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Rent Arrears: Expert Tips for Tenants

When it comes to housing, one of the most significant challenges many individuals face today is the issue of rent arrears. Simply put, rent arrears is the outstanding rent owed by a tenant to their landlord or housing association. This situation typically arises when a tenant fails to make their rent payments in full, and on time, leading to a debt that increases with each missed payment.

Dealing with rent arrears can be a stressful and complicated experience. The consequences of falling into such debt can be severe, from damaging your credit record to facing the grim prospect of eviction. It’s important to note that eviction is the last resort for landlords, but the threat is very real, and understanding this can help you grasp the gravity of rent arrears. It’s also crucial to be aware of the legal aspects involved, including court action, bailiffs, and various possession procedures.

In this article, our main aim is to provide you with comprehensive information about rent arrears. We’ll delve into the causes and consequences of this issue, your rights as a tenant, and the responsibilities of your landlord or housing association. Furthermore, we will also discuss practical advice and solutions to help you deal with rent arrears effectively. Lastly, we’ll explore various forms of support available for individuals struggling to pay rent, such as housing benefits and universal credit.

The road to overcoming rent arrears may seem daunting, but with the right information, action, and support, it’s a journey that can lead to financial stability and peace of mind. So, let’s get started.

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Understanding Rent Arrears

Rent arrears can arise from a multitude of situations. The most common causes include:

Unexpected Income Reduction

This could be due to losing your job, a pay cut, or a change in your benefits. These situations often lead to a significant reduction in income, making it difficult to meet your usual monthly expenses, including rent.

Sudden or Unforeseen Expenses

Unexpected costs like medical emergencies, car repairs, or significant household bills can disrupt your normal budget, leading to rent arrears.

Housing Benefit Issues

Delays in receiving housing benefits or changes in your benefit entitlement could lead to difficulties in paying rent.

Poor Money Management

Without a structured budget, one may struggle to balance income with expenditure, leading to rent arrears over time.

Consequences of Rent Arrears

The repercussions of falling into rent arrears can be severe and long-lasting:

Your landlord or housing association can take court action to reclaim the outstanding rent. This could involve receiving a court summons, attending a hearing, and facing a district judge.


In extreme cases, persistent rent arrears could lead to eviction. If your landlord follows the correct procedure, they could obtain a possession order to have you removed from the property.

Damage to Credit File

Rent arrears can be reported to credit reference agencies. This can adversely affect your credit score, making it difficult to secure loans or other forms of credit in the future.

Stress and Anxiety

The constant worry of debt can lead to mental health issues, causing a great deal of stress and anxiety.

Understanding the causes and consequences of rent arrears is a vital step towards managing and overcoming this issue. However, it’s equally important to know your rights and the potential support available to you, which we will explore in the following sections.

Your Rights as a Tenant

As a tenant, it’s crucial to know your rights when it comes to rent arrears. Understanding your legal protections as a tenancy holder can help you navigate this challenging situation more confidently, especially if you receive housing benefit. It’s important to communicate with your landlord or housing association to find a solution.

Tenants’ Rights with Regard to Rent Arrears

  1. Notice:Before taking any formal court action, your landlord is typically required to give you notice of the arrears. This notice period may vary depending on the type of tenancy agreement you have.
  2. Protection from Harassment:It’s against the law for landlords to harass tenants. This includes instances where landlords persistently attempt to interfere with your peace or comfort, cut off your utilities, or use abusive language or threats.
  3. Eviction:Your landlord cannot simply throw you out because you’re behind on your rent. They must follow a legal possession procedure, which includes giving you notice, seeking a court order, and obtaining a warrant for possession if you don’t leave by the eviction date stated in the court order.
  4. Right to Repay:You have the right to clear your rent arrears. If you pay off all your arrears before the court hearing date, the case against you may be dropped.
  5. Disputing Rent Increases:If your landlord raises your rent without proper notice or to an unreasonable extent, you might have the right to dispute the increase.

The Importance of Tenancy Agreements

Your tenancy agreement is a vital document that outlines the terms of your rental arrangement, including your rent amount, the due date for payments, and what happens if you fall into arrears.

The agreement may also include details about any advance payments or deposits, and any rules regarding rent increases. Tenancy agreements can be fixed-term (shorthold tenancies) or periodic, and the type of agreement you have can affect your rights.

