Housing - Self help guide

Paying your rent arrears

If you fall behind on paying your rent, you will find yourself owing rent arrears. If this happens, taking appropriate action as quickly as possible will mean your debts will not escalate further, and prevent a more serious problem from developing.

If you come into any problems which may mean you can’t pay all your rent on time, contact your landlord first. If you can’t afford to pay everything on the day, you must pay as much as you can and make a plan to pay off any arrears. If you don’t do this, your landlord may issue you with a S21 notice, take you to court, and you may face eviction.

Repayment plan

If you are have rent arrears and are homeless, or looking to move properties, it is essential that you are in a repayment plan so that you can lower your debts and prevent them from getting even larger. Repayment plans demonstrate that you are committed to paying off your debts, so if you have rent arrears then being in a plan will give you a much greater chance of being re-housed.

If you fall into arrears, or have existing arrears, you must talk to your landlord about committing to a repayment plan. To ensure that the plan is successful, the rate of repayment must be affordable to you, so discuss this with your landlord. You may find it helpful to seek financial/debt advice to do this, who may be able to recommend an affordable amount, and how you can fit this into your budget.

Landlords, including housing associations, will always check if you have historical rent arrears from past tenancies, and will also check to see if you have any other outstanding debts from those tenancies. If you have historical debt from past tenancies, it is important that you declare this as part of your repayment plan so that this cannot be used against you later down the line.

Third-party deductions

If you have rent arrears but are in receipt of income-related benefits and have already made attempts to negotiate with your landlord an alternative way to pay off your arrears and manage your outgoings, you can apply for an amount to be deducted from your payments and paid directly to your landlord. This is called a third-party deduction.

Third party deductions can be made from the following benefits:

  • Income Support
  • Pension Credit
  • Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA)
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).

Getting a third-party deduction would mean your rent arrears would be paid off automatically and you would not have to worry about making extra payments to the landlord yourself. However, third party deductions are usually only very small amounts, which is why it is important to deal with arrears as soon as you begin to accumulate them.

You can find more detail on rent arrears by contacting Citizens Advice or Shelter.

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