IF you’re struggling to make your money stretch to cover your rent, it can be a worrying time.
But you’re not alone. Around 756,000 families in the UK were behind on their rent in January, according to think-tank Resolution Foundation.
Roughly 450,000 of these Brits were struggling to pay because of the impact of Covid.
If you’re one of these struggling households, then there are steps you can take to get help.
Speak to your landlord
If you know you are in a position where you can’t pay your rent, speak to your landlord as soon as possible.
They might give you more time to pay, or shrink your rent while you get back on your feet.
How to manage debt to help pay rent
IF you’re finding it difficult to manage your payments because you’re in debt, here are some tips for you to curb it:
Check your bank balance on a regular basis – knowing your spending patterns is the first step to managing your money
Work out your budget – by writing down your income and taking away your essential bills such as food and transport
If you have money left over, plan in advance what else you’ll spend or save. If you don’t, look at ways to cut your costs
Pay off more than the minimum – If you’ve got credit card debts aim to pay off more than the minimum amount on your credit card each month to bring down your bill quicker
Pay your most expensive credit card sooner – If you have more than one credit card and can’t pay them off in full each month, prioritise the most expensive card (the one with the highest interest rate)
Prioritise your debts – If you’ve got several debts and you can’t afford to pay them all it’s important to prioritise them. Your rent, mortgage, council tax and energy bills should be paid first because the consequences can be more serious if you don't pay
Get advice – If you’re struggling to pay your debts month after month it’s important you get advice as soon as possible, before they build up even further.
Groups like Citizens Advice, Money Advice Trust or StepChange can also help you prioritise and negotiate with your creditors to offer you more affordable repayment plans.
If you can’t pay your rent because of Covid, there are no rules that can make your landlord reduce your rent, according to Citizens Advice.
If your landlord doesn’t offer to be flexible with your rent payments, it's a good idea to pay as much as you can afford – and keep a record of discussions and payments.
Unfortunately, your landlord can evict you if you fall behind on payments.
But most evictions have been put on pause until after March 31, except for the “most serious” cases, according to the government.
For instance, courts will continue to prioritise cases involving anti-social behaviour, illegal occupation and perpetrators of domestic abuse in the social sector.
Help if you’re self isolating
If you’ve fallen behind on rent because you’ve been told to self isolate, you may qualify for a £500 payment which could help cover the cost of your rent.
Low income families who have been told to self isolate have until April to claim through their local council.
You can do this through applying on the gov.uk website.
Apply for benefits
You might be able to get benefits or grants to help you pay for your rent.
For example, if you’re eligible for Universal Credit, you can get help paying for your housing.
You could also get Housing Benefit through Universal Credit if you are on a low income with savings below £16,000, unemployed, or are on benefits.
You’ll need to apply for it through your local council.
If you’re still struggling to cover your rent with your Universal Credit and Housing Benefit payments, then you can apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP).
This is a pot of money your local council will have to help renters already on benefits who are in trouble with housing costs.
You’ll have to apply for this through your local council, which you can find here.
The council will asses your circumstances before deciding if you're entitled to the cash, how much you're able to get and for how long you'll receive the payment.
Reduce your council tax
You can also apply for a reduction in council tax to help cut your outgoings and make your rent payments.
The scheme could reduce your bill by as much as 100 per cent, but it depends on your personal circumstances such as where you live and whether you have children living with you.
Each council runs its own scheme, so the details vary by area – contact your local council for more information.
Get a grant
Some charities may give grants to help with covering housing costs.
Most grants do not have to be paid back.
Charity turn2us has a tool that can help you check out grants available near you on its website.
You’ll need to enter your postcode, your gender, and your age.
Are you on the cheapest tariff for your monthly bills? For example, switching energy suppliers could save you £300 a year.
Switching to a 0 per cent credit card could also reduce your monthly payments.
If you're not sure how to budget, MoneyAdviceService has a free budgeting planner you can use to keep your finances in check.
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