Pay the rent

In this article:1 Introduction2 If you can’t pay on time3 Housing benefit4 Can you withhold rent for lack of repairs or other responsibilities4.1 Eviction due to non payment of rent5 Landlord’s responsibility to repair and maintain the property5.1 When a landlord refuses to do repairs6 Changes to your rent7 Where to get help Back to […]

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All tenants need to pay their rent in order to continue to live at a property and failure to do this means you are in breach of your contract. This is your single most important responsibility !

You must pay the agreed rent no matter what, even if repairs are needed or you are in dispute with your landlord.

The terms of setting rent, changing rental amounts and non payment of rent are all covered in The Housing Act 1988 and these can be checked, should you need to.

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If you can’t pay on time

TTV understands that there can be times when you are unable to pay your rent and if this happens, it is essential that you speak to your landlord or agent as soon as possible.

Depending on your method of payment – direct debit, bank transfer, standing order, cheque or cash you might be granted a few days extra to make your payment. You need to be aware that this extra time is at the discretion of your landlord or agent and they are not obliged to agree with your request.

If you know you cannot meet your monthly rent, and, there is no way to acquire the money in a few days after the payment date, you need to negotiate with your landlord. Landlords will definitely appreciate the fact that you’re trying your hardest to solve the situation.

Perhaps paying the current month in installments will be an acceptable resolution, provide you continue paying rent as normal in the months following.

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Housing benefit

Maybe you’re entitled to housing benefit. Since 1st April 2008 anyone can apply for housing benefit, even if you are renting from a private landlord, or letting agent. You need to be aware the housing allowance that you could be entitled to can vary. Only the most severe cases get their rent fully covered by the housing benefits. That’s typically the disabled, single parents, or similarly deprived people.

However, you might be able to get some contribution to your rent and combined with other benefits like low income benefits, heating benefits and other government programs, you can drastically reduce your expenses.

You can use our detailed pages on Whether you’re eligible for housing benefits ? and How to claim housing benefits ? for more information on this topic.

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Can you withhold rent for lack of repairs or other responsibilities

Absolutely not. Withholding rent, might seem like a good way to pressure your landlord into taking action, but it is absolutely the worst thing to do, regarding your own position.

If you are waiting for repairs or you are in dispute with your landlord or letting agent about any other issues you must still carry on paying your rent as agreed. Whilst you might think that you are well within your rights to withhold rent you will be breaking the terms of your agreement.

If you’re renting using a standard Assured Shorthold Tenancy, which most private landlord use, there is no justification for not paying rent. On the contrary, stopping your rental payments for two months would automatically grant your landlord a possession order from the court, which will be used in your eviction in an accelerated manner.

Eviction due to non payment of rent

Typically, when you don’t pay rent for more than a week after the date is due, or you straight out refuse to pay rent, for whatever reason, your landlord will initiate steps to evict you.

You will first be served a Section 21 Notice to quit. It is a notice that gives you two months of time, before the landlord can obtain a possession order from the court. It can be served without the landlord justifying their decision. There are rules when it cannot be used.

When two months pass and you have not made a rent payment still, the landlord can activate both the Section 21 notice and use an accelerated procedure in the courts to obtain a possession order, AND, use one of the mandatory grounds for obtaining a possession order automatically (no defense for tenants), which is the tenant not paying rent for two or more months.

Either will grant them a possession order, but having both in place will guarantee them the fastest route. At this point, they can summon the council bailiffs to act upon the possession order and physically expel you from the property.

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Landlord’s responsibility to repair and maintain the property

Landlords and letting agents must make sure that properties are safe and fit for habitation which means that any repairs must be dealt with quickly. As a tenant it is your responsibility to know which repairs are the responsibility of your landlord and which are yours.

You can check how repairs responsibilities are regarded in our dedicated guides:

If repairs are needed you must inform your landlord or agent as soon as possible and allow them time to make them. Obviously if you have an emergency these repairs must be a priority and your landlord must act quickly.

When a landlord refuses to do repairs

If your landlord won’t make necessary repairs, they are breaching the terms of your tenancy agreement. You can use the following procedure to ensure repairs are made in your property:

  1. Report the damage / need for repairs to your landlord. Do it in writing ! Give them a reasonable amount of time to respond.
  2. If failed to respond, or responded unsatisfactory, send a second letter outlining the problem and notify them you’re going to seek help from the local council.
  3. Contact the Housing Department of your local council who will be able to give you help and advice and even authorise the repairs without your landlord.

It is possible for tenants to organise repairs themselves and deduct the costs from future rental payments. You must follow a very strict procedure and it’s only really applicable to repairs worth no more than £300.

Please, seek additional help before going through the below procedure. Conducting the following, without legal help can result in you paying for repairs, which are not refundable (legally).

  1. Report the damage / need for repairs to your landlord. Do it in writing ! Give them a reasonable amount of time to respond.
  2. If failed to respond, or responded unsatisfactory, send a second letter outlining the problem and notify them you’re going to implement the repairs yourself.
  3. Get several quotes for fixing the problem and send them to your landlord.
  4. Arrange the work to be done. Take before / after photographs and send them, along with the receipts to your landlord.
  5. Write a final letter, confirming the deductions.

Note: Doing this without consulting a legal professional or your local council can have a negative outcome.

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Changes to your rent

You might have a rent increase and while landlords and letting agents are perfectly entitled to do this, there are rules that regulate when and how it’s done. The rent increase may not exceed a reasonable amount, which is largely dictated by the local market.

The landlord or letting agent is required to renew your tenancy agreement with the updated rent, which you need to sign, before the increase comes into action.

In most cases you must have one month’s notice of this change, if you have pay weekly or monthly. If you have a yearly tenancy you will need six months notice.

Tenants with a fixed term tenancy who don’t agree with rent changes will only have their rent altered at the end of the fixed term.

Tenants with a periodic tenancy (one that rolls from week to week or month to month) can only have one rent increase per year and this must also be agreed. Rent increases must be realistic and fair and fall in line with similar rental prices of properties in the local area.

If you feel that your rent or rent increase is too high you can dispute this with the Rent Assessment Committee who will look into what you are being charged and decide if you have a case or not.

For more information, please check out our specialised guide – Rent increases and Section 13

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Where to get help

If you need help on this matter the Shelter website has plenty of practical advice that you can refer to. You can also get advice from Citizens Advice who can assist you with all aspects of renting properties.

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This article is provided as a guide. Any information should be used for research purposes and not as the base for taking legal action. The Tenants' Voice does not provide legal advice and our content does not constitute a client-solicitor relationship.

We advise all tenants to act respectfully with their landlords and letting agents and seek a peaceful resolution to problems with their rented property. For more information, explore the articles in our All advice category.

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