Everything you need to know about rent arrears

If you’re looking for help with rent arrears, take a look at our guide and discover how you can get back on your financial feet.


Paying your rent each month is one of the most important bills you need to keep on top of in order to keep a roof over your head. Despite this, many people struggle to meet their rent payments and either fall into arrears or rely on alternative sources of funding, such as overdrafts, to make their payments.

If you’ve fallen into rent arrears or are struggling to pay your rent, take a look at our guide to find out more about what support is available and how to access it.

What are rent arrears?

If you’re in rent arrears, this simply means that you’ve fallen behind on your usual rent payments. If you find yourself in this situation, you’re not alone – our recent survey found that 13% of 25-34 year olds have missed a rent or mortgage payment too.

Being in rent arrears can put you in a difficult situation, as you will be at risk of eviction or legal action if you’re unable to pay back your arrears.

Why do people fall behind on their rent payments?

There are a huge number of reasons why you might fall behind on rent payments. This could be due to benefits changes, moving to a new area or a change in personal circumstances.

In our survey, the most common reasons for falling behind with rent were:

  • General living costs
  • Benefits payment gaps
  • Unexpected bills
  • Changing jobs
  • Prioritising other debts

Did you know? 1 in 3 people blame the Universal Credit payment gap for their rent arrears. Find out more about Universal Credit in our money guide.

What happens if you’re behind on your rent?

If you fall behind on your rent, there are a number of steps your landlord can take to reclaim the rent that you owe and remove you from their property. The steps your landlord can take depend on whether they rent privately or in the public sector..

Public sector landlords

If you’re renting in the public sector (such as from the council) and you fall into arrears, your landlord will generally have an obligation to help you to get back on a solid financial footing and repay your debts.

Your landlord should:

  • Contact you and try to arrange payment towards your arrears
  • Arrange for your arrears to be paid through your housing benefit
  • Help you claim for housing benefit
  • Not seek eviction if you can meet your rent payments and contribute towards your debts going forward

If none of these steps are successful, your landlord may take you to court, which could see you forced to pay back your arrears or being evicted from your property.

Private landlords

If you rent from a private landlord, they have less of an obligation to help you get back on top of rent arrears, so will normally take fewer steps to help you manage your debts.

The first step is to see if your landlord is willing to agree on an arrangement to pay back your debts. This could include paying back a set amount each week on top of your usual rent payments, or being allowed to pay back your arrears at a later date, provided you can meet rent payments going forward.

If you’re not able to come to an arrangement like this, your landlord may bring about an eviction notice, which means you have a legal obligation to move out of the property. The courts may also order you to repay your rent debts, but this will depend on your personal circumstances.

How to get help with rent arrears

Being in rent arrears is stressful and it can often feel like you have nowhere to turn. Luckily, there are a number of services and options available to you that can help you to get back on top of your rent payments.

Housing benefit

If you’re on a low income and struggling to pay your rent, you may be eligible to claim housing benefit. Housing benefit payments can go towards your rent, or pay it in full, depending on the amount you are eligible to receive.

You may be able to claim up to £429.53 per week in housing benefit, depending on your personal circumstances and the size of your house.

Find out more here.

Citizens Advice

Citizens Advice is a free and impartial source of advice if you’re struggling with rent arrears. Their advisors will be able to look at your individual circumstances and advise you on what help is available, as well as guiding you through the steps you need to take to get back on your feet as soon as possible.

Alternative sources of funding

Borrowing money from friends or family, or putting payments onto a 0% credit card are commonly used funding alternatives to meet rent or mortgage payments. However, it’s worth approaching credit cards with caution, as if you fail to make the minimum repayment each month, you could receive hefty interest bills or late payment fines.

Prepaid cards, debit cards and credit cards: What’s the difference?

Making sure you can afford your rent

There are a few easy ways you can make sure that you’re able to meet your monthly rent payments.

Before you move in

An easy way to calculate what monthly rent repayment you can afford is by dividing your yearly salary by 30. This will give you a reasonable monthly rent payment that you should be able to afford.

For example, if your yearly salary is £25,000, the maximum rent you should look for is £833 per month.

This is just a simple rule of thumb, so make sure to calculate a monthly budget to work out exactly how much you can afford.

Day to day

Making sure you can pay your rent each month relies on having a good budget plan in place – and sticking to it!

With an icount current account with prepaid Mastercard®️, you can only spend as much as you load onto it, which means it’s great for managing your day to day spending. Simply top up your card with your weekly budget, and with our text updates and online account management, you can easily keep track of your spending. There’s no chance you’ll dip into an expensive overdraft and break your budget with an icount basic current account.

Find out more about managing your day to day spending with our alternative to a high street bank account.

How icount can help with rent arrears

Not only can icount help you to manage your day to day budget, but it can help you to pay back your rent arrears too. By transferring a little money each month into your icount current account, you can quickly save up to pay back your arrears. As this basic current account isn’t connected to your bank account, you’re less likely to be tempted to dip into it and spend your savings. You’ll have your arrears paid back in no time!


To find out more about the icount current account with prepaid Mastercard®️, or to apply for yours today, click here.
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