How do you deal with rent arrears?
If you’ve fallen behind on your rent payments and you owe money to your landlord, this is known as rent arrears. Paying your rent is considered a priority, so getting into arrears can have serious consequences and can even get you evicted.
It’s important to act quickly if you’re behind on your rent and not to ignore the problem.
The first step you should take is to contact your landlord. You don’t want things to escalate, so it’s best to try and come to an agreement as soon as possible – they’re more likely to be understanding if you show you’re making an effort to resolve the problem.
Paying back rent arrears
Before you make an agreement to pay back what you owe, you’ll need to work out where you’re at money-wise. Making a budget will help with this and will allow you to possibly find ways to cut down your spending, which in turn could help you pay back your arrears.
It’s important when making an agreement with your landlord to never try and pay back more than you can afford. It’ll be better in the long run for you to pay back the arrear in smaller instalments over time.
If you’re struggling with your rent due to low income or you’re already on benefits, you could also be entitled to extra support through housing benefit. It’s also possible to get this backdated for up to six months if you qualify for the benefit and have a good reason for not applying earlier.
Who is responsible for rent arrears
In some instances, it might not actually be down to you to pay back the full arrears, so it’s important to check before you make any payments to your landlord.
If you live with someone else, such as your partner or a flatmate, and have signed a joint tenancy agreement then you will both be responsible for the arrears. This also means that if one of you doesn’t pay, the other will have to pay for them. However, if you live with other people but signed a tenancy agreement for just yourself, the arrears would be your responsibility.
In situations where you have taken over someone else’s tenancy, you’re only responsible for the rent due after your agreement has begun; you shouldn’t have to pay the arrears for the previous tenant. However, you can be responsible for this in some cases of ‘succession’ or ‘assignment’.
Your landlord should always give you details of your tenancy agreement in writing, which should include how much your rent is and how often you’ll pay it. If you don’t have this, it may mean that you have an assured shorthold tenancy (AST) – which dictates that this is not required.
Will Universal Credit pay my rent arrears?
It’s easy to assume that when it comes to Universal Credit and your rent, you’re on your own – but this isn’t exactly the case.
If you’re struggling with your rent payments, it’s possible for either you or your landlord to ask for an alternative payment arrangement (APA) – which involves direct payments. This means that your rent will be paid directly to your landlord, which then leaves you able to sort something out to pay your arrears.
Equally, this can also be done the other way around – where deductions can be taken from your Universal Credit towards your arrears, so you only have to focus on paying your current rent.
Can I do a mutual exchange with rent arrears?
A mutual exchange is when you swap your home with another council or housing association tenant with permission from your landlord.
Landlords will usually insist that any arrears are cleared before an exchange happens, so it’s important you do this before applying to avoid rejection.
Will the council house me if I have rent arrears?
This will depend on the council in question, but for the most part local authorities won’t allow you to apply if you have arrears from a previous property – so you would have to clear these first.
However, in many other situations, dealing with rent arrears from another property can be treated as non-priority as you cannot be evicted for this reason – even if it’s the same landlord. The only exception to this is if court action has been taken against you for the balance owed.
What happens if you are evicted?
If your rent arrears are building up, your landlord will eventually try to evict you, also known as ‘seeking possession’.
There is a process to this, which involves them giving you written notice to leave the property. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean you have to do so by the date written on the letter.
Your landlord, in most cases, will still have to get a court order before they can evict you – and they can only get this once the notice period has run out. If it reaches this stage, they will need to get a warrant of possession to allow the bailiffs to force your eviction.