Rent Arrears
Social Housing


If you have rent arrears with a social housing landlord 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.

Coronavirus Act 2020 Special Measures

Under the Coronavirus Act 2020, notice periods given in eviction notices were extended to three months. England has now followed the lead of Scotland and Wales in increasing this notice period to six months for the majority of notices served between 29 August 2020 and 31 March 2021. This may be extended further.

Landlords must also provide information to the courts on whether the tenant has been financially impacted by the COVID pandemic.

Reactivation Notices

No cases from before 3 August 2020 will immediately proceed to hearing, but will have to be ‘re-activated’ by the landlord and then subject to a new review hearing, at least four weeks before the substantive hearing.

Shorter Notice Periods

  • where the tenant is being evicted for antisocial behaviour the notice period has reverted to the pre-Coronavirus Act 2020 position i.e. a landlord can issue proceedings on the same day as notice is served

  • where the tenant is accused of domestic abuse, or has provided a false statement resulting in the grant of the tenancy, notice periods will be between two to four weeks’ notice

  • if the tenant has accumulated over six months’ of rent arrears, only four weeks’ notice will be required

  • if it transpires that the tenant has rented a property in breach of the immigration rules under the Right to Rent legislation, they can be evicted on three months’ notice

Winter Truce

There will be a ‘winter truce’ on enforcement of evictions in the run up to and over Christmas, except in the most serious circumstances. The legislation has not yet been published to provide further details.

Lockdown Areas

The government has placed further restrictions on when evictions can take place. If the location of the property is within a local lockdown that includes a restriction on gathering in homes, evictions will not be enforced by bailiffs.

Contacting your housing officer

Your housing officer will normally contact you to discuss your rent arrears and to try to help you find a solution to repay the arrears and prevent them from escalating any further. It’s very important not to ignore their letters or phone calls, but to explain why you are experiencing difficulties. The sooner you discuss the situation, the easier it will be to put a plan of action together to help you.

Repayment plan

You should ask your housing officer if you can pay 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.

Alternative Payment Arrangements (Universal Credit)

Alternative Payment Arrangements (Universal Credit)

An APA can be triggered by information received from you as the claimant, your representative or your landlord. Although they are deducted from universal credit and can cause financial hardship, they may also be positive, by preventing further legal action, legal costs and eviction. It could be argued that if the DWP has made a discretionary decision to allow an APA, they have done so to protect a tenancy, if the landlord then continues legal recovery, this could be used as a defence by the tenant.

APA's are considered on a case-by-case basis and are discretionary. Claimants can have one or more APA based on their individual circumstances. Universal Credit staff will decide whether an APA should be made, based on a number of factors:

  • if rent is in arrears and is not being managed

  • whether the claimant is considered vulnerable, e.g. health problems or addictions

  • in a joint claim, any problems identified managing money together

  • previously homeless

For more detailed guidance, please visit the GovUk

Benefit income

You may be entitled to housing benefit or the housing element of universal credit. Your housing officer should explore your eligibility with you and may be able to help you make a claim. You can also check your overall benefit entitlement using the Turn2us or websites. Visit and or explore your whole debt and benefit situation at your local advice agency. You should also look at our information regarding the bedroom tax and the benefit cap as your income may be reduced significantly if the benefit cap or bedroom tax applies to you.

Housing benefit overpayment

You may have been overpaid housing benefit and sometimes the local authority may add overpaid Housing Benefit to your rent arrears. If the local authority is your landlord, they cannot treat a Housing Benefit overpayment as rent arrears and you should not be evicted from your home for a Housing Benefit overpayment.

Court action & eviction

You cannot be evicted from your home without a court order. In social housing your landlord will send you a formal letter called ‘a notice of seeking possession’. This action is usually only taken when they have not been successful in negotiating a repayment with you. The notice will give you the date which court action may start. You should not receive a claim form from the court, starting action, before this date, which is usually four weeks after receiving the ‘a notice of seeking possession’.

Your landlord should follow the rent arrears pre-action protocol (see our factsheet for further details) which sets out how your landlord should behave in dealing with rent arrears, If they don’t the court has the power to strike out or adjourn the hearing.

Evidence for the 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.