Where to get advice about rent and mortgage arrears

Someone facing eviction due to rent or mortgage arrears can get help from an advice agency, their local authority, and the County Court duty scheme.

This content applies to England

Where to get advice about rent arrears

A housing adviser or solicitor can deal with rent arrears cases. They can give expert advice to the tenant about: 

  • the validity of a notice 

  • disrepair in the property 

  • unlawful discrimination 

  • a homelessness application 

  • tenancy rights 

Most housing advice is funded by the Legal Aid Agency. That means it is normally only available for people who are on a low income.

Gov.uk has a tool to find a legal aid solicitor on its website.

Citizens Advice local offices can provide a list of legal aid solicitors in the area.

Read more about legal aid for housing problems on Shelter Legal.

Speak to the landlord

A local authority or housing association landlord might be able to help their tenant to claim benefits and access debt advice.

Private landlords are unlikely to have access to support services, but they could be more likely to delay court action if they know their tenant is getting advice about their situation.

Help to negotiate repayments

A debt adviser could help the person look at their budget and negotiate repayment terms with their landlord. They can explain what debt solutions might be available and how they would affect the rent arrears.  

Debt advice is not means tested. It is available to anyone who is unable to pay their debts.

Find out where to get debt and money advice on Shelter Legal.

Ask the local authority for help

A local authority has a duty to help someone keep their home or find somewhere else to live if they are threatened with homelessness. It might offer advice and financial assistance to help someone avoid eviction.

Contact the local authority and ask to speak to their homelessness prevention team.

Read more about local authority duties to prevent homelessness on Shelter Legal.

Where to get advice about mortgage arrears

A debt adviser can deal with mortgage arrears cases. They can help the borrower to negotiate:

  • a payment holiday

  • affordable repayment terms

  • time to sell the property

  • a temporary switch to an interest-only mortgage 

A debt adviser can explain what options are available to deal with all their client's debts. They will help the person find a long-term solution to their financial problems.

MoneyHelper has information about where to find a debt adviser on its website.

Read more about where to get advice about debt and money on Shelter Legal.

Speak to the mortgage lender

A reputable mortgage lender is likely to have support in place to help people who fall into arrears. The Financial Conduct Authority states that mortgage lenders must treat their customers fairly. This could include helping resolve financial problems that have led to mortgage arrears building up.

Ask the local authority for help

A local authority has a duty to help someone keep their home or find somewhere else to live if they are threatened with homelessness. It might offer advice and financial assistance to help someone avoid eviction.

Contact the local authority and ask to speak to their homelessness prevention team.

Read more about local authority duties to prevent homelessness on Shelter Legal.

Help to maximise income

Some people in financial difficulty might be able to resolve their ongoing problems if they get help to maximise their income and minimise their other expenditure.

Advice about minimising expenditure is especially important for people who might need to make a homeless application to the local authority if they are evicted. The local authority expects homeless applicants to have done everything they can to keep their home.

Benefits and grants advice to maximise income

People can get benefits advice if they need help to maximise their income. This could include claiming help towards housing costs.  

Find out where to get help with benefits and grants on Shelter Legal.

Budgeting and debt advice to minimise expenditure

Debt advice can help people reduce their outgoings, especially if they are paying non-priority debts like loans and credit cards. Some debt solutions allow people to stop paying benefit overpayments, council tax, and other outgoings, which can leave more money available to pay housing costs.  

Find out where to get help with debt and money on Shelter Legal.

People with notice of possession proceedings

Advice is available to people at risk of eviction, and people who have notice of a possession hearing.

Early legal advice for people at risk of eviction

People with written notice that their landlord intends to bring possession proceedings can get early legal advice through the Housing Loss Prevention Advice Service. Early legal advice is delivered by contracted suppliers who also provide duty advice on the day of the court hearing.

Early legal advice can cover:

  • possession action

  • wider housing matters like security of tenure, repairs, allocation and transfers of social housing

  • debt advice

  • welfare benefits, including council tax reductions

Providers might refer or signpost for complex debt or benefits matters where they do not have sufficient specialism in-house.

Early legal advice does not cover advocacy. This means people will not be able to obtain representation for benefit tribunals or debt cases that reach court. Housing and debt cases that involve loss of the home will still be covered by legal aid, subject to merits and financial eligibility.

Early legal advice stops at the point of the first substantive hearing in the possession claim.

Representation at a possession hearing

Where to go for help to defend a possession claim depends on: 

  • the complexity of the case 

  • whether the case can be decided on the day of the hearing 

  • whether the person is eligible for legal aid 

People with complex cases or who are facing a mandatory ground for possession should try to get advice before the day of their court hearing. The court might not be willing or able to give the defendant more time to get advice about their case.

County Court duty scheme  

Defendants in housing possession cases can get legal help and representation on the day of their possession hearing under the Housing Possession Court Duty Scheme.

The scheme provides one-off advice and representation at court from a solicitor or specialist housing adviser. It is funded by the Legal Aid Agency, but unlike other types of legal aid it is not means-tested.   

Defendants can turn up at court on the day of their hearing and speak to a duty adviser. They should attend court early and ask the court usher how to register for advice.  

The Gov.uk website contains a list of all the court duty advice providers.

Advice and representation under legal aid 

Legal advice and representation from a solicitor or specialist adviser is available for housing possession cases. Legal aid is means-tested. The Legal Aid Agency asks for proof of the person’s income and assets to make sure they do not exceed set thresholds. 

People facing eviction can apply for legal help or legal aid if they need:  

  • legal advice about a complex issue 

  • help to file a defence or counterclaim 

  • representation at a trial 

The Gov.uk website has a tool to find a legal aid solicitor.

Read more about legal aid for housing cases on Shelter Legal.

Help with an application to suspend an eviction warrant

Someone who has an eviction scheduled needs to apply to court to stop it going ahead. They might need expert help to fill in the N244 application form, especially if their case is complicated, or they have made applications for a court order before.

Suspending an eviction warrant is in scope for legal aid. People who qualify for legal aid could get help from a solicitor or specialist adviser.

Gov.uk has a tool to find a legal aid solicitor on its website.

The Law Centres Network website has a list of local law centres.

Shelter services

The Shelter Helpline can help with housing emergencies, including advising people who are due to be evicted.

Shelter has local advice centres where people can get help from housing solicitors and expert advisers.

Find a local Shelter service.

Ask the local authority for help

A local authority has a duty to help someone keep their home or find somewhere else to live if they are threatened with homelessness. It might offer advice and financial assistance to help someone avoid eviction.

Contact the local authority and ask to speak to their homelessness prevention team.

Read more about local authority duties to prevent homelessness on Shelter Legal.

Rent and mortgage arrears advice for professionals

Professionals can get second-tier advice from Shelter's debt and housing specialists.

Shelter's Specialist Debt Advice Service can advise professionals who deal with debt cases including rent and mortgage arrears. They can explain how a breathing space application can prevent an eviction from going ahead.

The Expert Advice Service is a second-tier housing advice service for eligible professionals. They can advise people dealing with housing cases, including possession proceedings for rent arrears.

Last updated: 1 August 2023