How to deal with rent arrears

Find out how you can deal with rent arrears, make a financial statement and put together a repayment plan.

Speak to your landlord

Don’t ignore 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.

If you rent from a council or housing association, ask them for support with:

  • debts
  • budgeting
  • problems with your benefits

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

Prioritise your rent payments

Your rent is a ‘priority debt’ because you could be at risk of eviction if you don’t pay it.

A debt adviser can help you to organise your debts and negotiate affordable repayments with your creditors.

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

Consider setting up a direct debit or standing order to pay a regular amount to your landlord.

Check your benefits

Check what benefits you can claim using the entitledto calculator.

You can apply for a discretionary housing payment (DHP) if your benefits don't cover the cost of your rent.

Make sure you've tried all options to get help with your rent.

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.

Other ways to increase your income

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

Talk to family or friends you trust. They may help with an interest free loan.

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.

Make a repayment plan

Use a financial statement to help you make a repayment plan.

A financial statement is a record of your monthly income and spending, including bills and debt repayments.

It's an important document to prepare when negotiating a repayment plan with your landlord or to show the court at a possession hearing.

What the statement should look like

Ideally your financial statement should show that you have:

  • enough money coming in each month to cover your outgoings
  • money left over to pay your arrears in affordable weekly or monthly instalments

You can then use this information to come up with an affordable repayment plan to clear the arrears.

Get help to write it

A debt adviser could help you put together a financial statement.

You can also use the National Debtline budget planner instead.

It's easy to fill in and tells you what information to include.

You can:

  • complete it online and print out a copy for your landlord
  • download and print off a blank version and fill it in with a pen
  • save it and update it if your situation changes

Be honest and realistic about your spending. Some costs vary over a year which makes them hard to estimate. You still need to put a figure in your statement.

For example, add a monthly estimate of about £15 to cover clothing costs even if you don't think you spend anything.


Last updated 17 Mar 2020 | © Shelter

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