Rent Arrears & Possession (Eviction) ProceedingsPosted: 20 May 2013
Now we are nearly 2 months into the implementation of the bedroom tax, many people who have not (because they CAN NOT!) pay the housing benefit shortfall are falling into arrears. Landlords, whether it be Council or HAs will have procedures for dealing with arrears and any possible possession (eviction) proceedings. This can be really daunting and many people think that landlords can just evict you overnight – this is not the case.
After seeking some legal advice the following information has been given to give an outline as to what landlords and the courts need to do as a minimum with regards to eviction proceedings.
Social housing landlords have to follow special rules called ‘rent arrears pre-action protocol’. This means there are certain steps they need to follow before they can take you to court for rent arrears. Social housing landlords include local authorities and housing associations.
A social housing landlord can’t start court action for rent arrears unless they’ve:
- tried to come to an agreement with you to pay off what you owe. This must be an amount you can afford to pay, based on how much money you have coming into your household and how much you need to spend.
- offered to help you to claim Housing Benefit/DHP.
- advised you to get help from a Citizens Advice Bureau or debt advice agency.
When a tenant has accrued rent arrears the Landlord will initially make contact with them to discuss why the rent arrears have occurred and discuss solutions to resolve them (i.e payment plans)
The Landlord will send the tenant a letter (Notice to Seek Possession), stating that due to rent arrears there are potential grounds for possession. The notice usually states that court proceedings will commence by a certain date – this is usually a 4 week period.
If no arrangement or progress has been made regarding the rent arrears post the set date out in the Notice then it is usually 7 days after this date that the Landlord will apply to issue Possession Proceedings in the County Court.
The Court will then serve the Summons (the papers) to the tenant once a date has been scheduled for the hearing.
At the Court Hearing the judge can:
- Make an outright Possession Order, (the Landlord can take over possession of their property however this can not be done without a Warrant of Eviction)
- They can dismiss the claim for possession.
- They can make a postponed/suspended possession order; this is common and basically means that an agreement is reached whereby the tenant will ensure their rent is paid plus an agreed amount of the arrears.
- They can adjourn the hearing until a future date, this is usually the case when Housing Benefit has not been processed and the rent arrears have accrued due to the delayed Housing Benefit Claim.
- If you currently have an appeal with the council it depends what the appeal is about as to whether they will adjourn the hearing. If it’s about bedroom tax generally it is unlikely at this stage a judge will commit to make a decision where others could easier follow suit. If it’s about bedroom size, or other technicalities then it should be adjourned until it has been determined.
- A hearing should be adjourned if DHP has been submitted but a tenant is still waiting to hear – usually income and expenditure breakdown is helpful for the courts at this stage to show there is a reasonable prospect of DHP being awarded.
If a tenant fails to adhere to the court’s agreement the Landlord will return to the court to apply for a Warrant for Possession. A warrant for possession is granted then a hearing for eviction is set. This is when eviction occurs and you will receive date/time when the court bailiffs will be attending to evict you from the property. It is usually a month till the eviction date.
Even at this stage mitigating circumstances can be submitted (on form N224) and the eviction can be suspended/postponed. The N224 form can either be downloaded from HM Courts & Tribunal Services Website or from the County Court in Nottingham. On the form you must state the reasons why you have not been able to adhere to the agreed arrangement, i.e. you lost your job, your claim for Housing Benefit/DHP hasn’t been processed yet.
******* THIS MUST BE DONE ASAP *******
PLEASE NOTE: If you have an introductory tenancy you need to seek legal advice immediately, you do not have the same rights as above.
The following website contain further detailed information;