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How to deal with existing Rent Arrears

How to deal with existing Rent Arrears

Dealing with existing rent arrearsIf you are already in arrears with your rent it is important that you take action immediately and get your financial situation under control so you can start paying on time from now on and start repaying the arrears that you owe.

This may sound like a tall order but it is vital that you do something as  if you allow your rent arrears to continue getting worse then your landlord will eventually have no option than to apply to the Court to evict you from your home.

Ultimately you will need to speak to your landlord and agree a repayment plan with them. However before you do this the first thing you need to do is make a plan which will allow you to get back in control of your financial situation.

Make a plan which will enable you to pay your rent on time

There could be two reasons why you are struggling to pay your rent. Firstly your income may have recently fallen and secondly your other living expenses or debt repayments have increased or have become out of control. Given this there are three key things you can do to get back to a position where you can pay your rent on time and start to repay your arrears.

1. Improve your income
Clearly improving your income is easier said than done as it is unlikely that you can simply do out and find a better paid job. However you may be able to increase your income in other ways such as claiming for benefits that you did not know you were entitled to.

2. Reduce your other expenditures
Once you have considered your income it is always worth having a close look at your living expenses budget to see if you can make savings elsewhere. However if you are already struggling financially this is also not going to be easy.

3. Reduce your other debt payments
The cause of your rent arrears problem could well be that you are prioritising paying debts such as credit cards and payday loans over your rent. Where this is the case using a debt management solution will reduce the debt payments you have to make and free up cash to enable you to pay back your rent arrears.

More detailed information about these options is available here: How to avoid rent arrears

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Solving rent arrears problems with private landlords

Most rental agreements with private landlords are based on what is known as an Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreement. If you have over eight weeks rent arrears under one of these agreements then it is important to start paying off your arrears as soon as possible.

If you do not start paying your ongoing rent on time and make an agreement repay your arrears your landlord can make an application to the Court to evict you. To prevent this you will need to speak to your landlord about the issues you are facing.

When you talk to your landlord the most important thing to remember is that they will want to understand how you will repay your arrears. As such you should be prepared to explain the plan you have put in place to free up the money you need to pay your normal rent from now on. You should then ask for time to repay the arrears you have based on the amount you have budgeted for.

Most private landlords will agree to a sensible plan like this particularly if you are a good tenant in other ways (for example taking good care of the property). If the landlord believes that you will maintain the rent from now on then letting you stay is probably a better prospect than asking you to leave and looking for a new tenant who many not look after the property so well.

Any agreement with your landlord should be written down and signed by both of you. You should then make sure you maintain the agreed plan. If you do not they will probably take legal action to evict you.

BMD Tip: You can try and come to an arrangement to pay off your rent arrears with your landlord at any time even if you’ve already received papers saying that your landlord is taking you to court.

What if your landlord refuses to agree with your repayment plan?

If your landlord will not agree the repayment plan you have offered do not allow yourself to be bullied. Private landlords are not allowed harass you or take other action like cutting off your gas or electric supply to try and force you to pay more quickly. If your landlord threatens or bullies you in any way you should get help from an expert housing adviser at the CAB (Citizens Advice Bureaux).

BMD Tip: Even if your landlord disagrees with your repayment plan you should always make sure that you start to pay your ongoing rent in full and the amount towards any arrears that you have offered anyway. This will give you an advantage if the landlord still takes you to court.

Solving rent arrears problems with social landlords

Social housing landlords include local authorities and housing associations. Normally these organisations will have a formal policy for resolving rent arrears problems. If you do not know what this is you should contact your local Council or Housing Association and ask for a copy.

However in addition to their own policy social housing landlords have to follow Government endorsed rules called the rent arrears pre-action protocol. This means there are certain steps they need to follow before they can take legal action against you to try and evict you.

1. Try to come to an agreement with you to pay what you owe.
The first thing you will need to do is discuss with your landlord the plan you have decided upon to get yourself in a position where you can now pay the ongoing rent on time and make regular payments towards the arrears that you owe.

Your landlord will give you a sensible time to repay your arrears based on an amount you can afford to pay each month given that you have a sensible financial plan.

2. Offer to help you to claim Housing Benefit
If you are working but on a low income or you are not working and in receipt of certain other benefits such as job seekers allowance or income support you may qualify for housing benefit meaning that some or all of your rent will be paid on your behalf.

If you’re the tenant of a social housing landlord they should not start court action to evict you if you have already made a claim for Housing Benefit. You must be able to show that you have given your local authority all the evidence they need to process your claim, and there is a good chance that you will qualify, and you are able to maintain other utility payments that are not covered by Housing Benefit, for example water charges which are included in your rent.

If your social housing landlord has not followed this pre-action protocol properly you should make sure the judge knows this if you are taken to court. The judge will take this into account when they decide what court order to make.

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