If your rent is not paid, the money owed is called 'rent arrears'. Rent arrears are 'priority debts', which means the consequences of not dealing with them are serious - there is a risk of eviction.
Dealing with rent arrears
If you can't pay your rent, you have missed rent payments or you're worried your payments are not being made, sort things out as soon as you can. Even if you have other debts, make sure you prioritise rent arrears.
Things to do to help you get back on track:
- make a list of all your debts and put them in order of priority
- write down all your income and expenses - then see how much you've got to pay your debts
- work out how much you can afford to pay to each creditor (a person or organisation you owe money to)
- consider seeking advice from a debt advice agency such as National Debtline
- most importantly, talk to your landlord - try to reach an agreement about paying off the arrears, but don't agree to pay more than you can afford - one way to do this is through an agreed debt management plan
Remember that once your rent is being paid in full again, the arrears that have built up will still have to be paid off.
Arrears caused by Housing Benefit problems
Sometimes, rent arrears arise as a result of problems with claiming and processing Housing Benefit and other entitlements. If your Housing Benefit hasn't been paid, contact the Housing Executive to find out what's happening.
There could be a backlog, or the Housing Executive might need more information to deal with your claim. Do seek advice from your landlord or an independent adviser who may be able to assist you with making a claim; incomplete paperwork will hold up your claims.
Tell your landlord what's going on and keep any correspondence.
Help with paying your rent
If you're on a low income, or having financial problems, check if you qualify for any benefits - such as Housing Benefit or tax credits. You don't have to be out of work to claim benefits and you could qualify for more than one.
Even if you already receive Housing Benefit, if it doesn't cover your rent you may be able to get some extra money - called 'discretionary housing payment'. Contact the Housing Executive to see if you qualify.
You should also consider seeking advice from a debt advice agency, which should be able to advise you on how to maximise your benefits and about any additional benefits you may be able to claim.
They may also be able to assist you with filling out the forms and ensuring that any claims are not held up by incomplete paperwork.
What can happen if you don't pay your rent
Landlords usually have the right to seek a court order to evict you for rent arrears.
The rules about when and how a landlord may evict you for rent arrears differ according to the type of tenancy agreement you have. The type of tenancy agreement you have will depend partly on who your landlord is.
To find out more about how different types of tenancy agreement affect what happens if you don't pay your rent visit the links below, or seek free, independent advice.
Help and advice
You can get free, independent advice about rent problems from several organisations.
Housing advice centres
Housing advice centres offer help with all housing matters. They're run by local authorities or voluntary organisations.
Advice NI offers free, confidential advice face-to-face or by phone.