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Rent arrears. What to do if you're in debt with your rent.

If you’ve fallen behind with your rent payments and have built up arrears it’s important to act quickly. If you don’t pay these it may lead to you being evicted from your home.

If you haven’t contacted your landlord about these arrears you need to do this straight away. When you contact them, say that you’ll continue making your normal monthly payment plus an extra amount towards the arrears. To work out how much to offer towards your arrears use our Debt Remedy tool. We'll also give you a template letter you can use to tell them about your situation.

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Repaying rent arrears

It’s important to contact your landlord straight away to discuss the arrears. It’s never too early or too late to make an arrangement to pay.

If you want to stay in the property, you’ll need to pay your regular rent plus something extra towards the arrears

To work out how much to offer towards your rent arrears use our Debt Remedy tool or contact us. Let you landlord know how much you’ll be paying to the arrears and send them a copy of your budget to show you’re paying the most you can manage.

If your landlord refuses your offer of payment to the arrears, or if they don’t reply, it’s very important you make the extra payments anyway.

Your rights as a lodger

There are several different types of tenancy, and your rights will differ depending on your tenancy. The process to evict you will also differ.

Your tenancy type may depend on:

  • When you moved into the property
  • Whether you have a private landlord or a social landlord (a local authority or housing association)
  • Whether you rent the whole property or just a part of it

In most cases, tenants of private landlords have less legal protection, and it can be harder to stop eviction.

Working out your tenancy type and what rights you and landlord have can be complicated. If you need help with this, contact one of the specialist housing advice agencies below.

Most landlords will give you a written tenancy agreement. Even if you don’t have a tenancy agreement, you still have rights as a tenant and in most cases your landlord can’t evict you without a court’s permission.

Rent arrears from previous properties

In most cases, rent arrears from previous properties can be treated as a non-priority debt, unless the landlord has taken court action to recover the money.

This is because you can’t be evicted from a property because of rent arrears from a previous property – even if they’re both with the same landlord.

But there are some cases where you may need to treat old rent arrears as a priority debt. For example, some local authorities won’t allow you to apply for council housing if you have outstanding arrears for a previous council house. This means you may need to clear the arrears quickly if you want to get rehoused.

Specialist housing advice

Housing advice can be complex, so we recommend contacting an advice agency that specialises in this subject.

In England or Scotland, contact Shelter or Shelter Scotland. They have a telephone helpline (0808 800 4444) and a website packed with useful information.

In Wales, contact Housing Debt Helpline Wales on 0800 107 1340 (Welsh speaking service available).

In Northern Ireland, Shelter NI can point you to useful organisations that can help you if you're struggling with rent arrears or eviction.

Contact your local authority if you're at risk of homelessness because of eviction. Their housing department will be able to advise you about applying for social housing or emergency accommodation.

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