Get In Touch

I’ve Fallen Behind On Rent, What Is My Landlord Allowed To Do Now?

With the rising cost of living, many tenants are struggling to keep up with their rent. This blog gives an overview of what your landlord can and cannot do if you do fall into arrears.

What might my landlord do?

If you owe your landlord rent, they may consider asking you to leave and if you do not agree, they may begin possession proceedings in court. The most important thing to understand is that you do not need to leave a property until there is a bailiff’s warrant with an eviction date. Before this step, your landlord must first serve you with a valid notice and then apply to the court for a possession order. Only once the possession order expires can they apply for a warrant.

If you have an assured shorthold tenancy (AST), then your landlord may consider using the Section 21 process. This is a so called “no fault eviction”. There are a number of things that your landlord must do to serve you with a valid Section 21 notice, but if these are done, then the notice will be valid and the court will issue a possession order. Some Section 21 proceedings go ahead without a court hearing. You do not need to be in arrears to be evicted in this way.

There is another form of possession, called Section 8 “possession proceedings”, which are available to all landlords, including social housing providers. Landlords are able to issue a Section 8 notice on the basis of rent arrears. In some cases they may seek possession on the basis that the arrears are above two months’ rent; this is a “mandatory ground”, which means the court has to make a possession order if they are satisfied that the arrears are owed to your landlord and total above two months. The court may also order you to pay the arrears to your landlord.
If you agree to leave, your landlord may deduct any outstanding arrears at the end of your tenancy from your tenancy deposit. If you owe further arrears at the end of the tenancy, they may try to legally pursue you for arrears by making a claim against you in the county court. During your tenancy, your landlord may apply to the DWP for a direct payment of rent to be deducted from your benefits and a payment towards your arrears.

What can they not do?

There are certain things your landlord cannot do, whether or not you owe them any rent. For instance, they must respect your quiet enjoyment of the property and must not harass you.

The following are examples of behaviour from landlords which would likely be unlawful and may also be criminal offences:

  • Letting themselves into the property without notice;
  • Being abusive and threatening you;
  • Changing the locks when you are not in or removing you from the property;
  •  Threatening to forcibly remove you from the property without following the proper process;
  • Taking your belongings;
  • Cutting off the utilities to the property.

Being in arrears does not affect your rights as a tenant to be protected from harassment and unlawful eviction. If your landlord is engaging in any of the above behaviours, please seek assistance as soon as possible.

What can I do if I have arrears?

The first step is to try to address the problem that has led to your arrears. If this is due to a gap or delay in benefits payments, you may be able to get a back payment of benefits. You may also be eligible for a payment of Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) from your local council (whether or not they are your landlord). You can access debt and welfare benefits for advice and a good place to start would be your local Citizens Advice Bureau.

You can also try to reach an agreement to pay your arrears to your landlord in monthly instalments through a payment plan. This can either be paid by you on top of your rent or you may be able to arrange a direct payment from your benefits if you would prefer. If you make such a plan, it is best to get this confirmed in writing.

You should also consider whether you have a claim against your landlord which would allow you to negotiate with them to write off your arrears. That might include if you have disrepair in the property or if your landlord has failed to protect your deposit properly, both of which may mean you are due compensation. If you think you have a counterclaim in possession proceedings, you should seek legal advice straight away.

When to get legal advice

Please contact our housing team specialists on 0330 822 3451 if your landlord is harassing you, has unlawfully evicted you or if you have received a warrant for eviction or a court hearing date.

Further Reading