Managing your money is hard work- your budgets are constantly changing to account for new expenses which crop up. When families are already struggling to make ends meet, how do you determine what to pay, when? The Money Advice Trust have found that rent arrears is one of the fastest growing debt problems in the UK, with the number of people in rent arrears doubling in six years.
Rent arrears are where you fail to pay your rent. This could be a one off missed payment or frequent missed payments over a number of months. If you owe eight weeks worth of rent, your landlord can take action, which could lead to eviction.
If you have missed a rent payment or continue to miss rent payments, you are very likely to have rent arrears. If you are struggling to pay your rent each month, you are in danger of rent arrears, and should seek help. These links may be of interest:
Alternatively, check if you’re eligible for housing benefits.
There are many reasons people are in rent arrears and can range from different working hours (and therefore unreliable income), delays in benefit payments, cuts in benefits, cuts in working hours and unexpected expenses which all affect whether people can pay their rent or not.
If you have rent arrears there are a few things you must check:
Whether you’re a Council Housing Tenant, Private or Housing Association tenant, there is a set process for landlords dealing with rent arrears.
Note: This does not apply if you bought your home through a shared ownership programme/right to buy scheme or if you're living in temporary accommodation. When you first fall behind with your rent, your landlord should contact you to discuss why you're in arrears, what your financial circumstances are and what benefits you're entitled to in order to work out how you can repay your rent. Your landlord must then contact you every three months to update you on how much rent is due and how much is received. They must explain this to you clearly so you understand. All people listed as tenants in the house must be contacted.
If you have rent arrears and your receive benefits, your landlord can arrange for the rent you owe to be taken from your benefits. This is called a third party deduction, and more information can be found here. Your landlord can also help you to apply for housing benefit and cannot evict you if you are in the process of applying yourself. If you are eligible for housing benefit your landlord also cannot evict you.
Before the eviction process can begin, your landlord must send you a letter detailing why they want you to leave and when they want you to leave. They must also send you details of other places where you can get housing information. Your landlord should then attempt to contact you to discuss this again. If they are unable to contact you, or you do not reach an agreement, court action which could lead to eviction, will be taken. Your landlord must give you at least ten days notice of a court date, along with up to date statements. They should also inform the court of your housing benefit situation.
Introductory and demoted tenants are tenants who are living in the home on a trial basis. If rent payments are missed during this period, it's very easy to evict you. Council tenants tend to be offered a 12 month Introductory tenancy. This means that tenants are on probation and can be evicted easily if they fall into rent arrears.
If you have rent arrears and decide to leave the property, you must contact the landlord so that you're not charged any further rent. If you do not properly end your tenancy with the landlord, legally you may be required to pay rent until the end of the notice period. See your rental agreement to understand what notice you must give, this could be anything from four weeks to a longer time frame depending on what tenancy agreement you have. A template letter to terminate your tenancy agreement can be found here*
It's very difficult to find properties to rent after you've been evicted due to rent arrears. Many landlords ask for a reference from your previous landlord in order to determine what you'll be like as a tenant. If you're struggling to find somewhere to live, your local council could help by providing emergency housing. However, your eligibility is assessed on your need and whether your homelessness is down to your actions. For more information, click here, or find out about finding emergency accommodation here.
If you have rent arrears, don’t ignore it. Speak to your landlord and be honest about what’s happening. Work out a budget. Understand your incomings and outgoings and what you can afford. It may be that you need to lower your rent. Understand what housing benefits you’re entitled to.
*This letter may not be suitable for all situations, please read and check accordingly.