Tenants in arrears - your legal rights

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The most important point for anybody in rent arrears is not to ignore the situation because they risk losing their home if they do not pay what is owed.

There are ways to prevent being evicted for rent arrears and the first task is to contact the landlord or letting agent and try to make an arrangement to pay the arrears.

However, before contacting anyone, a tenant needs to confirm exactly what they owe and that it matches what the landlord/letting agent is claiming. It is vital that a landlord records a tenant’s rent payments accurately, in some cases it may be that they have missed a rent payment from their records and are therefore saying that you owe rent in error.

Rent arrears – am I liable?

A tenant could find that when they take over a tenancy from another person, a landlord may try to charge for rent that has been missed. You are not liable for rent payments of previous tenants.

Also, if you are not the tenant - that is you did not sign the tenancy agreement - and live with a person who did sign, then you are not the person responsible for the rent arrears.

Assured shorthold tenancy rent arrears

A tenant who has signed an assured shorthold tenancy (this is the type of tenancy most tenants sign) needs to understand that a landlord cannot simply announce they are being evicted for rent arrears - they will need to follow a procedure which involves them obtaining a court order.

It is against the law for a landlord to demand a tenant leaves a rental property without obtaining a court order first. The process of a landlord getting a court order is called seeking possession and they must notify their tenant in writing before doing so.

Once the notice period has expired, then the landlord can apply for a court order which will be called a possession order. If this is granted then the tenant must leave on a set date.

Rent arrears and the eviction process

If the tenant does not leave by the date given on the possession order, then the landlord will need to get a 'warrant of possession' which is a way to enable bailiffs to evict a tenant and their possessions from the property.

It is important to note that should the tenant be living in the same property as their landlord, the landlord will not need to get a court order for eviction.

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