Getting into rent arrears can be distressing. But don’t ignore the situation. If you don’t take action to pay back what you owe, you could end up losing your home and/or receive a money judgement (CCJ) from a small claims court.
You will need to contact your landlord or GreenPad as soon as possible and try and make arrangements to pay back what you owe.
However, before you do this, you should check that you owe all the money your landlord says you do.
You might not be responsible for all the arrears if:
- You’re not the tenant or someone else you live with owes the money
- Your landlord has not recorded all your rent payments correctly
- You took over the tenancy from someone else and your landlord is trying to charge you for rent from before you took over the tenancy
You should always check that you’re the only person responsible for paying back the arrears.
There is more than one tenant in the property
If you live with other people, you should check to see what kind of tenancy you all have.
If you are up-to-date with your rent payments but someone else is not, you may still have to cover their payments. This will depend on whether you are all on one tenancy agreement or whether there are separate agreements between each of you and the landlord.
If you are all on the same tenancy or licence agreement, you are called joint tenants. Each of you will be responsible for the whole of the arrears. This is known as joint and several liability. It means that if one of the other people on the tenancy agreement isn’t paying their share of the rent or leaves owing money, you will be expected to cover it.
You may be able to take legal action against the other person to get back the money they owe. If you’re in this situation, you should get advice about this.
If you all have separate tenancy agreements, the landlord can’t force you to pay arrears owed by any of the other people. If your landlord is trying to get you to pay rent owed by someone else who is on a separate agreement, you should get advice.
There’s no written tenancy agreement
You may not be able to check whose name is on the tenancy agreement because there has never been a written agreement. However, if you agreed to pay a landlord rent, this usually counts as a tenancy agreement and you will have to pay back any rent you owe. But it may be harder to prove what you’ve agreed to pay the landlord and how much you owe them. It may also be harder to prove if someone else who lives in the same property as you owes the money and not you.
If you are renting from a private landlord and have a weekly tenancy, your landlord must provide a rent book or similar document. Your landlord is committing a criminal offence if they fail to do this. However, if you rent from a private landlord and have any other type of tenancy such as fixed-term or monthly, you don’t have the right to a rent book.
In England and Wales if, you have an assured shorthold tenancy which was created on or after 28 February 1997, you can ask your landlord to give you the basic terms of the agreement in writing. If you ask for this in writing, your landlord must do what you ask within 28 days.
If there’s never been a written tenancy agreement between you and your landlord and you’re not sure how much rent you owe them, you should get help from an experienced housing adviser, GreenPad or the Students’ Union advise service.
Is the amount you owe right?
Check that the amount the landlord says you owe agrees with your own records. Look at your bank statements and receipts. Check that all the rent payments you’ve made have been recorded and the amounts have been added up correctly.
Ask your landlord for a statement of your rent account if you haven’t kept a record of your rent payments.
Check what’s included in the rent you’re paying. Your landlord is allowed to include things like water or service charges heating and lighting in the rent. If the rent you owe includes charges like these, you will have to pay them.
Paying off your rent arrears
Agreeing a repayment plan
If you can’t pay off your arrears in full, you should ask for time to pay them back. You can suggest that you will pay back extra on top of your rent each month or each week over a certain period of time, until the arrears are paid off. A landlord may agree to this rather than end your tenancy because they want to get back the money you owe.
Private landlords may be tougher and expect payment more quickly. However, they still must not harass you or take other action like cutting off your gas or electric to try and force you to pay quickly. If your landlord threatens or bullies you in any way, get help from an expert housing adviser, GreenPad or the Students’ Union Advice Service.
Your local Citizens Advice Bureau may be able to help or put you in touch with someone who can. To get details of your nearest CAB, including those who can give email advice, click on nearest CAB.
If you’re an assured or an assured shorthold tenant and you owe over eight weeks’ rent arrears, it’s important to start paying off your arrears as soon as possible. This is because your landlord could take certain legal action so that the court will have no choice but to evict you.
You can try and come to an arrangement to pay off your rent arrears with your landlord at any time, even if you’ve already received papers saying that your landlord is taking you to court.
It’s important that you agree a repayment plan that you can afford to stick to. If you don’t stick to the plan, your landlord will probably take you to court and try to evict you.
Working out how much you can afford to pay back
To work out how much you can afford to pay back your landlord, you will need to take a good look at your household budget. You will need to make a list of all the money you’ve got coming in and all the money going out of your household. The list should include any other debts you owe. Make sure that the amounts you put down are realistic. Once you’ve done this, you can show it to your landlord so they can see how much you can afford to pay back each month.
If you work out that you don’t have enough money to pay back your rent arrears, you should get help from an experienced debt adviser. You can get advice from your local Citizens Advice Bureau, GreenPad or the Students’ Union Advice Service.
What if your landlord won’t agree with your repayment plan
If your landlord won’t agree the repayment plan you have offered, pay what you have offered anyway. This may make a difference if the landlord takes you to court.
Any agreement with your landlord should be written down and signed by both of you.
What if you don’t keep to your repayment plan
If you’ve agreed a repayment plan with your landlord but haven’t kept to it, they will probably take legal action to evict you.
With some types of tenancy, such as periodic assured shorthold tenancies, you may not even get the chance to go to court and argue your case. A judge can grant your landlord permission to evict you under an accelerated possession procedure which means there doesn’t need to be a court hearing.
You could try going back to your landlord and asking them to give you a second chance. Explain the reasons why you didn’t keep to the agreement and, if you can, show them that this won’t happen again. For example, you may have just found out you can get additional funding, you’ve got another job after being unemployed or someone has paid you back money they owe you.