Can I be evicted if I fall into rent arrears?

November 4, 2019

If you’ve fallen into rent arrears, it’s possible that your landlord might try to evict you. There’s typically a clause in a tenancy agreement that enables them to take legal proceedings in the event of rent arrears, but they may decide to contact you first if you’ve previously been a reliable tenant.

Your landlord is under no obligation to arrange a new payment plan, however, and could simply begin eviction proceedings without paying attention to any underlying financial issues you may be facing.

What do eviction proceedings involve?

Landlords must follow a legal procedure before evicting you for non-payment of rent. The first step is to send you a written Notice to Quit, and the length of notice you receive depends on how long you’ve been renting from your landlord.

The landlord should state on the Notice to Quit the reason why they’re evicting you unless you’re in a periodic tenancy that’s on a rolling monthly basis, in which case they don’t need to include a reason.

What happens if you don’t leave the property?

If you ignore the Notice to Quit, or don’t leave within the timescale stated, the landlord could seek possession of the property via a court order. You can launch a dispute, however, by issuing your own Notice of Intention to Defend within 21 days.

Your landlord must follow due process to legally evict you for rent arrears. If they attempt to evict you via any other means, such as changing the locks, the eviction is illegal and the landlord could be prosecuted.

Avoiding rent arrears

Rent payments are a priority debt, which means there can be severe consequences if you don’t pay. If you know you’re going to struggle to pay your rent, therefore, you should contact the landlord as soon as possible.

They may be open to negotiating a repayment plan – finding new tenants can be an expensive and lengthy process so it may be in their interests to retain you as a tenant, especially if you’ve not missed payments in the past.

Seeking professional help is always a good idea when you’re struggling with priority payments such as your rent. Our experts at Northern Ireland Debt Solutions can assess your situation and present your best options for dealing with rent arrears. We offer free same-day meetings and work throughout Northern Ireland – just contact one of the team for more information.

Lawrence O'Hara

Insolvency Adviser

Tel: 028 2132 6269

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