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How to deal with rent arrears

If you’ve missed any rent payments, you'll be in a type of debt called rent arrears.

Always prioritise paying back your rent arrears before other debts, like credit cards or payday loans.

Your landlord must give you a chance to deal with your debt before trying to evict you. There are steps you can take to deal with the arrears and prevent eviction.

Step 1: talk to your landlord

It's important to contact your landlord as soon as possible. If you show that you're willing to improve your situation and pay back the debt, it's more likely you can stay in your home.

Tell them:

  • why you’ve fallen behind on rent

  • what steps you’re going to take, such as applying for benefits or getting debt advice

  • when you think you'll be able to start paying back the arrears

Keep your landlord updated about your circumstances, and keep copies of any letters or emails you send.

Step 2: work out what you can afford

Before agreeing to rent arrears repayments, check if you can increase your income and reduce your costs.

You could get:

The Citizens Advice Money Map tool can help you find other sources of money help.

Use National Debtline's budgeting tool to work out your monthly budget and how much you can afford to pay back.

Get help to pay rent arrears

If your benefits do not cover your full rent costs, apply for Discretionary Housing Payment from the council. This can sometimes be backdated to help pay off rent arrears.

There might be other local funding that can help with rent arrears. Ask the council if they have any funds or grants that could help you.

Find your local council on

Get debt advice

A debt adviser can help you:

  • make sure you're getting the right benefits

  • get grants to pay back the arrears

  • make a budget and reduce your costs

  • talk to your landlord

Check where to get debt advice

Step 3: agree on a repayment plan

You can negotiate with your landlord to pay back the rent you owe over time. Your landlord must make an effort to come to an agreement with you.

Tell your landlord how much you can pay back each month, even if it’s only a small amount. Do not agree to repayments that you cannot afford to stick to.

Get any agreements in writing so there are no misunderstandings later.

Use our letter template to ask for a repayment plan

Keep paying the amount you’ve said you will, even if your landlord does not agree to this. It can be easier to prevent eviction or to get a new home if you show you’ve been trying to pay back the arrears.

Your tenancy agreement might say you'll be charged fees for late rent payments. Any fees must be reasonable, and you can negotiate to pay them back over time along with the arrears.

If your landlord wants to evict you for rent arrears

Your landlord cannot force you to leave for having rent arrears. There's a strict legal process they must follow.

They must give you a chance to deal with the arrears before starting eviction action.

Then they must send a valid eviction notice, and apply to a court or tribunal for an eviction order.

The court or tribunal will look at your circumstances and decide if it's reasonable to evict you. For example, they'll consider:

  • how much you owe

  • why you got into arrears

  • any actions you've taken to deal with the arrears

  • if you've stuck to any repayment plan you agreed

  • how being evicted would affect you

Check our advice on eviction for rent arrears

If you need more affordable housing

Ask the council for a housing options interview. They have a duty to help if your home is not affordable and you're at risk of eviction.

They should look at different options for you, such as:

If an eviction order is granted, you'll be legally homeless, and the council must help you. Check our advice on making a homeless application.

Last updated: 16 February 2024

Housing laws differ between Scotland and England.

This content applies to Scotland only.

Get advice if you're in England