18 Sep 2021

Help with rent arrears and problems with paying your rent

If you can’t pay your rent, don’t ignore the problem. Talk to your landlord as soon as possible. Whether the problem is caused by a change of circumstances, a budgeting difficulty or a cut in benefits, you can take some important steps to help get yourself back in control and avoid eviction.

Talk to your landlord

If you’re struggling to pay your rent, the first thing to do is speak to your landlord, or housing association.

It’s understandable you might be afraid of explaining you’re going to be late with the rent.

But it’s far better to get the issue out in the open before you actually fail to pay up.

When you speak to your landlord:

  • explain why you’re going to be late with the rent and ask for some extra time
  • be clear about what you’re doing to address the problem to help ensure it won’t happen again.

Identify the problem and work out a plan

In some cases, it’ll be obvious why you have a problem.

Perhaps your income or expenses have suddenly changed for the worse.

For example, because you’ve lost your job, or your partner has moved out and stopped contributing to the rent.

In other cases, it might simply be you’re living beyond your means. Either way, you’ll need a plan.

Being repeatedly late with your rent might lead to eviction and a bad reference from your landlord, which will make it difficult for you to find another property to rent.

Your landlord might also withhold some of the deposit to cover underpaid rent if you still owe money when you move out.

Making a budget can help you find out where you’re spending your money and where you might be able to cut back. If it’s likely to be a long-term problem, getting help right away might be the best solution. Before matters get out of control.

Reducing your monthly expenses

Cutting back can be difficult, but it won’t be as painful as being evicted from your home.This is why it is vital you act now – ask yourself the following questions:

  • Can you ditch any of your regular monthly expenses or cut back on any luxuries?
  • Are you on the cheapest tariff for all your monthly bills?
  • If you have credit card debt, can you switch to a 0% credit card and save yourself some interest payments?
  • Are you spending too much on going out or new clothes? It’s far more important to be able to pay the rent?

Boosting your current income through benefits


If your circumstances have changed and your income has fallen as a result, you might be able to claim benefits to help you pay your rent, such as the housing element of Universal Credit.

But your Universal Credit payment might not cover all your housing costs. This is more likely if you’re living in private rented housing.

If this happens you might be able to claim a Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) from your local council to cover the shortfall in rent.

You can only claim a DHP after you have received your first Universal Credit payment. You can also claim DHP if you’re claiming Housing Benefit.

To help you prepare before you get your first payment, a Help to Claim adviser can help you work out whether your Universal Credit payment will cover all your rent. If it doesn’t, you can make a claim for a DHP to your local council if you need one.

Where to get free help and advice

If you want to talk to someone about how to deal with your landlord, you can contact Shelter or Citizens Advice, or Housing Advice NI in Northern Ireland.

These organisations will also be able to talk to you about what entitlements you might be able to claim to help pay your rent if you’re on a low income.

If you’re already in arrears with your rent or are struggling with debts, talk to a debt adviser as soon as possible.

You don’t have to worry alone.

If you’re being threatened with eviction

If you’re being threatened with eviction as a result of rent arrears, follow the links below to check your options and rights.

It’s important to also get debt advice as soon as you can.


This article is provided by the Money Advice Service.

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