If you don’t have a written tenancy agreement or if your agreement is unclear on certain terms, you may want to seek advice from a local advice agency or a legal professional to better understand your rights.

Remember, as a tenant, you have rights. If you’re dealing with rent arrears, it’s crucial not to panic but instead to familiarise yourself with your rights and take proactive steps to manage the situation.

Dealing with rent arrears can involve various legal processes. Understanding them can equip you better to handle this challenging situation.

Court Action and the Role of District Judges

If your landlord decides to take court action due to your rent arrears, the case will go to a county court. A judge will preside over the hearing. They will look at the details of the case, including the amount of arrears, your personal circumstances, and any offers to pay back the arrears you’ve made.

Your landlord must present a compelling case, providing evidence of the arrears and that they’ve followed the correct procedures. As a tenant, you also have the right to present a defence form and offer a repayment plan.

Understanding Possession Procedures

In most cases, landlords will use one of two possession procedures – the standard possession procedure or the accelerated possession procedure.

The standard possession procedure applies when a landlord claims rent arrears and wants to evict the tenant. A notice must be served to the tenant, followed by court action if the arrears are not paid.

The accelerated possession procedure is usually quicker and doesn’t involve a court hearing. It’s used mostly for assured shorthold tenancies where the fixed term has ended. However, it can’t be used if the landlord claims rent arrears.

In both cases, if the judge rules in favour of the landlord, they will issue a possession order. This is a court order that requires you to leave the property by a specific date.

The Role of Bailiffs in the Eviction Process

If you don’t leave the property by the date specified in the possession order, your landlord can apply for a warrant of possession. This allows bailiffs to evict you from the property.

Bailiffs must give at least 7 days’ notice before they can evict you. It’s important to note that only court-appointed bailiffs or high court enforcement officers can carry out an eviction.

During these legal proceedings, getting advice from a local advice agency or a legal advice service can be very beneficial. It’s crucial to know your rights and take the right steps to protect yourself.

Support and Assistance for Struggling Tenants

If you’re struggling with rent arrears, it can feel like a daunting and isolating experience. But remember, there are various forms of support and assistance available to help you navigate through this tough time.

Housing Benefit and Universal Credit

In the UK, benefits like Housing Benefit and Universal Credit can provide significant support if you’re struggling to pay your rent.

Housing Benefit is for those who are on a low income, are claiming certain benefits, or are of pension age. Universal Credit, on the other hand, is a monthly payment to help with your living costs if you’re on a low income or out of work.

The Housing Costs element of Universal Credit provides assistance specifically for rent payments. How much you receive depends on your circumstances, including your income, the size of your home, and your age, among other factors.

Discretionary Housing Payment

If Housing Benefit or Universal Credit doesn’t cover all your rent and you’re struggling, you may be eligible for a Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP). DHP is an extra payment to help cover your housing costs. It’s not guaranteed, but it’s worth contacting your local council to apply if you’re struggling to meet your rent payments.

Breathing Space and Other Support Schemes

Breathing Space is a scheme that can give you some temporary relief from certain debts. If you’re eligible, you could be granted a 60-day period where debt collection activity is paused and interest is frozen. This can give you the space and time to seek advice, make a budget, and start addressing your rent arrears.

How to Contact Shelter and Local Advice Agencies

Shelter is a charity that provides free, expert housing advice. You can contact Shelter’s helpline or use their online chat service. They can provide guidance on your situation and help you understand what actions you can take.

Your local Citizens Advice or other local advice agencies can also provide help and guidance. They can assist you in understanding your rights as a tenant and help you navigate through your current situation.

In addition to these, our team at Become Debt Free is here to support you. As Licensed Insolvency Practitioners, we can help you manage your debts through solutions like an Individual Voluntary Arrangement (IVA). Don’t hesitate to call us on 0800 169 1536 or leave an enquiry on our website.

Practical Advice and Solutions

No one wants to find themselves in a position where they’re falling behind on rent payments. However, should you find yourself dealing with rent arrears, there are practical steps you can take to help manage the situation and work towards resolving it.

Creating a Budget and Payment Plan

The first step is to create a budget. This involves documenting all your income and outgoings, allowing you to see exactly where your money is going and how much you have left after paying your household bills.

