When everyone has a home

Housing advice for Northern Ireland

Paying your landlord rent that you owe

The Housing Executive or housing association can use different methods to get the money that you owe.  If you're worried about the rent you owe, get help from a charity that provides money and debt advice. 

The earlier you deal with the problem, the easier it'll usually be to sort it out.  If your arrears are still quite small, you'll usually be able to agree an informal arrangement to pay the money back. 

Rent recovery procedure

Your landlord should notify you as soon as you have missed a rent payment or if you have paid the incorrect amount. They will send you a first warning letter to let you know that you have fallen into arrears and to ask you to contact them to discuss repayment.

Most landlords have a certain threshold for rent arrears.  If the amount you owe goes above this threshold you'll get a letter saying that the landlord is going to take legal action to recover this money.  The letter should explain what will happen if you don't pay the money you owe.  Your landlord could

  • try to get the money from you in Magistrates Court
  • try to get the money from you and evict you in the County Court
  • ask the Social Security agency to start deducting the money you owe from your benefits. 

Before starting legal action against you, your landlord should visit you in your home to discuss the problem and give you an opportunity to repay the amount voluntarily.  Getting advice on budgeting and money management could help you manage your budget and help you to pay off the money you owe. 

Repaying the debt voluntarily

Your landlord should try to talk to you in person about the debt and let you know how you can repay this money without having to go to court.  This could mean

  • repaying your debt in full,
  • paying some of the money in a lump sum and the rest in instalments,
  • making regular weekly payments on top of your rent,
  • setting up a voluntary deduction from your salary or benefits.

If you're in financial hardship, let your landlord know.  They can refer you to a specialist advice agency who can help you with your debts. 

Your landlord may not agree to a voluntary arrangement and may decide to go straight to court if

  • you have broken a previous agreement,
  • you refuse to hand over details of your income
  • you don't make a lump sum payment when it believes you can afford it,
  • you don't make a down payment when it believes you can afford it.

Compulsory deductions from your benefits or money owed to you

The Housing Executive will usually only use compulsory recovery methods if a voluntary agreement isn't possible or workable. The Housing Executive can ask the Social Security agency to make weekly deductions from any benefits you get until your rent is cleared.  The maximum that can be taken from your benefits is 

The Housing Executive can apply to get paid directly from the Social Security Agency. You will usually have to owe at least six weeks rent. The Housing Executive can only get £3.65 per week unless you agree to pay more or the deductions are being made because you committed fraud.

The Housing Executive can also deduct money from any payments it owes you, like a backpayment of housing benefit, a redecoration allowance or an intimidation grant. 

Going to court

If you can't work out a voluntary agreement, your landlord may decide to take you to court to recover the money that you owe.