Eviction is one of the ‘worst-case’ scenarios feared by many tenants who cannot afford to pay their rent or who have fallen behind in their rent payments. Whilst eviction for rent arrears is not uncommon, it is not a foregone conclusion that you will be evicted if you fall behind on your rent payments.
Rent arrears commonly build up after a change in financial circumstances. These can include the loss of a job, a change in benefit payments, a relationship breakdown or being hit by an unexpected bill.
The main message when dealing with rent arrears is to ensure that whatever happens, you do not bury your head in the sand. Rent arrears issues are often resolvable, and the best way to approach falling behind on rent is to be open and honest with your landlord.
When can I be evicted?
If you have fallen more than two months behind on your rent payments then you are at risk of an eviction for unpaid rent. In such circumstances your landlord is entitled to take you to court in order to force you to pay the money you owe, this is called seeking a ‘money judgment’. In addition to recovering money owed, your landlord could also seek a court order evicting you from the property; this is called a ‘claim for possession’.
If you are in rent arrears then eviction is not a foregone conclusion. Many landlords are open to negotiation in order to design an affordable repayment programme. This may require a reduced rent for a short period, with an increased rent later on to cover arrears.
How can I avoid eviction for rent arrears?
Your landlord is under no obligation to provide such an agreement, so it pays to be open, honest and timely when dealing with rent arrears. Check with your landlord the exact amount you owe. You can ask for a rent statement if you are unsure about payments and missed payments.
Be sure to check whether your tenancy agreement includes a clause permitting your landlord to charge you interest for late payment of rent or bills. This is an important additional cost that could add further debt to your situation.
The most important solution to rent arrears is working out a sustainable way to pay the rent in future and to pay back money owed. This might involve reducing your other outgoings, or taking a second or third job to earn more money.
I have offered my landlord money but they just want me out
Sometimes a landlord may use rent arrears as an excuse to force through an eviction, even though you have offered to pay the money owed back. In such circumstances you should seek legal advice from the Citizens Advice Bureau, Shelter, or a solicitor. Courts will only evict you if it is reasonable to do so, so if you are offering the landlord money to cover any arrears then an eviction would seem more unreasonable.
What if I have a live-in landlord and they wish to evict me?
If you have a live-in landlord then they can simply ask you to leave their property and this constitutes an eviction. Your live-in landlord does not need a court order, and can simply ask you to leave providing they give reasonable notice.
It is worth noting it is a criminal offence for your landlord to use force to remove you from their property.