Once you’ve established your budget, you can work out a repayment plan. This means setting aside a specific, affordable amount each week or month to pay towards your rent arrears, in addition to your normal rent.

Communicate and Negotiate with Your Landlord

In cases of rent arrears, communication is key. Speak to your landlord as soon as possible to let them know you’re struggling. They may be willing to negotiate a payment arrangement that allows you to pay off your arrears in manageable instalments.

When negotiating, make a realistic offer based on what you can afford from your new budget. It’s also a good idea to put any agreement in writing and keep a record for future reference.

Seeking Help from Become Debt Free

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by your debts, it may be time to seek professional help. Licensed insolvency practitioners, like us at Become Debt Free, can offer advice and assistance in managing your debts, including setting up an IVA. An IVA is a formal agreement between you and your creditors that can help make your debt repayments more manageable.

What to Do If Facing Eviction

If you’re facing eviction, the most important thing is not to ignore the situation. Speak to your landlord or housing association, if you haven’t already. Contact your local Citizens Advice or Shelter for advice on your rights and the eviction process.

If you’re issued with a court date, make sure you attend. At the court hearing, you’ll have the opportunity to explain your situation to a judge, who will make a decision on the case.

Remember, there is support available. Don’t hesitate to call Become Debt Free on 0800 169 1536 or leave an enquiry on our website if you’re struggling with rent arrears.


What is rent arrears?

Rent arrears refers to the situation where a tenant has not paid rent due in accordance with their tenancy agreement. This could be for one month or for several months.

What happens if I don’t pay my rent?

If you don’t pay your rent, your landlord can start possession proceedings to evict you from the property. They have to follow a specific procedure, including serving a notice of their intention to seek possession before taking court action.

Can I be evicted for rent arrears?

Yes, you can be evicted for rent arrears. However, your landlord must follow the correct legal process, including applying to court for a possession order.

How can I prevent being evicted for rent arrears?

Communication with your landlord is vital. If you’re struggling to pay your rent, let your landlord know as soon as possible and see if you can arrange a payment plan. It may also be helpful to get advice from a professional advice agency or a licensed insolvency practitioner.

Can my housing benefit or Universal Credit help with rent arrears?

Yes, in certain circumstances, housing benefit or the housing costs element of Universal Credit can be used to pay off rent arrears. In some cases, your local council may also have discretionary housing payments available to help.

What is an IVA and how can it help me with my debts?

An IVA, or Individual Voluntary Arrangement, is a formal agreement with your creditors where you agree to make regular payments towards your debts over a set period of time. The payments are based on what you can afford, and at the end of the IVA period, any remaining debt is usually written off. IVAs can be a good solution for some people struggling with debt, including rent arrears for an old property. IVA’s cannot be used for current rent arrears.

What kind of support can Become Debt Free offer?

Become Debt Free can provide advice and assistance in dealing with your debts, including setting up an IVA as a debt solution. We’re licensed insolvency practitioners and we’re here to help you navigate through your financial struggles. Contact us on 0800 169 1536 or visit our website for more information


In conclusion, dealing with rent arrears can be a stressful experience, but it is crucial to understand the consequences of falling behind on rent payments, your rights as a tenant, and the various forms of support available to you. Remember that communication is key, both with your landlord and any organisations that can provide assistance. Being proactive and seeking help early can prevent the situation from escalating further.

If you are facing challenges with rent arrears or any other form of debt, it is crucial not to ignore it. Debt problems do not disappear on their own. In fact, the longer they are ignored, the worse they can become. Reach out for professional advice to understand the options available to you.

Become Debt Free is one such resource. As a team of Licensed Insolvency Practitioners, we specialise in providing advice and support to individuals who are struggling with debt. We offer solutions like Individual Voluntary Arrangements (IVA) which can help you manage your debts in a more manageable way.

You are not alone in this journey. Remember, the sooner you address the problem, the more options you have to resolve it. Contact us today on 0800 169 1536 or leave an enquiry on our website. Let’s work together to take control of your finances and help you become debt-free.

Take action now and turn your financial situation around. Because everyone deserves a life free from the burdens of debt.


The primary sources for this article are listed below.

Housing Benefit: How to claim – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

Housing advice | Housing Rights

Shelter – The housing and homelessness charity

Details of our standards for producing accurate, unbiased content can be found in our editorial policy here.

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