Rent Arrears - Private Renting

Overview

If you have rent arrears and do not take the necessary steps to resolve the situation by negotiating a solution with your landlord, you risk losing your home and it may prove difficult to find somewhere else to live. Your local authority may not rehouse you if they conclude you have made yourself intentionally homeless (because you have not paid your rent). You might also find it difficult to obtain credit or to borrow money in the future.

Contact your landlord

It is extremely important to speak to your landlord (or lettings agent if you rent through an agency) straight away. You may be waiting for a benefit payment to come through, but you should still inform them of your situation. You should pay what you can afford and ask them for more time to pay the rent back.

You must not ignore the situation. Your landlord can start the eviction process straight away if you miss a payment and if any of the following applies:

  • You have a history of being late with your rent
  • You are already in arrears
  • For assured shorthold tenancies, where the fixed term period of your tenancy has ended

The court has the power in these cases to grant your landlord a ‘possession order’ very quickly and you’ll be told to leave within 14 days. If your landlord is a local authority or housing association, please refer to our ‘rent arrears - social housing’ factsheet as different rules apply.

Negotiating repayments

You should ask your landlord if they will agree to you paying off your arrears in smaller amounts in addition to your ongoing rent. You can obtain advice from a local advice or debt agency that will be able to assist you in drawing up a budget, showing what you can afford. It is important to take into account your income, your essential expenditure and what you have left is the amount you have available for your debts. Rent is a priority debt, as you risk eviction if you do not keep up your payments. If your landlord will not agree you should pay anyway and keep records of what you have paid. If they will not take the payments, you should put it to one side as evidence in court to show that you have offered repayments.

Benefit income

You may be entitled to housing benefit or the housing element of universal credit. You can check your overall benefit entitlement using the Turn2us or Gov.uk websites. Visit www.turn2us.org.uk and https://www.gov.uk/benefits-calculators or explore your whole debt and benefit situation at your local advice agency.

Notice to quit

You cannot be evicted from your home without a court order. Your landlord will have to send you written notice of a court hearing and in private tenancies this is known as a ‘notice to quit’.

Assured shorthold tenancy

If you have an assured shorthold tenancy your landlord can issue you with a section 8 notice or a section 21 notice.

Section 8 notice

You may receive a section 8 notice if you have; rent arrears, damaged your landlords property or if you have caused a nuisance to your neighbours. The notice will not be valid if it doesn't include:

  • your name
  • the address of the property
  • the 'grounds for possession' (reasons why your landlord wants you to leave your home)
  • the date your notice ends

Section 21 notice

The notice will not be valid if you do not have an assured shorthold tenancy. You should seek advice from a local advice agency if you need help checking the validity of the notice. Your landlord may be selling their home or moving and that is why they require you to leave.

Evidence for Court

Before the date of the hearing, it will be beneficial to gather all of your evidence together to support your case. The following list may be helpful:

  • Proof of your financial circumstances, for example, wage slips and your bank statements
  • Written confirmation you are awaiting a benefit, for example housing benefit
  • Receipts of payments you have made towards the arrears
  • A copy of your Financial Statement or Budget sheet

Court hearing

The hearing at court will be held in private and the judge will listen to both sides and examine evidence that has been presented to the court. At the end of the hearing the judge will have made a decision and make an order informing you and the landlord. A copy of the order will also be posted to you within a few days.

There are various decisions a judge can make such as:

  • Dismiss the case. For example if you are not responsible for the arrears
  • Make a postponed possession order
  • Make a suspended possession order
  • Make an outright possession order
  • Make a money judgment

Postponed possession order

This is an order allowing you to remain in your home , providing you comply with certain conditions. This will usually mean paying your rent and something towards your arrears. If you don’t keep up with your payments as per the conditions set out in the order your landlord can ask the court to evict you. This means making an application to the court for a possession date and once this has been obtained they can apply for a warrant of possession.

If your circumstances change, you may be able to make an application to the court to vary the conditions set out in the order.

Suspended possession order

This is similar to a postponed possession order, as you will be able to remain in your home providing you comply with the conditions set out in the order. The difference is that if the order is breached, your landlord will apply for the warrant of possession to evict you and you will not be informed in advance.

Outright possession order

If you have been unable to convince the court that you can afford to repay your arrears and manage your ongoing rent they may order that you have to leave your home. The order will set out a date by which you must leave. If you do not leave by that date your landlord will have to obtain a warrant of possession.

Money judgments

Your landlord may ask the court for a money judgment as well as a possession order. This is a county court judgment (CCJ) which you will have to pay back even if you leave the property. It also means that the landlord can obtain another order, for example to deduct money from your wages.