Dealing with rent arrears

It is important to act quickly if you have rent arrears, to prevent your arrears getting bigger and to avoid your landlord trying to evict you. This page tells you what to do.

Talk to your landlord

If you have rent arrears, don't ignore them! If you are behind with your rent, your landlord will have grounds to start legal proceedings for eviction. Contact your landlord to discuss how you will clear your arrears. Landlords are much more likely to be sympathetic if they know that you are trying to resolve the matter.

Getting help to pay your rent

If you have a low income or you are already receiving welfare benefits, you may be entitled to help to pay your rent from housing benefit. If you are entitled to housing benefit and have a good reason for not having claimed earlier, you may be able to get your claim backdated for up to six months.

If you are already claiming housing benefit, but it does not cover all of the rent, you may be able to claim a discretionary housing payment to help with the difference, or even to help towards paying off the arrears.

You should also arrange for a benefit check with a specialist adviser. Even if you're already claiming benefits, you may not be claiming everything you're entitled to. You can find an adviser using the Advice Services Directory.

Work out your finances

The National Debtline produces a self-help pack you can use to record your incoming and outgoing finances and work out a budget. A specialist adviser can also help you look at your budget. Once you know what you spend each week, you might be able to find ways to reduce your expenditure. This might be possible by:

  • spending less on non-essential items
  • reducing payments to other debts such as credit cards or hire purchase goods
  • switching to a cheaper provider of electricity, gas or telephone
  • switching to a cheaper provider of car or contents insurance
  • taking in a lodger (provided your landlord gives their permission).

Make an affordable arrangement

Once you have worked out your finances, talk to your landlord and see if you can arrange to pay back your arrears over a period of time. Don't promise to pay back more than you can afford - you're better off arranging to pay back your arrears in small instalments over a long period of time, than promising to pay them back in a few large instalments that you then can't meet.

It's very important that you stick to any repayment agreement you work out with your landlord.

Get help to negotiate with your landlord

If you don't want to talk to your landlord yourself, or you are having difficulty agreeing on an affordable repayment arrangement, contact an adviser at Shelter, Citizens Advice or other advice agency. An adviser could talk to your landlord on your behalf. You will find contact details in the Advice Services Directory.

The important points

  • If you have rent arrears, speak to your landlord about how you will clear your debts.
  • It might be worth finding out about housing benefit and discretionary housing payments to help pay your rent or the debt.
  • Making an affordable repayment agreement that runs over a longer period of time is better than a small number of large instalments that you then can't meet.

Speak to a Shelter Scotland adviser

Call Shelter Scotland's free housing advice helpline

0808 800 4444
9am-5pm, Monday to Friday

Email an adviser

You can also email a housing adviser. We aim to respond within three working days.

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