It is not uncommon for tenants to fall behind with rent payments from time to time. This guide gives you advice on how to avoid getting into arrears and what to do if this happens.
Debt can be difficult to manage on your own. See below for details of specialist advice agencies that can help you. It is best to seek advice as soon as possible.
Rent Arrears – keep the landlord/letting agent informed
If you are in rent arrears or are worried that you may find it difficult to pay your rent in the future, it is important to act as soon as possible.
Speaking to your landlord or letting agent as soon as possible can help avoid eviction for rent arrears. Your landlord may agree to a payment plan and is less likely to evict you if you keep them in the picture and have a plan for paying off the arrears.
If you are not sure how much rent you owe or disagree with the amount of arrears the landlord is claiming, ask for a rent statement.
A rent statement should show the amount of rent due and all the payments you have made.
If you think the rent statement is wrong, speak to your landlord/letting agent. If you cannot agree the amount of arrears, you can seek advice from one of the organisations listed below.
Check your income and expenses
The next step is to complete a budget planner, to check if your income is sufficient to pay for your rent and other necessities, and to look for ways of reducing any other costs you have.
There may be benefits that you are entitled to, but are not claiming. You can check your entitlement to any benefits using a benefits calculator.
For more information on budget planning and where to go for money advice contact:
- Citizens Advice - they can give free advice face to face, by phone or email.
- Money Helper - an organisation set up by the government to give free advice.
- Turn2Us - has a free helpline to help you calculate your benefit entitlement, find grants and find an adviser to help you.
Discretionary Housing Payments
If you get help paying your rent from Universal Credit (Housing Element) or Housing Benefit, you can apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP).
A DHP can help:
- pay off arrears, or
- top up the difference if your rent is higher than the amount of benefits that you receive
DHP can only be paid for rent arrears arising when you were in receipt of Universal Credit Housing Element or Housing Benefit, and when the rent was higher than your benefit entitlement.
DHPs will usually only be paid if your property is affordable for you in the long run – it is important to be realistic about the property that you can afford. Payments for a shortfall will usually be short-term to give you time to either find cheaper accommodation or find employment.
To apply for a DHP, either complete the online form, or download the DHP form.
Some charities can help with rent arrears, either by giving advice or helping with funding.
Look for charities that relate to your current/previous work, religion, ethnicity, or any other group you fit into.
For example, The British Legion can help Armed Forces personnel with financial support.
The Vicars Relief Fund (VRF) offers grants up to £350 for rent arrears, debt relief orders, bankruptcy and up to £500 for rent in advance, deposits and some other fees to frontline workers.
Turn2Us has an online Grants Finder.
Breathing Space – Debt Respite Scheme
The Breathing Space scheme gives people in debt some breathing space.
In the breathing space period, people you owe money to cannot:
- add interest or fees to your debts, nor
- take legal enforcement action.
It aims to give you time to take advice and work out how you will pay your debts off.
There are two types of breathing space:
- Standard breathing space, and
- Mental health crisis breathing space.
The standard breathing space is available to anyone with problem debt. It gives you a 60 day break to work out the best way forward. If you are unable to repay your debts you can apply to a debt adviser for a standard breathing space.
The mental health crisis breathing space is available for people who are receiving mental health crisis treatment. The breathing spaces lasts as long as you receive mental health crisis treatment, plus a further 30 days.
If you are receiving mental health crisis treatment and have debts, an Approved Mental Health Practitioner can certify that you are receiving treatment. A debt advisor can then put the mental health breathing space into place.
You can find online, telephone and face-to-face debt advice services using the debt advice locator.
StepChange can help you with debt advice and apply for the Breathing Space.
Can my landlord evict me for rent arrears?
You can be evicted for rent arrears, but your landlord has to give you the correct notice and, in most cases they will need to get a possession order from the court.
The main exception not requiring a court order is if you share accommodation with your landlord; a lodger arrangement where you share the kitchen, bathroom or sitting room/lounge with the landlord or a member of the landlord’s family. Your landlord would still need to give you reasonable notice to leave the property. Reasonable notice would depend on how regularly you pay your rent – for instance if you pay your rent weekly your landlord would only need to give you a weeks’ notice.
If your landlord has given you notice to leave or is threatening to evict you without having given the property notice, contact either BHT Sussex (formerly Brighton Housing Trust) or the Councils’ Housing Solutions team.
For general advice on any subject - call free on 0800 144 8848 (Monday – Friday 10am-4pm)
For help to claim Universal Credit - call free on 0800 144 8444 (Monday – Friday 8am-6pm)
For Consumer problems (goods and services) call 0808 223 1133 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm)
BHT Sussex (Formerly Brighton Housing Trust)
Eastbourne Advice Centre tel: 01323 642615
Brighton Advice Centre tel: 01273 645455
You can find online, telephone and face-to-face debt advice services using the debt advice locator
Lewes and Eastbourne Councils Housing Solutions: tel 01273 471600 or 01323 410000