Dealing with debt

Many people who have rent or mortgage arrears also have other debts that make it more difficult to pay their rent or mortgage. Details of organisations that can help you to sort out your debts are included on this website.

One way of increasing the amount you can pay towards your rent or your mortgage is to reduce the amount you are paying towards any less important debts that you have.

Important debts that you should try to pay first are called ‘priority debts’ while less important debts that should only be paid after priority debts are called ‘non-priority debts’.

By separating priority debts from non-priority debts you will be able to work out and ‘maximise’ how much you can afford to pay each week or month to reduce your rent or mortgage arrears. Some of the organisations included on this website can help you to do this and they may help you to tell the companies you owe money to why you will be reducing your payments.

The list below gives examples of priority and non-priority debts and when dealing with debt this can be used as a starting point to target where you need to spend your money first after you have paid for essentials such as food and clothing

Examples of priority debts

Priority debts are those debts where not paying could cause you the most harm or the biggest problems. For example not paying your rent or mortgage could cause you to lose your home.

The most common types of priority debt are listed below alongside the consequence of not paying:

Priority debt

What can happen if you do not pay
Mortgage Loss of home
Loan secured on home Loss of home
Rent Loss of home
Council tax Removal of goods by bailiffs / imprisonment
Fines, maintenance and compensation orders Removal of goods by bailiffs / imprisonment
Gas and electricity Disconnection
TV licence Criminal offence that could lead to a fine
Tax and VAT Seizure of goods or bankruptcy

Any debts that do not count as a priority debt are automatically classed as a non priority debt. Common non-priority debts are unsecured loans with banks and door-step lenders and pay day lenders. (‘Unsecured’ means your home has not been used as security for the loan).

Although not paying non-priority debts can cause problems (including court action to recover the debt) because these problems are not as serious as the consequences of failing to pay priority debts it is important to pay your priority debts first.