Can’t pay rent? What to do if you are behind on your rent

Can’t pay rent? What to do if you are behind on your rent
November 4, 2016 Stacey Corrin
What to do if you can't pay rent

Have you found out that you can’t pay rent? Few things are as scary as discovering that you can’t pay rent for the property that you live in.

If this is your first month of being unable to pay rent, then it is likely that you feel guilty and worried. If you are in rent arrears by more than a month, you are likely to be concerned about suddenly losing your home.

Practical solutions are needed. You cannot sit back and watch the problem unfold. If you are worried that you can’t pay rent, you must act quickly.

Check why you can’t pay rent

If you find yourself suddenly thinking “I can’t pay rent this month”, then you have taken the first step towards solving the problem.

Now that you are aware of the issue, it is important to find out how it happened.

You may be struggling because you overspent last month. You might have less money temporarily, because you are between jobs or were ill. Perhaps your benefits have been cut, or you relied on overtime that is no longer offered.

Your landlord will not need to know the specific details. Yet, it is important that you know whether the problem is long-term or temporary.

If you are struggling this month but should be back on track soon, then your situation is easier than if you are simply not earning enough.

Speak to your landlord

Your landlord needs to know as soon as possible. This is a difficult conversation, but necessary.

It is best to speak to your landlord before the payment is missed.

When you contact your landlord, you should tell them if the problem is temporary or permanent.

You may want to explain to the landlord if your car broke down and you needed to pay for repairs, though this level of detail is not essential.

If you are dealing with a long-term issue such as a reduction in benefits, or redundancy then you will want to explain your situation.

Your landlord needs to know when your financial situation will improve. It is important to be clear if you need more time to find the money, or would like to temporarily reduce your payments until you’re back on track.

Do not to make false promises. These can cause further difficulties. If you expect to struggle for a few more months, do not tell your landlord that you’ll pay them in full on payday.

Avoid long term rent arrears

If you can’t pay rent, you risk eviction. You might struggle to find somewhere new.

There are several ways to avoid long-term rent arrears.

Cutting expenditure

Go through your household budget. Ensure that you’ve cut back where you can.

You may save money by buying cheaper food or switching energy supplier.

If you spend most of your income on maintaining loan and credit card payments, or repaying other debts, then there will be help available.

You may wish to speak to a debt advice charity, who can help you to find a solution. Most borrowers can sign up to a Debt Management Plan (DMP), which reduces monthly payments but will extend how long you are in debt for.

Increasing income

If you cannot reduce your expenditure, could you instead increase your income?

Consider asking about overtime opportunities with your current employer. You may be able to work for an extra hour each evening, to cover the cost of your rent.

A second job is another option. Ensure that your current employment contract does not place restrictions on second jobs. You may be able to ask for your employer’s permission, even if the contract suggests otherwise.

Check that you are receiving everything that you are entitled to. There may be benefits that you are not receiving, but have a right to apply for.

If you are already in receipt of Housing Benefit, you can speak to your local council about Discretionary Housing Payments. These top up the amount you receive, to cover the cost of your rent, but cannot be used for increased rent due to rent arrears.

Move house

Moving house is an option if you can't pay rent

If you are dealing with a long-term loss of income, then moving to a cheaper property is better than struggling along.

This is not an easy task. You need to mentally prepare yourself for a downgrade to your lifestyle, whilst finding a suitable property.

To move house, you may need to hire a removal van. You are likely to need a deposit for the new property, and will need to pay rent up-front. This sounds impossible if you are already struggling financially. Although it may be better to work on finding this money than fighting to stay where you are.

Moving house should not be a response to short-term financial difficulty. In fact, it can be costly. It is something to consider if you see no possibility of your situation improving, and need to future-proof your budget.

If you are in receipt of Housing Benefit, you can request a one-off Discretionary Housing Payment to cover the costs of moving house.

Getting help when you can’t pay rent

If you cannot afford to pay your rent, speak to the Citizens Advice Bureau or Shelter.

These organisations can help you to work out what you’re entitled to. Together, you will be able to plan for the future.

Your rights when you can’t pay rent

If you are struggling to pay your rent, you should not be harassed or threatened.

You may need to agree a repayment plan to reduce your rent arrears.

Your landlord may not agree to your repayment plan. If this happens, you can reduce your payments anyway. Make sure that your budget is realistic, and that you are paying as much as you can without stretching your money too far.

If your landlord does agree to a repayment plan, then it is important to record this in writing. Get your landlord’s signature on a written agreement document.

Your landlord can evict you if you are behind on rent payments. In most cases, they will need to take you to court.

The eviction process

You should receive written notice from your landlord, of their intent to evict you.

Your notice period will be written on your tenancy agreement. Once this has run out, your landlord can apply for a possession order through the courts.

Possession orders

If your landlord receives an outright possession order, you will need to vacate the property by a certain date.

You could get evicted if you can't pay rent

Instead, they may receive a postponed possession order. Especially if they think you can improve your financial situation by repaying your rent arrears. In this case you can stay in the property with time to make this happen.

Warrant of possession

If you are unable to leave by the date on the possession order, then your landlord must apply for a warrant. This warrant will set a date and time of eviction. You will receive a notice of eviction, informing you of these details.

Bailiffs can be sent to evict you, if you have not left the property in time.

The eviction process is a relatively slow one. You will not be removed from the property simply because your rent is a week or two late. You will have time to plan and prepare.

Contact the Citizens Advice Bureau for help if you’re being evicted.