Rent arrears

If you cannot pay your rent, don’t ignore the problem. Talk to your landlord as soon as possible. Whether the problem is caused by a change of circumstances, a budgeting problem, or a cut in benefits, you can take some important steps to help get yourself back in control and avoid eviction.

Talk to your landlord

It’s understandable that you might be afraid of telling your landlord or agent that you’re going to be late with the rent. But it’s far better to get the issue out in the open before you actually fail to pay up.

Money fitness tip

Make sure you claim any bonuses or allowances relating to your job.

When you speak to your landlord:

  • Explain why you’re going to be late with the rent and ask for some extra time
  • Be clear about what you're doing to address the problem to help ensure it won’t happen again

Read on to find out what you can do to get back in control. You’ll also find links to sources of free help and advice.

Identify the problem and work out a plan

In some cases it will be obvious why you have a problem. Perhaps your income or expenses have suddenly changed for the worse. For example because you’ve lost your job or your partner has moved out and stopped contributing to the rent. 

In other cases it may simply be that you’re living beyond your means. Either way, you’ll need a plan. 

Being repeatedly late with your rent could lead to eviction and a bad reference from your landlord, which will make it difficult for you to find another property to rent. 

Your landlord could also withhold some of the deposit to cover underpaid rent if you still owe money when you move out.

Your two-step plan

  1. Use our Budget planner to work out the shortfall between your monthly income and your expenses.
  2. Look at ways you can cut back or boost your monthly income to close the gap – see the later sections in this guide.

However, if it’s likely to be a long-term problem that could get worse, seeking help right away may be the best solution - before matters get out of control. See later in this guide for organisations who can help you.

did you know..

The Benefits and Money Advice Team at The Royal British Legion can help work out your budget and advise you on what benefits or other financial support you may be eligible for- call 0808 802 8080.

Reducing your monthly expenses

Cutting back can be difficult, but it won’t be as painful as being evicted from your home – which is why it is vital you act now. 

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Can you ditch any of your regular monthly expenses or cut back on any luxuries?
  • Are you on the cheapest tariff for all your monthly bills?
  • If you have credit card debt, can you switch to a 0% credit card and save yourself some interest payments?
  • Are you spending too much on going out or new clothes? It’s far more important to be able to pay the rent.

Use the Money Advice Service's Quick cash finder to see where you can cut back on things you buy regularly.

Boosting your current income through benefits

If your circumstances have changed and your income has fallen as a result, you may be able to claim benefits to help you pay your rent, such as Housing Benefit. You may also be able to get help with your Council Tax. See Grants and State benefits to find out more.

If your benefits have been cut – perhaps as a result of the benefit cap or because you’re classed as ‘under occupying’ your home – you can apply to your council for help. They will have a pot of money available for what’s known as ‘Discretionary Housing Payments’. This year the Government has increased the funding for Discretionary Housing Payments to help people affected by Housing Benefit changes. 

Find out more about Discretionary Housing Payments on the Turn2Us website.

Where to get free help and advice

If you want to talk to someone about how to deal with your landlord, you can call Shelter or the Citizens Advice Bureau, or Housing Advice NI in Northern Ireland. These organisations will also be able to talk to you about what entitlements you may be able to claim to help pay your rent if you’re on a low income.

If you’re already in arrears with your rent or are struggling with debts, talk to a debt adviser as soon as possible. You don’t have to worry alone - see Where to get help if you are in debt.

If you’re being threatened with eviction

If you’re being threatened with eviction as a result of rent arrears, follow the links below to check your options and rights.

Read about eviction and your rights in England or Wales on the AdviceGuide website.

Read about your eviction rights in Scotland on the Shelter website.

Read about eviction rights for tenants in Northern Ireland on the Housing Advice NI website.

Last reviewed: 15/03/2019

This content has been provided by the Money Advice Service