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Payment of rent

This content applies to England

Tenants must pay rent to landlords or their agent weekly or monthly and avoid rent arrears, or risk possession proceedings or money judgement.

General points

Rent becomes due on the morning of the day specified for payment in the lease or tenancy agreement, but is not overdue and the landlord does not have cause of action, until midnight on that day.[1] Rent can be payable on a Sunday, but where the rent due day falls on a bank holiday, it will not be payable until the following day.[2]

Payment in arrears or advance?

Rent is payable in arrears, unless specified otherwise in the tenancy agreement. In practice most tenancy agreements set out that rent is to be paid in advance. Rent is payable for the same intervals as the periods of the tenancy, for example weekly or monthly for a weekly or monthly periodic tenancy respectively. (For the purposes of calculating the correct notice period to end a tenancy, note that the day on which rent is payable does not necessarily coincide with the start day of a period of the tenancy. The section on Security of tenure provides more information on ending tenancies.

Who rent is paid to/who can pay the rent/where should it be paid?

Rent must be paid by the tenant to the landlord or her/his agent. Rent paid by the tenant's husband, wife or civil partner is to be treated as if paid by the tenant.[3] Payment by someone else on behalf of the tenant must be authorised or subsequently ratified by her/him.

The tenant is required to pay the rent at any place specified by the contract, or to seek out the landlord to make the payment.

If the landlord refuses to accept the rent, then the tenant should keep the rent in a designated account and make regular attempts to pay it.

Apportionment of rent – where a tenancy ends mid-term

Rent to be paid in advance

It is a common law rule that rent to be paid in advance cannot be apportioned on a time basis, regardless of how the tenancy was ended, unless there is clear wording in the tenancy agreement that states otherwise.[4] As such where, for example, a monthly tenancy with rent to be paid in advance on the 1st of the month ends before the end of a period of the tenancy, the tenant will:

  • not be entitled to a proportionate refund of rent paid in advance, and
  • owe the full month's rent that fell payable on 1st.

This rule does not apply to assured shorthold tenancies granted on or after 1 October 2015 where the tenancy ends as a result of the service of a section 21 notice. For further information see the page How to end an assured shorthold tenancy.

Rent to be paid in arrears

Rent to be paid in arrears can be apportioned where the tenancy ends during a period of the tenancy.[5]

Section 48  Landlord and Tenant Act 1987: landlord's duty to provide an address

The landlord must provide the tenant with an address at which the tenant can serve notices on the landlord. If the landlord fails to do this the rent is treated as not due.[6] However once the requirement is complied with the rent is payable from the start of the tenancy. The information must be provided in writing but can in any form, and setting out the address out in the tenancy agreement is sufficient.[7]

Methods of payment

Strictly speaking, payment should not be made by post unless the tenant is instructed to do so, and payment should be in cash. A tenant paying rent by cash should ask her/his landlord for a receipt of payments made in case there is a dispute.

In practice, it is common for tenants to post rent cheques to their landlord, but it will be the tenant's responsibility to make good any payment if the cheque is lost in the post. A landlord can, however, refuse to accept payment by cheque. Case law has found that where a cheque is offered in payment it amounts to a conditional payment of the amount of the cheque, which, if accepted by the landlord or her/his agent, operates as an actual payment from the time the cheque was delivered.[8]

Although rent is payable by cash or cheque (where the landlord is in agreement), most tenants now pay their rent by setting up a standing order (direct debit) with their bank for payment to be made directly, on the specified day, into the landlord's bank account. This method of payment is equivalent to cash payment and the payment is treated as having been made as soon as the money leaves the tenant's account.

Rent books

Where rent is payable weekly, and the payment does not include a substantial amount for board (ie meals), the landlord must provide a rent book or equivalent.[9] 'Payable weekly' means that the tenant's obligation to pay rent arises on a weekly basis. There is a distinction between the contractual periods for which rent is due and the intervals when the rent is in fact paid.[10] This means that the rent could be 'payable weekly', and thus the landlord must provide a rent book, even where the tenant actually only pays the rent to the landlord fortnightly or monthly.

Failure to provide a rent book does not excuse the tenant from paying rent.[11] A rent book must state the name and address of the landlord, the rent payable, and the type of tenancy.[12] Failure to comply with this is an offence,[13] and a local authority tenancy relations officer could take action against the landlord. If the local authority does not have a tenancy relations officer, the client (tenant) should be directed to a specialist adviser so that s/he is aware of all her/his options. It is very important that the tenant considers her/his security of tenure and the likelihood of eviction before deciding whether to take action against the landlord.

Although it is not a legal requirement for the landlord to provide a rent book for tenancies where the rent is payable less frequently than weekly, it is good practice to keep a rent book as a record of rent paid.

Rent arrears

Where the tenant fails to pay the rent, giving rise to rent arrears, landlords may be able to:

Money judgment

A money judgment is an order issued by a court for one party (in this case the tenant) to pay a sum of money to the other party (the landlord).

From 1 October 2017, a 'creditor' seeking to reclaim a debt from an individual must comply with the Pre-action Protocol for Debt Claims.

Credit references

Money judgments and orders for costs made in possession proceedings are exempt from the register of judgments, orders and fines. This means the information is not available to credit reference agencies, potential landlords or creditors performing searches. However, if the landlord takes steps to enforce the money judgment by making an application for a warrant of control, attachment of earnings or charging order, it will be registered.[14] A reference from a former landlord may contain information about a possession order and/or money judgment.

[1] Re Aspinall v Aspinall [1961] 2 All ER 751.

[2] s.1 Banking and Financial Dealings Act 1971.

[3] Sch.7 Family Law Act 1996.

[4] Marks and Spencer plc v BNP Paribas Securities Services Trust Company (Jersey) Ltd & Anor [2015] UKSC 72; Ellis v Rowbotham [1900] 1 QB 740, CA.

[5] s.2 Apportionment Act 1870.

[6] s.48 Landlord and Tenant Act 1987.

[7] Rogan v Woodfield Building Services Ltd (1995) 27 HLR 78, CA.

[8] Coltrane v Day [2003] EWCA Civ 342.

[9] s.4(1) Landlord and Tenant Act 1985.

[10] R (Dewa) v Marylebone Magistrate's Court [2004] EWHC 1022, Admin.

[11] Shaw v Groom [1970] 2 QB 504, CA.

[12] Rent Book (Forms of Notice) Regulations 1982 SI 1982/1474, as amended by Rent Book (Forms of Notice) (Amendment) Regulations 1988 and 1990 SI 1988/2198 and SI 1990/1067.

[13] s.7 Landlord and Tenant Act 1985.

[14] Reg 9(d) Register of Judgments, Orders and Fines Regulations 2005 SI 2005/3595.

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