risk of eviction if you miss payments.

Try to:

  • pay your rent in full and on time

  • agree a repayment plan with your landlord

A debt adviser can help you to budget, organise your debts and negotiate with your landlord and other creditors.

Check your benefits

You can usually get universal credit if you're on a low income.

Universal credit includes a housing element to help with rent.

You can ask the DWP to pay your housing element direct to your landlord if you owe at least 2 months rent and in some other situations.

If you're already getting housing benefit or tax credits, it may be better to continue on these benefits instead of claiming universal credit.

Sometimes you have to apply for universal credit instead of housing benefit because your situation changes. Find out how changes can affect housing benefit.

Use the entitledto benefits calculator to check what benefits you can get.

Apply for a discretionary housing payment (DHP)

A DHP is an extra payment from your local council to help you pay your full rent if you get universal credit or housing benefit.

Apply for a DHP if your housing element or housing benefit does not cover your full rent.

Money taken from universal credit to pay off rent arrears

Your landlord can ask the DWP to take money from your universal credit if you owe at least 2 months' rent and still live in the property.

You may be able to ask the DWP to take less money from your universal credit each month.

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

Money taken from other benefits to pay off rent arrears

The DWP can take money from some other benefits, such as pension credit or employment and support allowance (ESA) to pay off rent arrears.

A maximum of £3.70 a week can be taken and paid straight to your landlord.

You or your landlord can ask for this if you owe at least 4 weeks' rent, and the arrears have built up over at least 8 weeks.

Save on your bills

Check with Citizens Advice if you can reduce bills for:

Consider changing to a water meter rather than paying water bills based on the size of your property.

Check if you could get council tax support or a discount on council tax.

Talk to family or friends

Talk to family or friends you trust. They may be able to help out.

If other adults live with you, explain your money problems. Ask if they can contribute more towards household costs.

Avoid payday loans

Payday loans are expensive and often make your debt situation worse.

Look for a grant or an interest free loan if you need a lump sum to pay off arrears.

Some councils may offer interest free loans or grants if you're at risk of eviction and this would help you stay in your home.

Use the Turn2Us grant search to find a grant from a charity or trade union.

Work out a repayment plan

First use an online tool to work out your budget.

These debt charities are a good place to start:

What your budget should look like

Ideally your budget should show that you have:

  • enough money coming in to cover your essential spending

  • some money left over to pay off arrears in affordable instalments

Be honest and realistic about your spending.

Some costs vary over a year which makes them hard to estimate. For example, add a monthly estimate of about £15 to cover clothing costs even if you don't think you spend anything.

Once you've worked out your budget you may be able to make a repayment proposal to your landlord or agent.

Use our template if you want to agree a repayment plan with a private landlord.

If your budget shows that you can't afford your rent

Get free regulated debt advice from any of the following charities:

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

If your landlord wants you to leave

Don't feel pressured into moving out immediately even if you have rent arrears, especially if you have nowhere to move to.

Eviction is a legal process and takes time.

You can ask for help from the council if your home is unaffordable.

Use our templates to deal with landlord pressure over missed rent payments.


Last updated: 2 June 2021

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