In the latest of our regular Advice Clinic blogs for landlords and tenants, lettings director Marc von Grundherr looks at what tenants can do if their circumstances change and they are finding it difficult to pay their rent.
There are many reasons for falling behind with the rent but losing your job and becoming unemployed is probably the most common. If this happens to you, the first thing you should do is contact your landlord or your letting agent. If you get in touch with us immediately and tell us what has happened, there are several things we can do to help you.
For example, if you are still working but money is tight, we can talk to the landlord and arrange for you to pay your rent later in the month, after you have been paid.
Alternatively, you may have been out of work for a while and have now found another job but have fallen into rent arrears which you cannot afford to pay off in one go. If this happens, we can liaise between you and the landlord in order to agree a regular payment plan. We can help you work out a budget and calculate how much you can realistically afford to repay each month, so that you can pay back the arrears gradually over time.
The important thing to do if any problem arises is to get in touch with us quickly so that we can find a solution before rent arrears build up. Most landlords are understanding and recognise that unforeseen circumstances can occur. Usually, if the financial problems are temporary, they would prefer to retain a good tenant who has so far been reliable, and reach an amicable agreement as long as you do everything you can to repay the arrears. Non-payment of rent can cause real problems for landlords though. They will often have a mortgage on the property so if there is a problem, they need to know as soon as possible so they can do what they can to cover the shortfall.
Talking to us as soon as you know you have a problem will also avoid the formal procedure we follow if a tenant does not pay the rent and gives us no explanation. If this happens and we cannot get in touch with you, we email, text and send formal letters every seven days. If you do not pay within 28 days and we have been unable to contact you, we usually recommend the landlord instructs a solicitor to serve a Section 8 notice, applying for possession of the property and recovery of the rent arrears. By talking about the problem before it gets to this stage, we can hopefully avoid this unpleasant scenario.
The problem is more complex if you simply cannot afford to continue paying the rent on the property in the longer term – perhaps if you have found a new job but at a lower salary than previously. If you have a guarantor, you could speak to them to see if they can help you pay the rent. The landlord can pursue them for your rent arrears if they cannot reach a solution with you.
If the problem is long-term, the best solution is usually a mutual decision to end the tenancy early and for you to move out of the property into a more affordable home. Most landlords would prefer this too as it allows them to find a new tenant as quickly as possible. Ending the tenancy early will of course involve administration costs and you will have to agree a plan with us to repay any arrears – but it avoids the need to go to court which is always a last resort and one we try and avoid if possible.
If both landlord and tenant try and understand each other’s point of view, at a stressful and difficult time for both, it is usually easier to reach an amicable solution.
View all posts by Marc von Grundherr