We have a firm but fair approach to rent arrears. Rent arrears are priority debts, which means the consequences of not dealing with them are serious - there is a significant risk of losing your home. Even if you have other debts, make sure you pay your rent arrears first.
If you cannot pay your rent or are going to miss payments, please contact us immediately. Support and advice on the Cost of Living challenge can be found at www.sholland.gov.uk/CostOfLiving. We're here to help - this is a difficult time for all. We have a Cost of Living Response team to help tenants adjust and manage their finances. Please do not suffer in silence.
Managing your money
Most importantly, please talk to us to reach an agreement about paying off the arrears. It is important that you don't agree to pay more than you can afford. If you are being affected by a loan shark, please contact us to get advice.
If you are experiencing financial difficulty, you may find the following advice helpful;
- Create a budget by making a list of all your debts and put them in order of priority. Priority debts are rent, council tax and TV licence. Write down all your income and expenses - then see how much you've got to pay your debts. Work out how much you can afford to pay to each creditor (a person or organisation you owe money to)
- Seek advice from a debt advice agency such as the National Debtline website or Citizens Advice.
- Consider ways to reduce your outgoings - www.payplan.com/budgetsmart has some useful tips
Managing rent arrears
Having rent arrears will prevent you from;
- purchasing the property through the Right to Buy scheme
- swapping the property through a mutual exchange
- accessing the housing register
- assigning your tenancy.
If you fall into arrears or repeatedly pay your rent late, we may apply to court for possession of your home. We will make attempts to contact you by letter, phone and home visit. It is your responsibility to work with us to stop any further action. If you fail to work with us to resolve your rent arrears, we will have no choice but to take legal action against you.
We adopt the following procedure;
- Notice of Seeking Possession - This is the first legal step, this gives 28 days for you to contact us and make a payment agreement. If you keep to this agreement there will be no further action. If you do not keep to this agreement, after the 28 days we will contact you to inform you of our intention to apply to court.
- Application to court - you will be notified of your court date. We strongly advise you to attend this hearing. If you make an agreement and keep to it before the court date, we may ask the court to postpone the possession order on the terms of the agreement. Upon application to court you are likely to be liable for the costs of this application - this is currently £325. We may also ask the court for a Money Judgment Order - this is a form of County Court Judgement (CCJ) and will affect your ability to access credit and source new housing. The judge will make a decision on what order they grant.
- Court order agreement (known as a Suspended Possession Order) - if you keep to this agreement, we will take no further action. If you breach this court order, we will apply to the court for a date to take possession of your home.
- Application for warrant - this is where we will ask the court to grant SHDC possession of your home. There will be further court costs of £121 charged to you. A date will be set with the court bailiffs, you will be notified of this date. You will be required to leave the property on this date and give up vacant possession.
- Arrears after eviction - you will still be responsible for any rent arrears owed to SHDC after your eviction. We will continue to pursue this debt and a Money Judgement Order will be submitted to court.
We will always work with you to try to resolve your arrears at any stage of this process. It is important that you speak to your housing officer. It is important to note that we may not have an obligation to provide you with permanent housing if you are evicted from your home, even if you have children. You may be found to be intentionally homeless. The Housing Options Team can be contacted on 01775 761161. We will refer all households being evicted to this team for advice on securing alternative housing.
Please note: if you are an introductory tenant and are taken to court, you will lose your home. The court has no discretion but to award the council with an immediate possession order.
Rent arrears help
There are support services who can offer support and advice;
- Lincolnshire Outreach Team website
- Citizens Advice Bureau website - we can refer you to a dedicated case worker
- Ending Domestic Abuse Now website.