Rent Arrears

For a number of reasons including job loss, relationship breakdown, welfare reform, paying other less important debts first, people can get behind with their rent payments or are struggling in one way or another to keep up with them.

Keeping up payments towards rent will normally be a top priority expense as failure to do so will usually mean that your home will eventually be put at risk.

If you have problems paying your rent you should contact your landlord as soon as possible and try to reach an agreement / arrangement (see below for examples)

You may wish to look at ways of increasing your income and check any benefit entitlement as a way of helping with your overall finances / rent payments etc.

If you fall behind with your rent payments and ignore the situation or cannot come to a suitable arrangement with your landlord then they may commence possession proceedings to evict you from your home.

Pre-court action

Before landlords can take court action they must send you a formal notice letter, this is called Notice Seeking Possession or Notice to Quit (example section 21) which will name the date that your landlord is asking you to leave by / after. If you receive one of these it does not mean that you have to leave home before, on or after the given expiry date, but it will allow your landlord to then formally apply to court to start possession / eviction proceedings.

Social landlord rent arrears pre-action protocol

Social landlords such as Local Authorities (councils) and Housing Associations should follow special rules called a rent arrears pre-action protocol. This means there are certain steps that they have to follow before they can take you to court for rent arrears.

Court hearing papers

If you do not contact or cannot reach an agreement with your landlord and he / she has followed the correct procedures as briefly described above then they may take you to court for possession / eviction.

If your landlord starts possession proceedings then you will be sent a claim form by the court informing you of the time and date of a hearing and this will include a form called particulars of claim, this will set out your landlords case for gaining possession of your home. You should also receive an N11R defence form which should normally be filled in and returned within 14 days, however the court should still accept your defence at any time before, or even as late as the day of the actual hearing (please note if the N11R defence form is returned after the 14 day period, the court may order you to pay any costs caused by the delay).

(Always check whether the information is accurate on the court forms you receive.)

Possession Claim Online (PCOL) is HM Courts & Tribunals Service's Internet based service for claimants and defendants.

Preparing for the court hearing

If you cannot come to an arrangement then on the day of the court hearing the District Judge will ultimately make a decision..

If you wish to stay in your home then you will need to defend the hearing and put forward sensible and sustainable offers / proposals to the court for the District Judge to consider (examples below)

You may need to put together a Financial Statement to take to court to show the District Judge that your offers are sensible and sustainable (see our Budgeting and Debt Calculator) or get independent advice and assistance with this and court representation if necessary.

It can also be very useful to take to court any other evidence to back up your case such as housing & other benefit claims, proof of wages, benefits. tax credits, other income, recent rent payments, landlord correspondence, evidence of health problems etc, proof that you have had advice.

Please note: there are mandatory grounds such as ground 8 for rent arrears which basically means (depending on circumstances) the District Judge will not have any real discretion to make a decision. If in any doubt on mandatory grounds get immediate specialist advice and assistance.

If your home is in disrepair (counterclaim)

If your landlord has not carried out repairs that are a landlords responsibility, you may be able to use this as a defence in court if a rent arrears possession ground is being used. This type of defence is called a 'disrepair counterclaim'.

Sometimes the court can offset rent arrears against damages a tenant could claim for a landlords failure to carry out repairs. To use this defence you must have told your landlord about the disrepair. You should get specialist advice as soon as possible with a disrepair counterclaim as you may need an experts opinion as the process can be a complicated area.

If you did not realise that you could use the disrepair issue until late on in your case it is still worth telling the District Judge at the hearing as the court may give you time to get advice and evidence.

Accelerated possession procedure

Landlords sometimes use the accelerated possession procedure to gain possession of a property which is different to the standard possession procedure. There are also rules regarding tenancies where application of the accelerated possession procedure is concerned. If your landlord uses or threatens to use the accelerated possession procedure, see here.

What will happen at the court hearing?

It is important that you should attend any court hearing allowing yourself ample time to arrive at the court.

