Almost everyone will experience difficulties paying their bills at some point. If you are worried about falling into arrears or missing a payment of rent, you should talk to your landlord about the problem. Free debt advice is available from a variety of local advice agencies.
Falling into arrears
Once you fall into arrears with your rent, your landlord is entitled to begin legal proceedings to evict you from the property. Your landlord does not have to negotiate with you.
If you think you are going to be late with a payment, or you are unable to make a rental payment, talk to your landlord. If there is a good reason for the late or missed payment, the landlord may be sympathetic. Advance notice will mean that your landlord may be able to take steps to minimise the effect that a missed payment will have.
If you are experiencing financial problems, you need to take action. Talk to a local advice agency. The sooner you start dealing with your money problems, the more options you will usually have.
Get in touch with your landlord
Tell your landlord if you can't pay some or all of your rent. Your landlord is more likely to be sympathetic if you explain your problems. Your landlord may not start legal action to evict you if you can agree with your landlord how you will pay back the rent arrears.
Pay what you can
Pay as much as possible towards your rent even if you can't afford to pay it all. This will show your landlord that you are making an effort to deal with the situation. It also means the debt does not become too large very quickly.
It is worth paying what you can even if your landlord tells you that you must pay all of your rent. If your landlord refuses to accept your money, keep it in a separate account and keep offering to pay it.
If you have missed rent payments your landlord may let you pay back the money you owe over a period of time rather than in one payment. Try to agree an amount that you can afford.
Dealing with money problems
There are a number of local agencies and initiatives which can assist you with debt advice, including Debt Action NI, CAB. Housing Rights can help you with your debt problems if you are having problems with your rent, rates or mortgage. There are lots of government funded debt agencies in Northern Ireland, so you shouldn't have to pay for debt advice.
A money or debt adviser can help you get to grips with your finances and may be able to get your creditors to agree to a repayment plan that will allow you to pay off your debts in instalments. Sticking to a budget will give you a better idea of what you can and can’t afford.
Negotiating a payment plan
Although your landlord does not have to accept a repayment proposal, he or she may be willing to do this, particularly if you have been a good tenant or the proposal seems realistic and will allow you to pay off the rent arrears in good time.
To negotiate a repayment plan, you should first work out your full monthly income and your necessary monthly expenditure. Be realistic and make sure you allocate enough money to essentials, such as food, travel costs, heating and electricity bills. Once you’ve worked out your monthly income and expenditure, you should be able to see what is left over at the end of the month. Decide how much of this surplus you can dedicate towards clearing your rent arrears and write to your landlord to see if the proposal is acceptable.
If a money or debt adviser is working on your case, you might want to ask if this person will communicate with the landlord on your behalf.
Tenants who receive housing benefit can apply for a short-term, top-up payment, known as a Discretionary Housing Payment, if they are having difficulty paying rent in full each month. As these payments are discretionary, there's no guarantee that you'll get any extra housing benefit. You will have to convince the Housing Executive that you are experiencing significant financial difficulties. If you've been turned down for a Discretionary Housing Payment, get in touch with advisers at Housing Rights who may be able to help you challenge this decision.