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At a glance: Find out what happens and what you can do if you get behind with your rent. 
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This summary is not relevant in England and Wales
For a version of this summary that covers England and Wales, please click here.

Why are rent arrears important?

Rent arrears are a priority debt because you could lose your home if you do not pay them. If you are behind with your rent, it is important to find out what your rights are and what your landlord can do. This can depend on the type of tenancy you have and when it began.

What can I do if I have rent arrears?

  • Find out what sort of tenancy you have. This will tell you what rights you have and what your landlord may do.  
  • Get a rent account statement from your landlord. This will show how much rent you owe. Make sure the landlord’s figures are correct. With some tenancies, the amount of arrears may affect your right to stay in your home. 
  • Keep paying your normal rent if you can. If you can’t afford the full monthly payment, pay what you can. 
  • Work out how much you can afford to pay toward the arrears and make an offer to your landlord. You can use our Digital Advice Tool to work out your budget. 
  • If you rent your home from a social landlord (such as the council or a housing association), they should make reasonable efforts to try to come to an arrangement with you before starting court or tribunal action. They must also give you information about where to go for advice. 

What if my landlord starts court or tribunal action?

Before your landlord can take court or tribunal action, they must write to you. The letter should give a date after which court or tribunal action can start. Getting one of these letters does not mean you have to leave your home. Contact your landlord straight away and try to reach an agreement. Keep paying your rent and what you have offered towards the arrears. 

If you cannot come to an agreement your landlord may ask the court or tribunal to start possession action. If this happens you will get paperwork from the court or tribunal and asked to attend a hearing. Even if the court or tribunal decides that you cannot stay in your home, you will not be evicted on the day your case is heard. Usually, you will still have time to look at your options and get advice.  

For more information on what to do if your landlord takes action in the  court or tribunal, look at these guides: 

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