Rent arrears: social housing

Everyone has to pay something towards the cost of their home, even those who receive full housing benefit. Unfortunately, sometimes people stop paying and end up with rent arrears.

If you build up more than one week's rent or service charge arrears, you will be suspended from bidding for a new property on Choice Based Lettings.

If you do nothing about your arrears, you will be evicted. If this happens it is unlikely that Westminster or any other local authority will offer you alternative social housing.

Here's what you can do to avoid getting into debt.

1. Tell someone

Contact your local estate office and they will advise you what to do to solve the problem.

You might prefer to get independent advice from an agency such as the Citizen's Advice Bureau or Shelter.

The quicker you call, the easier it is to sort the problem out. Ignoring it will not make it go away.

2. Check you're claiming the right benefits

Often people end up in arrears because they do not claim benefits to which they are entitled.

If you are having difficulties with housing benefit, let your estate office know and they may be able to help.

3. Consider a direct debit

Setting up a direct debit to pay your weekly rent on time can keep you out of arrears. This way, you know you are always up to date and don't have to remember to pay each week. Speak to your housing officer if you would like to set this up.

4. Make an agreement

If you do have arrears, we will not expect you to pay them off in one go. It is usually possible for you to make an agreement to pay at an affordable rate.

If we see that you have been sticking to your agreement for some time, we can often un-suspend your application and allow you to bid for properties again.

5. Eviction prevention fund

Westminster’s Eviction Prevention Fund offers tenants of all landlords an interest-free loan to reduce or clear their rent arrears to prevent them from being evicted. The loan needs to be paid back in full in 1 to 3 years. The maximum loan is £5,000.

You'll need evidence of the threat of eviction, and that there is no other way to resolve the situation. Loans won't be made due to housing benefit delay or if housing benefit could be backdated. 

Anyone applying for a loan will need to have money advice from an independent money advisor.

You must be in priority need, defined by the 1996 Housing Act, or be in danger of rough sleeping if you are evicted.

To find out more about the fund, contact the Housing Options Service.


Last updated: 28 January 2016
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