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When everyone has a home

028 9024 5640: Housing & Debt Helpline for Northern Ireland

Covid-19 & Dealing with Rent Arrears

Picture of calculator sitting on top of bill

The coronavirus pandemic has had a devastating impact on all our lives.  As well as health concerns, many have been struggling with financial issues. It's important that people claim any financial help they can. The Make the Call service can help to identify benefits and entitlements you may be able to claim.

Many tenants have struggled to pay rent during the COVID-19 pandemic. Rent debt can lead to homelessness. It's really important to get advice as soon as possible if you owe your landlord money.

Advice for tenants who owe rent

You should contact Housing Rights if your landlord has written to you about your debt. We can check if you are getting all the help you should be. We can also help you negotiate a manageable plan to repay your debt.

Can social tenants be evicted for rent arrears during COVID-19 pandemic?

Social landlords should not evict someone if their rent debt is a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. But, a tenant could face legal action to recover their home if

  • they had rent debt before the COVID-19 pandemic, or
  • their rent debt was not caused by a change in circumstances related to COVID-19.

The landlord can repossess your home if you owe a lot of rent. This is called ejectment or possession. You will be asked to attend a virtual court hearing. Get advice as soon as possible if you get a letter asking you to go to court. Do not ignore this letter.

Can private tenants be evicted for rent arrears during COVID-19 pandemic?

Private landlords can start the process to evict a tenant if the tenant owes rent. Most landlords will try to work with the tenant before deciding to evict them.  Contact Housing Rights for advice. We can

  • check if you can get any extra help to pay your rent or rates
  • help you work out a repayment plan to deal with the debt
  • mediate between you and your landlord.

If your landlord decides to evict you, they must give you at least 12 weeks notice of the date you must leave. If you stay in the property after that date, the landlord has to apply for a court order.

At court, the landlord can ask the judge to

  • order you to leave the property,
  • order you to pay the money you owe, and
  • order you to pay the landlord's legal costs.

Please get advice if your private landlord decides to take you to court.

Evictions

You may have heard about a ban on evictions. This has happened in other places, but there is no ban on evictions in Northern Ireland.

A landlord can ask the Enforcement of Judgments Office (EJO) to enforce a court order. If you do not leave the property staff from the EJO can remove you from it.

Dealing with debt can be overwhelming, don’t feel as if you have to deal with it alone.  Contact Housing Rights for free, independent advice and remember that it’s never too late to ask for help.

Tagged In

Coronavirus, Affordability
This article was written on 16 April 2021. It should not be relied on as a statement of the current law or policy position. For help with housing issues please contact our helpline on 028 9024 5640 or use our online chat service at www.housingadviceNI.org.