Rent arrears and late payments

Speech bubbles with questions and answers

There are a number of reasons why your tenant may be struggling to pay their rent. If you are able to establish the underlying reasons, you may be able to help them address these issues by signposting them for advice, and appropriate help and support. Please find a guide to common problems below, with links to separate pages for your tenant. The tenant pages include embedded videos with optional subtitles in a number of languages. These pages can also be printed out as a PDF document and passed to your tenant if they do not have access to a computer or smart phone.

Contents

Helping tenants with financial difficulties

Helping tenants who have lost their job

Helping tenants with health conditions

Helping tenants who have become carers

Helping pregnant tenants

Helping tenants with relationship breakdowns

Helping tenants with energy bills

Financial difficulties

My tenant has rent arrears. They have been a really good tenant, but I need to pay my mortgage. What can we do?

  • Our Money Matters pages contain a wealth of information for those facing or in financial hardship.
  • Property owners can apply for mortgage repayment holidays up until 31st March 2021. Borrowers who already had or are on a repayment holiday can ‘top up’ for a total of six months. Borrowers who have already had six months of repayment holiday, can receive tailored support. You are also able to make partial payment holidays, if you pay something towards your mortgage.
  • Interest may still be charged during any repayment holiday period, but they will not be recorded as missed payments on your credit file.
  • Further information is available at Money Saving Expert.
  • The following lenders have online application portals, but we suggest seeking independent advice before applying:
    • Bank of Scotland
    • Barclays
    • Coventry Building Society
    • Halifax
    • HSBC
    • Lloyds
    • Nationwide
    • NatWest
    • RBS
    • Santander
    • TSB
    • Virgin Money
    • Yorkshire Building Society

Job loss

My tenant has lost their job. How are they going to cover the rent?

  • Your tenant may be able to claim benefits if they are unable to work. Further information, and guidance on claiming, can be found here.
  • If your tenant is on a low income they may be eligible for Council Tax Support.
  • Discretionary Housing Payments are awarded by the council to those that need help with their rent where housing benefit, or Universal Credit does not cover the full amount, and where a tenancy is at risk. Accordingly your tenant can apply if they are claiming Housing Benefit or Universal Credit with housing costs towards rent liability
  • If your tenant has a child/children they may be eligible for free school meals. All children in year 1 and 2 are entitled, but older children can receive free dinners if their parent(s) receives income support, income-based job seekers allowance, or income-related employment and support allowance.
  • There are number of national and local organisations that offer impartial advice and guidance for those that are out of work and seeking employment, including developing and gaining appropriate knowledge and skills, searching for training and work opportunities, and preparing for interviews. Further information can be found here.

Long term ill health and disability

My tenant has a new long term/chronic health condition and cannot work. They have now fallen behind their rent. What help is available?

  • They may be entitled to statutory sick pay.
  • They may be able to return to work with reasonable adjustments made by their employer.
  • If they feel they have been unfairly dismissed by their employee they can take them to a employment tribunal.
  • Your tenant is disabled under the Equality Act 2010 if they have a physical or mental impairment that has a ‘substantial’ and ‘long-term’ negative effect on their ability to do normal daily activities.
  • There is a wide range of disability-related financial support available, including benefits, tax credits, payments, grants and concessions. There are number of local organisations that can assist with applications.
  • Their partner or family member may be entitled to claim Carers Allowance. They could get £67.25 a week if they care for them at least 35 hours a week.
  • Please signpost your tenant to our information page on tenants with long term health conditions and disabilities.
  • Section 20 Equality Act 2010 (EA 2010) creates a requirement to make reasonable adjustments for disabled people. Sch 4 EA 2010 states that only the landlord or manager of a rented property has the duty to make reasonable adjustments, but this includes the owner of a property, an estate agency or management company.
  • Under s20 EA 2010, the landlord must take reasonable steps to avoid any provision, criterion or practice, or any physical feature which puts a disabled person at a substantial disadvantage in comparison with persons who are not disabled. In addition, reasonable steps must be taken to provide any auxiliary aid necessary to ensure that a disabled person is not at a substantial disadvantage in comparison with persons who are not disabled. In practice, once a landlord becomes aware of a tenant’s disability, the key obligations placed on landlords are:
    • to change policy or practice, including the terms of the tenancy agreement. For example, a term saying pets are not allowed in the property could be changed to allow a disabled person to have an assistance dog
    • to provide additional aids or services. An example may be supplying a tenant with a copy of their tenancy agreement in a format that is more suited to their needs, such as easy read or braille.
  • However, landlords will not usually have an obligation to make structural changes which would substantially and permanently alter the property. For example, there is no obligation to remove walls, widen doorways or install permanent ramps, or to carry out any change that would alter the physical features of the property.

