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Dealing with rent arrears

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Tel: 023 8028 5222

How the council deals with tenants who fall into rent arrears

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The council is reliant upon rental income to pay for the services that it delivers to its council tenants. If rent arrears increase it does have a definite effect on the services that council tenants receive. For that reason it is critical that rent arrears levels are kept to the minimum.

Falling into arrears

If a tenant falls into arrears the council is sympathetic and will permit repayment of those arrears by instalments. However, the most important thing is that a person falling into arrears should make contact with their rent officer (contact details above).

If arrears continue to rise or remain unpaid

The council can only assist in solving the problem if the tenant contacts us to let us know what the problem is. If arrears continue to rise, or attempts are not made to clear the arrears and the council can see no prospect of that changing, then the council does have to take those tenants to Court.

At the Court the council will normally ask for what is termed a 'Suspended Possession Order'.

This is where the Court orders that the tenant must pay their rent (and service charges if applicable) and a small amount per week, fortnight, or month off of the arrears. Tenants are encouraged to attend Court, should they be summoned. Even at this stage the council would much prefer to have the problem of the arrears resolved rather than have the tenant evicted.

Repaying arrears where Court action has been taken

If a person has a Suspended Possession Order against them the council must know if the tenant encounters any difficulty in making payments. We will exercise some discretion, rather than just seeking to evict.

Regrettably, there does come a time when the council appears to be faced with no alternative but to evict a tenant. This is very much a last resort and it is not an action taken lightly by the council.

Where an eviction occurs

If a person is evicted they do have a right to make an appeal to the council as being homeless. Whilst every case has to be dealt on its merits the council may well argue that if a person had the ability to pay the rent, but did not do so, then they may be considered to be 'intentionally homeless' and the council would have no obligation to re-house them. That would apply even where there are children in the household.

For this reason it is very important that tenants deal with arrears issues at an early stage and the rent and arrears recovery team are always happy to give help and advice at any stage where there is an arrears problem.

Arrears after leaving a dwelling

When a person leaves a council tenancy they become known as a 'former tenant'. If there are arrears at the end of the tenancy the council will continue to pursue these. In practice, this may mean summonsing the former tenant to Court to get an order for payment.

However, the addition of court costs against the former tenant makes this an expensive option for the former tenant.

In practice, we would much rather negotiate repayment by instalments if clearing the debt in a single payment is not possible. As always, it is important that people contact the rent and arrears recovery team to discuss these issues so that a mutually convenient solution can be negotiated.

Updated: 4 Sep 2018
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