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.

Check if you're entitled to benefits

Use the Turn2us benefit calculator

You’ll need information on your household’s:

  • income and savings

  • outgoings, such as rent

  • existing benefits and pensions

  • council tax bill

Get help managing your money

Services that can help with budgeting, applying for benefits, and debt:

COVID-19 Self Isolation Support Grant

You may qualify for a £225 single payment if you're losing income because you have to self isolate and you cannot work from home.

You need to apply for this grant through your local council. Check if you're eligible and find out how to apply for a Self Isolation Support Grant on

Work out your finances

The National Debtline has a budgeting tool 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, you may wish to consider mediation to settle disputes with your landlord. SafeDeposits Scotland has a free impartial resolution service which may be able to help you communicate with your landlord, for example on resolving rent arrears.

You also have the option of speaking to an adviser at Shelter Scotland, Citizens Advice or other advice agency to ask how they can help you. An adviser may be able to talk to your landlord on your behalf.

If you need housing advice, contact us for free.

Last updated: 27 May 2021

Housing laws differ between Scotland and England.

This content applies to Scotland only.

Get advice if you're in England