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 universal credit.

If you are already claiming universal credit or 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.

How to check if you're entitled to benefits

Turn to Us has an online benefit calculator. You can use this to check if you are entitled to any extra money. It can be useful to have information with you about any money you have coming into your household already and what your monthly rent payments are before you use this tool.

Citizens Advice Scotland and Money Advice Scotland can provide money advice and welfare benefit checks and other financial support information.

Scotland’s Financial Health Service Advice offers lots of useful information about money and finances and has helpful links to services by council area.

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).

How to work out your budget

National Debtline Scotland has an easy to use online Budgeting Tool which you can use to work out your monthly budget.

It can be useful to have all the details of what money you have coming into your home along with details to hand of your rent, bills and any other expenses when you use this tool.

The tool allows you to save a copy and/or print out the information for later use.

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. Try to get any agreement in writing.

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 Scotland, Citizens Advice or other advice agency. An adviser could talk to your landlord on your behalf.

If you need to talk to someone, we’ll do our best to help. Get Help

Tenant Hardship Loan Fund

The Tenant Hardship Loan Fund is directed at people in both social rented and private rented housing who don’t qualify for other help. You will need to pay the loan back. Before you consider applying for a loan, you should check to see if you could be entitled to other non-repayable help towards your rent. This is likely to be a better option for you than a repayable loan.

However, the loan might be an option if:

  • you know that your drop in income is only temporary – and if you are confident that your money issues will improve soon

  • your money issues are already better, but due to a previous drop in your income during the pandemic, you’ve accrued some arrears and your worried your landlord might try to raise eviction action

You can find out information on our page Tenant Hardship Loan Fund.

If you need to talk to someone, we’ll do our best to help. Get Help

Last updated: 11 December 2020

Housing laws differ between Scotland and England.

This content applies to Scotland only.

Get advice if you're in England