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Breathing Space from your debts

Breathing Space is a new scheme to help those struggling with debt. This includes help if you have rent or mortgage arrears. A breathing space can give you the time that you need to sort out your debts without the added pressure of action being taken against you.

What is the Breathing Space scheme?

The Breathing Space scheme freezes payment demands and legal action by creditors to allow you to get free quality debt advice. It prevents the person or organisation that you owe money to from taking action against you whilst you are receiving help under the scheme. A breathing space is an opportunity for you to get a handle on your finances without the stress and worry of increasing debt and scary letters.

The Breathing Space scheme is sometimes referred to as The Debt Respite Scheme.

There are two types of breathing space:

Standard breathing space

This can last up to 60 days.

During this time you’re expected to work with your debt adviser to find a longer term debt solution.

You can’t apply for the standard breathing space yourself, it can only be started by a regulated debt adviser or your local council (if it provides debt advice to its residents).

If you’ve already had a standard breathing space in the last year, you can’t get another one.

Mental health crisis breathing space 

A mental health crisis breathing space can be put into place if you are receiving treatment for a specified mental health crisis. The breathing space can last as long as your treatment, however long this may be, plus 30 days.

To qualify for the mental health crisis breathing space, an approved mental health professional must apply and confirm you’re receiving crisis treatment.

During the breathing space you are not expected to keep in touch with the debt adviser but they will stay in contact with your approved mental health professional with a view to finding a longer term solution to your debts.

The form and guidance for mental health professionals to apply for a mental health crisis breathing space is here. There is no limit on how many times you can enter a mental health crisis breathing space.

How can a breathing space help me with my rent or mortgage arrears?

Once your landlord or mortgage lender has been made aware you’ve entered into a ‘breathing space’ they must:

  • stop contacting you about payments to the arrears
  • freeze interest, fees and charges on the arrears
  • pause any enforcement action through the courts, debt collectors or bailiffs.

This means that during the period of the breathing space:

  • landlords cannot serve notice on you or evict you for rent arrears. For example, if you are an assured tenant, your landlord would not be able to serve a notice on you based on any of the rent arrears grounds
  • mortgage lenders cannot take legal steps to make you pay the arrears or repossess your home.

A breathing space would not stop a landlord giving notice or taking eviction action for other reasons or grounds, for example, anti-social behaviour. It would also not stop a landlord using the section 21 ‘no fault’ eviction process for assured shorthold tenants.

Contact a Shelter Cymru adviser if you have received any paperwork from the court or your landlord.

You can also view our step by step guide to possession proceedings.

Your landlord can still contact you during the breathing space period about anything not related to the rent arrears. For example, arranging repairs or inspections for electrical or gas safety checks.

Do I still have to pay my rent or mortgage during a breathing space?

Yes. Breathing space is not a payment holiday.

Even if you can’t pay anything to your rent or mortgage arrears, you still need to pay your ongoing rent or mortgage during the breathing space. If you do not pay, your landlord or mortgage lender can ask that your breathing space be cancelled.

When your breathing space ends you are still legally required to pay what you owe.

If you are having deductions taken from your benefits or wages, these will stop while you are in your breathing space.

How do I ask for breathing space?

To qualify for a breathing space there are certain criteria you need to meet. Speak to a debt adviser or, if appropriate, your mental health worker who can go through this with you.

If a standard breathing space is set up it is important you stay in contact with your debt adviser, follow their advice, provide any information they need and report any changes.

If you don’t they may cancel the breathing space.

Be wary of debt management companies that charge for their services. Some may use the words ‘breathing space’ in adverts or on websites but could be offering debt management plans that you pay for instead.

Further information and how to get help

If you live in Carmarthenshire, Gwynedd or Swansea contact one of our debt advisers for an appointment to discuss applying for a breathing space.

Other charities or organisations that may be able to help are:

Visit the money saving experts Free debt advice guide for a longer list.

Phone an adviser

If you have a housing problem, call our expert housing advice helpline
08000 495 495

Email an adviser

If you have a non-urgent problem and would like to speak to an advisor
email us

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This page was last updated on: May 26, 2021

Shelter Cymru acknowledges the support of Shelter in allowing us to adapt their content. The information contained on this site is updated and maintained by Shelter Cymru and only gives general guidance on the law in Wales. It should not be regarded or relied upon as a complete or authoritative statement of the law.