Advice column August 2019 I am renting and have an assured shorthold tenancy. I have been struggling to pay the rent for a few months. I am working full time but my wages aren’t enough. I am only just managing with my other bills and spending. Now I am falling behind on my payments and I am worried about losing my home. What can I do to stop this from happening? It’s good you’ve looked for help. This is the first step to staying in your home. Rent arrears, like council tax debt or mortgage arrears, are a priority debt. Non-payment can cause serious problems, such as losing your home. If the landlord says they plan to evict you, have served you with an eviction notice, or you have letters from court, get advice urgently. Go through correspondence from your landlord. Compare payments you’ve made to the amount of arrears due, to make sure the numbers agree. Speak to them about why you’re struggling with your rent. Create a budget by adding up your essential living costs, such as food and energy, and take these away from your income. Use the Citizens Advice budgeting tool and benefits calculator to see if you can increase your income. Try to find cheaper deals on your energy, phone and broadband. Put any spare money towards your debts. If you’re able to pay off some of the arrears, your landlord may agree to a payment plan, enabling you to pay smaller amounts. Be clear and realistic about your budget. If they don’t agree a plan, or if you feel unable to negotiate alone, go to Citizens Advice. The payment plan should be written down and signed by the landlord. They can’t evict you without going to court. But if you do get evicted, ask the council for help with housing and benefits. Contact them immediately, they can help you stay in your home. There is information available on the Cheshire West and Chester council website about what help you might be entitled to and where to find help. For help with your budget, negotiating a rent payment plan, or eviction advice, contact your nearest Citizens Advice. You can get free confidential advice from Citizens Advice Cheshire West by visiting your local office in Northwich, Chester or Winsford Monday to Friday 9am and 4pm, and in Ellesmere Port Monday to Friday 9am - 2pm. No appointment is necessary. Or, phone 03445 76 61 11 Monday to Friday 10am-4pm. Copyright Citizens Advice. For the most up-to-date advice, please visit our Citizens Advice public site.