If you are worried about rent arrears, it is better to act sooner rather than later to stop the situation getting worse. Don’t be embarrassed or scared as there is plenty of help at hand. You can:
- Talk to your landlord as soon as possible. Explain your current situation, and ask if a payment arrangement can be put in place to help you pay off the arrears over time. Put this in writing (email, text, or letters) in case this goes to court; this will show that you have tried to engage.
- Apply for a Breathing Space if you are worried about your debts. The Government Breathing Space scheme launched in May 2021 and gives applicants legal protections, debt advice, mental health crisis treatment, and help to design a plan to get them out of debt. Protections last for up to 60 days and you can include rent arrears on your application, meaning your landlord can’t evict you on grounds of rent arrears whilst the Breathing Space is in place. To obtain an ordinary Breathing Space you will need to speak with a debt advice service. To obtain a Breathing Space in relation to a mental health crisis, you will need to be supported by a mental health professional.
- Apply for Universal Credit (or alternative forms of support) to help you meet your housing costs if you are struggling with your rent due to a change in employment or a reduction in earnings. You can find out about the different forms of support available here.
- Access further support and advice by visiting Shelter, Citizens Advice or Money Advice Service.
- Contact The Bond Board, who can provide advice and support on evictions (section 8 and 21 notices), rent arrears, landlord relationship breakdowns, issues with Housing Benefit/Universal Credit or other financial struggles. To contact The Bond Board, you can call 01706 342 404 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Talk to the Council: The Strategic and Private Sector Housing Team (see contact details below) may be able to help by checking your benefit entitlement, exploring your payment options and opening up communication with your landlord. We will work with you (and your landlord) as far as possible to help you keep your existing home.
There is currently huge demand for Council housing – with over 10,000 applicants on the Council’s waiting list – and in the last year alone we have received 6,500 referrals from people facing homelessness. It is therefore crucial that we work with existing private tenants wherever possible to help to maintain tenancies and avoid preventable eviction action being taken.
If you receive a notice that your landlord is seeking repossession of your property, check that it is valid. Notices must be on the correct form, include the correct information, give the correct notice period, and your landlord must have met other requirements, such as securing your deposit, for a notice to be valid. Shelter and Citizens Advice both have handy online guides and checklists to help you determine if the notice is valid (see contact info below). A member of Wigan Council’s Strategic & Private Sector Housing team can also help.
If you receive notice of a pending court hearing for your eviction, you can contact Citizens Advice or Shelter to help you prepare for the court date. Shelter run the local Housing Possession Court Duty Scheme and can give you emergency same-day advice and representation if needed.
Illegal eviction or harassment
If you feel you have been evicted illegally or are receiving harassment from your landlord, please speak to us. We have officers at hand to help. If the harassment is making you feel unsafe you should report this to the Police too. Organisations like Shelter and Citizens Advice also provide free advice services, and can help you to explore your options and even help you to apply for legal injunctions against your landlord to allow you back into the property.
If bailiffs come to evict you, you must have been given at least 14 days’ notice. If a member of your household has Covid-19 symptoms or is self-isolating, tell the bailiffs as soon as possible, as they should not carry out the eviction in these circumstances.
- Citizens Advice Wigan
- The Bond Board
- Wigan Council Private Sector Housing Advice