You and / or your representative will normally have the chance to consult / negotiate with your landlord / their solicitor / agent / housing officer and may be able to come to an agreement with your landlord before the actual hearing takes place.

Attending the court hearing will give you the chance to state your side of the story and could give you a better chance of staying in your home.

If you do not already have a solicitor or an agency adviser to represent you, there may be help available at the court via the duty solicitor / adviser desk scheme. You should contact your local court before any hearing date to establish if they operate a duty scheme if appropriate.

The hearing will be held at court before a District Judge who will consider the information and evidence provided by both sides (the landlord (claimant) / representative and by the tenant / you (defendant) / representative) before making a decision.

What kind of orders can the judge make?

(his may depend on the type of tenancy (private and social) that you have.

If you fail to reach an agreement with your landlord and / or do not attend court then it is very likely the District Judge will make an order for possession in your absence. If the District Judge does make a possession order (for example 28 days) then this does not mean you have to leave the property after the 28 days have expired as your landlord will still have to apply for a warrant of eviction.

If the District Judge makes a suspended possession order on terms (example full rent plus a monthly amount to clear the arrears) you must maintain payments as ordered by the court, as failure to do so will very likely result in your landlord asking the court to issue a warrant for eviction which can be done without another hearing.

If you experience problems maintaining payments on a suspended possession order, do not ignore the situation and let arrears build up, contact your landlord / seek immediate advice.

Warrant for eviction

If your landlord obtains a warrant of eviction you will get a copy / letter from the court bailiffs informing you of the time and date that the eviction will take place, usually approx 10 to 14 days after warrant issue.

If you receive a warrant as above (or for any reason) you may still be able to stop / suspend the eviction by submitting form N244 to he relevant court (fee payable unless exempt via form ex160) requesting an adjournment or suspension on evidence / proposals / reasons. On receipt of the N244 form the court will grant you a hearing time and date (before the actual eviction time) and likewise inform your landlord.

At the court hearing the District Judge will consider the evidence / proposals and make a decision as to whether to adjourn the hearing / suspend possession or order the eviction to take place. If the eviction is ordered to take place you could try asking the court for more time to allow you to get re-housed.


If all your efforts to remain / stay in your home fail, you will be given an eviction time and date as already explained. This is really the end of the road and unfortunately on the named day the bailiffs will attend and evict you, forcing their way into your home if necessary (with a police presence if needed).

Getting re-housed

If you are faced with eviction and no hope of stopping or suspending a warrant you will need to look for alternative accommodation as soon as possible. Many people believe that their Local Authority (council) will re-house them when facing eviction. This is not true in all cases due to the intentionally homeless rule or if you are not classed as a priority need.

If you are facing the possibility of possession / eviction or homelessness for any reason contact your Local Authority (council) as soon as possible and ask what they can do for you with regard to re-housing.

You have rights with regard to a homeless interview and there is a homeless code of guidelines your Local Authority (council) should follow with regards to re-housing and the intentionally homeless rules etc. Make sure you know your rights and if in doubt or you are not happy about any decisions etc seek independent advice as you may be able to challenge them.

Illegal eviction

There can be problems with landlords trying to evict tenants without following the proper procedures and in extreme cases using harassment and threats which can be a worrying and distressing experience for those concerned A landlords right to get their property back from a residential tenant can normally only be enforced through the court (see links below for more detailed information)

If you are being harassed and believe that your landlord may evict you illegally, or have already been evicted, you can ask your Local Authority (council) for help and advice. It is usually the Local Authorities (councils) housing or environmental health departments that can help / advice you about your rights. They may employ someone to deal specifically with issues and problems relating to private tenants, such as a tenancy relations officer, housing or homelessness prevention worker.

Useful Links

Other useful information on rent arrears / management

Free independent advice

If your home is at risk and you have any doubts or not sure about anything seek immediate independent specialist advice from a free recognised agency / solicitor (examples below)

Be Prepared Before Getting Advice

It will greatly assist advisers and could save valuable time if you gather together as much information as possible before any interview.

This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site, you are agreeing to our use of cookies.
X What does this mean?