Appendix one - pre-action court protocol (rent collection)
Tenancy management team
The Tenancy Management Officer (TMO) will try and contact the tenant as soon as reasonably possible if the tenant falls into arrears. Contact will be made to discuss the cause of the arrears, the tenant's financial circumstances, the tenant’s entitlement to benefits and repayment of the arrears. Where contact is by letter, the TMO will write to all named tenants.
The TMO and tenant will try to agree affordable sums for the tenant to pay towards arrears, based upon the tenant's income and expenditure. The TMO will clearly set out in pre-action correspondence any time limits with which the tenant should comply (arrears letters).
Hinckley & Bosworth Borough Council (HBBC) will provide rent statements in an understandable format showing rent due and sums received for the past 13 weeks. Upon request, HBBC will provide the tenant with copies of rent from the date when the arrears first arose showing all amounts of rent due, the dates and amounts of all payments made, whether through housing benefit, universal credit direct payments, discretionary housing payments or by the tenant, and a running total of the arrears.
The TMO can assist the tenant to claim housing benefit, discretionary housing payment or universal credit (housing element).
If the tenant is struggling to pay their rent and is in receipt of universal credit (housing element) and meets the necessary criteria, then the TMO can request that this benefit plus an amount for rent arrears is paid directly to HBBC.
Possession proceedings for rent arrears will not be started against a tenant who can demonstrate that:
- The local authority or Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) have been provided with all the evidence required to process a housing benefit or universal credit (housing element) claim, and,
- There is a reasonable expectation of housing benefit or universal credit (housing element) being awarded
The TMO will make every effort to establish effective ongoing liaison with housing benefit departments and DWP and with the tenant’s consent, make direct contact with the relevant housing benefit department or DWP office before taking enforcement action.
The TMO will consider the tenant’s arrears in the context of general debt management. The TMO will advise the tenant to seek assistance from Citizens Advice, debt advice agencies or other appropriate agencies as soon as possible, including in house Tenancy Support. Information on debt advice is available from the money advice service website: debt advice (moneyadviceservice.org.uk)
After service of a notice seeking possession
Once a notice seeking possession has been served, but before the issue of proceedings, HBBC will make reasonable attempts to contact the tenant, to discuss the amount of the arrears, the cause of the arrears, repayment of the arrears and the housing benefit or universal credit (housing element) position.
If the tenant complies with an agreement to pay the current rent and a reasonable amount towards the arrears, HBBC postpone issuing court proceedings so long as the tenant keeps to such agreement. If the tenant ceases to comply with the agreement, HBBC will warn the tenant of the intention to bring proceedings and give the tenant clear time limits within which to comply. (CRT1)
Responding to vulnerability
Hinckley & Bosworth Borough Council aims to deal with all of our tenants in an individual way. Many of our tenants are vulnerable through circumstance or lifestyle. In accordance with our Customer service charter, we are committed to understanding a person’s circumstances and tailoring our response appropriately. Some factors such as mental health, a person’s age or physical disability may necessitate a more comprehensive response by the housing staff. As such, our subsequent response may include the following:
For vulnerable tenants or tenants with mental health problems/learning difficulties:
- Always ensure the repayment plans are realistic for the tenant
- We will write to the tenant confirming the repayment agreement, including payment dates if required
- A notice of seeking possession will not be served until a home visit/interview has been considered
- We will request that County Court possession orders requested be suspended on payment of rent plus a suitable sum
- We will inform social care when requesting a warrant for possession to be executed by the County Court if we have concerns about vulnerability
For households with young children (that is under 16):
- If it is deemed necessary, on a case by case basis, children’s services maybe notified that possession proceedings in the County Court are about to commence
- We will normally request that County Court possession orders are suspended on payment of rent plus a suitable sum
- On a case by case basis, we may inform children’s services when requesting a warrant for possession be executed by the County Court
- We will assess whether any additional support is necessary
For tenants who cannot read or write (or read or write English):
- We will attempt to communicate all key decisions verbally or by the use of a translator
For all procedure steps involving social care, this action is arranged through the TMO.
Last updated: 16/01/2024 08:39