Councils and housing associations must try and help you deal with rent arrears before starting court action to evict you for rent arrears.
If you have rent arrears
Councils and housing associations should only use eviction for rent arrears as a last resort. They have to give you notice and get a court order.
Court rules called the Pre-Action Protocol for Possession Claims by Social Landlords set out what your landlord should do before taking court action.
Your landlord should:
- contact you as soon as possible
- help you sort out any benefit issues
- agree an affordable repayment plan with you
- postpone court action as long as you stick to a repayment plan
Initial contact from your landlord
Your landlord must contact you as soon as possible if you fall into arrears to discuss:
- the cause of the arrears and how you will repay them
- your financial situation including any benefit entitlement
They must provide rent statements every 3 months if you are in arrears and give you an accurate arrears total between statements if you ask for it.
With your permission, they should contact the housing benefit department or DWP to find out the reasons for any delays in payment.
They should also help you apply for a discretionary housing payment (DHP) if housing benefit or UC housing costs don't cover your full rent.
They shouldn't start eviction proceedings if:
- you've provided all the evidence to claim one of these benefits
- you're likely to qualify for the benefit
- you're paying any rent shortfall that won't be covered by these benefits
Agree an affordable repayment plan
Your landlord shouldn't take you to court if you stick to an agreed repayment plan.
You can make an agreement at any time, even if your landlord has given you notice or started court action.
You need to show that you can:
- pay your full rent
- reduce your arrears through regular instalments until they are paid off
You might need debt or money advice to work out what is affordable and help you manage other debts.
If you're a vulnerable tenant
You might be considered vulnerable due to a disability or mental health problem.
If you're particularly vulnerable or are under 18, your landlord may need to:
- consider whether court action to evict you could be discriminatory
- arrange for social services to carry out a care and support assessment
- ask the court to appoint a 'litigation friend' if you don't have the capacity to make decisions about the court proceedings
Notice from your landlord
Your landlord will give you a legal notice if they intend to start eviction action because of rent arrears.
If they give you notice, they should try to contact you again to discuss your arrears.
They should postpone court action if you agree to pay your current rent and a reasonable amount towards your arrears as long as you stick to this arrangement.
Speak to a housing adviser if your landlord gives you notice:
Find out more about free legal advice and representation if you're facing eviction.
Before a possession hearing
At least 10 days before any hearing your landlord must:
- provide an up-to-date rent statement
- tell you what court order they are applying for
- give you the date and time of the hearing and advise you to attend
- disclose what they know about your housing benefit or universal credit claim
Even at this stage, the court expects the landlord to postpone further action if you make an agreement to pay your rent and a reasonable regular amount towards the arrears.
At a possession hearing
You should tell the court if your landlord hasn't followed these rules.
The court can adjourn or dismiss the possession claim if your landlord is trying to evict you on a discretionary ground.
This applies to:
- secure council tenants
- assured housing association tenants (unless the housing association is using the mandatory Ground 8)
If the court has no power to dismiss or suspend the eviction action they can still order your landlord to pay costs if they've not tried to resolve the situation before going to court.
Last updated 26 Jun 2018 | © Shelter
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