What to do if your flatmate can’t pay their rent

What to do if your flatmate can’t pay their rent

author: Sarah Neate

By Sarah Neate

Are you responsible for the mortgage? Perhaps you live with a friend or partner and you’re both paying rent to a landlord but you find yourself paying their share. Whichever situation you are in, you might be wondering how to deal with it best.

Talk to your flatmate

The last thing you should do is ignore the problem. Try to have a conversation with the person who isn’t paying their rent. Perhaps they haven’t realised that they missed the deadline. Maybe they feel embarrassed that they can’t pay the rent. If they’re struggling financially - for example if they were recently made unemployed - then you could encourage them to look into what benefits are available. For example, depending on their circumstances, they may be able to apply for Universal Credit, which could help them pay their rent.

Regardless, calmly try to find out if there is a problem and see if you can come up with a solution between the two of you. If this is a bigger issue that you can’t deal with on your own, then you may need to take it a step further.

If you share accommodation and have a private landlord

Check your contract to see what liability you have. Joint tenancy agreements mean all tenants are equally responsible for paying the rent. If you have a joint agreement, then the other tenant/s are equally responsible for covering the full rental payments. If the rent is not completely covered then you risk being evicted under the terms of the contract.

If it’s not a joint tenancy agreement, then each tenant should only be responsible for their share of the rent. Check your contract carefully, speak to your landlord and seek legal advice if you need to. If you want to know about your rights you can contact Citizen’s Advice, who will be able to give you some information on tenancy agreements.

If your partner can’t pay their rent

Money worries can often put a strain on a relationship. To prevent this from happening you’ll need to communicate clearly with your partner and do it as soon as they stop paying their share of the rent. Maybe they think being in a relationship excuses them from always paying the rent. If you don’t agree with this then you both need to have an open discussion. Remind them of their obligations, but be supportive. Maybe they just need a few weeks to get the money together. It is up to you whether you are happy to accept this from time to time.

Claiming back rent from your flatmate

If you had to cover someone else’s share of the rent and you don’t think you’ll be paid back, all is not lost. You may be able to go to the small claims court. Speak to the person involved and tell them of your intentions first, and how a claim could affect them. If they still refuse to pay then seek advice about how to ‘make a court claim’. There’s no guarantee this will work in your favour and it could cost more than you’re owed. If you decide to go down this route check the cost implications and likelihood of succeeding.

The bottom line…

If your flatmate or partner can’t pay their rent, the first thing to do is talk to them. Be understanding and work out if this is a temporary problem or not. If you have a contract, make sure you understand the terms and conditions.

Be firm. Before you make any big decisions, speak to your landlord or your mortgage provider. You should always aim to get the problem resolved sooner rather than later. If you leave it, you could end up facing rent arrears and potentially, eviction. For more help and advice, contact the Citizen’s Advice Bureau. They’ll be able to offer you free, unbiased advice.

Read here for information on how you can take out a loan if you're a tenant. 

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What to do if your flatmate can’t pay their rent What to do if your flatmate can’t pay their rent