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How to Handle Rent Arrears

By: Garry Crystal - Updated: 12 Apr 2010 | comments*Discuss
Rent Arrears Landlords Evictions Tenants

Property rent is known as a priority expense whether it is a private let, council tenancy or housing association. There are different ways to handle rent arrears, and one of the biggest factors will be the attitude of the landlord.

Rent Arrears are Priority Debts

Rent arrears are known as priority debts and becoming seriously behind with rent payments can be a serious matter. The ultimate consequences to rent arrears can be eviction and a bad credit record. A bad credit record will make it very difficult to obtain private and housing association property rentals in the future. Walking away from rent arrears does not cancel them out, and the landlord can sue the tenant to recover money owed to them.

Rent Arrears and Court Orders

The biggest worry with rent arrears is usually the threat of eviction. Landlords cannot just throw their tenants out if they are in arrears. Landlords will require an eviction order from the courts before eviction can take place. There are differences between private landlords and council or housing association tenants, and the tenancy contract types. But it is a criminal offence to evict a tenant without a court order.

Steps to Handling Rent Arrears

Negotiating as early as possible with landlords is the best way to start dealing with arrears. Tenants should actually inform landlords if they known that they are going to miss or be late with rent payments. Tenants should give the landlord a valid reason for the lateness or missed payments. Avoiding landlords will do nothing to either allay their fears or put them in a mood to negotiate. In most cases landlords will become more annoyed if they are required to constantly contact the tenants over the missed payments.

Negotiating Over Rent Arrears

Finding a solution to the rent arrears situation should temporarily put a landlord’s mind at ease. Landlords may be agreeable to tenants paying the arrears in instalments on top of the monthly or weekly rent. If this is an agreeable solution then the tenant should ask that this agreement be made in writing. Obtaining a signed notification will mean there are no misunderstandings further down the line. An instalment schedule should be adhered to in order that arrears do not build up again.

Landlords Who Refuse to Negotiate

Some landlords will simply refuse to negotiate and will either demand payment or threaten eviction. It is however a criminal offence for landlords to harass tenants into leaving a property. Tenants do have many rights depending on the tenancy they hold. But if court proceedings are taken to evict and recover rent then the tenant may actually be liable for the court costs.

Obtaining Advice and Help on Rent Arrears

Tenants who are unsure of their rights should contact advice organisations such as the Citizens Advice Bureau. Other advice organisations will include Shelter, National Debtline and Housing Advice centres. All of the information and advice will be provided free of charge from these organisations. Many of these organisations will contact landlords and try to negotiate on behalf of the tenants. They will also know the full rights of the tenants depending on the tenancy type that is applicable.

Never Avoid Landlords or Rent Arrears

Walking away from a rent arrears situation may seem like the easy option but it is not usually the smart option. Landlords can sue tenants to recover their money and this may mean a court appearance. Even if a tenant has walked away from a property they can still be held liable for the outstanding payments on the tenancy contract length. This means that arrears will effectively build up even when the tenant is not actually living in the property. Tenants should always give notice of when they intend to quit a property.

It is never a wise idea for a tenant to bury their head and hope a rent arrears problem will go away. Most reputable landlords will usually be willing to negotiate when it comes to rent arrears. Coming to an agreement means landlords do not have to trouble themselves with court orders and evictions. Advice is always available for those in debt due to rent arrears and this help should always be taken.

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