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Preventing, Controlling and Recovering Rent Arrears

4.7 Preventing, Controlling and Recovering Rent Arrears

Proper and reasonable enquires before letting will reduce the risk of
arrears. These are dealt with in Chapter 3 of this manual.

It is the tenant’s responsibility to make sure rent is paid in full, on time and
in the manner agreed in the tenancy agreement.

Although it is not the landlord’s responsibility to issue reminders or chase
payments, effective procedures for managing arrears should be established
because late payment is not unusual.

Landlords letting to a tenant who claims housing benefit as a means of
helping them pay their rent should make themselves familiar with the
housing benefit system and particularly the new system of Local Housing
Allowance, and its effects on new tenancies. Arrears can occur where a
landlord and/or tenant fail to complete paperwork properly and on time and
claims may then not be back-dated.

In times of hardship, tenants not initially claiming benefits may need to
resort to housing benefit (HB) to help pay their rent. The landlord should
be sensitive to such situations and offer support to the tenant to help them
submit a valid HB claim. Help may also need to be given to vulnerable
tenants who lack to ability to submit a claim unaided. Offering productive
support can help to reduce arrears, even though this is not a legal
requirement. Landlords may wish to gain some knowledge of local advice
services that can assist a tenant with housing issues.

Arrears can occur for a variety of reasons and sometimes this can be
resolved between the landlord and their tenant. If the tenant is unable
or unwilling to pay, or is habitually late in paying, then the landlord may
terminate the tenancy using the most appropriate legal method for that
particular type of tenancy. These methods are dealt with in chapter 5 of this
manual.

Unless trained and skilled in the procedures to terminate a tenancy
early legal assistance should be sought. Failure to follow procedures
properly may mean any action will fail in court and it is important not
to inadvertently harass or illegally evict the tenant as both are criminal
offences.

Section 8 of the Housing Act 1988 can be used to recover possession and
claim arrears owed. In general, if landlords make an error, the courts will be
entitled to reject the application and sometimes the court does not have to
agree with a landlord’s request to terminate a tenancy, even if they agree
the facts claimed are true.

Arrears may also be recovered through the County Court including the
‘small claims’ procedure and the court will be able to give details on how to
do this. Further information is available from www.hmcourts-service.gov.uk

A county court judgment (CCJ) can affect a tenant’s credit rating which in
turn can affect their ability to rent in the future and can act as a deterrent to
running up arrears. Obtaining a CCJ against a tenant does not mean that the
landlord will automatically receive what is owed. If the tenant does not pay,
the judgement (or order) can be enforced but this will involve further costs.

In incurring any court or enforcement costs landlords need to consider how
likely they are to be able to recover any monies owed. Bailiffs cannot take
possession of tenant’s belongings if they are on hire purchase, so a tenant’s
apparent life-style may not be a true reflection of their ability to pay. As an
alternative to using bailiffs, the judgment can be enforced by means of an
attachment of earnings order where the tenant is employed, or by a third
party payment order where someone else who owes the tenant money pays
it to the landlord instead. A CCJ can also be used to recover money from a
bank account when it is in credit.