Carers

My tenant has given up work to care for their child/partner. How are they are going to keep up with the rent?

Pregnant tenants

My tenant is now pregnant, and a single mother. How is she going to afford the rent?

  • Depending on their circumstances, your tenant may qualify for statutory maternity pay, or maternity allowance plus Universal Credit and Council Tax Support
  • Once they register the birth they will be able to make a separate claim for Child Benefit. They will also be able to update any other benefit agencies and their entitlements and payments will be reviewed accordingly.
  • They may decide to make a child maintenance arrangement with the father of the child
  • If it their first pregnancy, they can apply for the Sure Start maternity grant
  • Many parents are concerned they cannot afford to return to work after maternity leave because of childcare costs. In fact doing at least 16 hours of paid employment (single person) or (couple) will lift the benefit cap, and they may be able to claim back up to 85% of their childcare costs through Universal Credit.
  • Register child minders (Ofsted approved) are often cheaper than nurseries
  • All 3 to 4 years olds in England are entitled to 570 free nursery hours per year.
  • Your tenant might be able to obtain free clothing, food, and other items from local charities and organisations
  • Please signpost your tenant to our helpful page Pregnancy /becoming a new parent.

Relationship breakdowns

My tenants have ended their relationship and they are separating. I am happy to assist them, but I don’t know what their rights are, and I am concerned the remaining tenant will not be able to afford the rent.

Energy bills

My tenant states their energy bill is far too high, and they are struggling to keep on top of their rent and overheads. What help is available?

  • Your tenant can save energy around the home by making some small changes, such as only filling the kettle with what they need. Further hints and tips on saving energy.
  • Residents on means tested benefits can apply through their energy supplier to have loft and cavity wall insulation installed to help maximise the energy efficiency level of their property.
  • You may want to suggest they change supplier or get a fixed tariff. There are number of useful websites they could explore for suggestions and guidance. More information on Reducing Energy Bills.
  • Your tenant may be eligible for a Winterwatch referral. This is a fuel poverty scheme designed to help vulnerable families stay safe and warm during the coldest parts of the year. Help available includes:
    • Discussions with energy suppliers.
    • Advice on energy usage, easy to fit, insulations.
    • Discussing smart meters
    • Setting heating timers
      The scheme is open to council, private, owner occupiers and housing association residents based within the Reading Borough.
      If you are deemed vulnerable and there are clear signs of fuel poverty, for example you are reluctant to put the heating on, there are signs of damp and mould, or your tenant is experiencing financial hardship, a professional can make a referral on their behalf by emailing Winter.watch@reading.gov.uk or calling  0118 937 3747
  • If your tenant was born on or before 5th October 1954, they may be able to apply for a Winter Fuel Payment. This is an annual one-off payment to help them pay for heating during the winter. They may be eligible if they receive any of the following:
    • Pension Credit
    • Income Support
    • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
    • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
    • Universal Credit
  • As a home owner you could apply for a Green Home Grant. You could get up to £5,000 or £10,000 to help cover the costs of energy efficient improvements to your home. The government will provide a voucher towards the cost of installing energy efficient and low-carbon heating improvements to homes in England. The voucher will cover up to two-thirds of the cost for homeowners and landlords, and up to 100% of the cost for low-income households.
  • Please signpost your tenant to our helpful Reducing Energy Bills page.