Rent arrears and income collection policy
It is really important that you pay your rent as council housing is self-financing and rent is ring-fenced to spend on council housing only
The Council intends to maximise rent collection by being proactive in the control, management and prevention of rent arrears and reduction of existing arrears. The emphasis is on the prevention of arrears building up by providing early intervention, information and signposting where appropriate for debt counselling/advice.
We recognise the economic and social cost of eviction and therefore we will take a preventative and proactive approach to dealing with rent arrears. However non-payment of rent is a breach of tenancy/licence and will not be tolerated.
The policy applies to collection and arrears of rent and occupancy charges, including service charges, and to all our tenants in rented or licensed property.
Where a tenant/licensee has other non priority debts with the Council it is expected that the tenant/licensee will pay their rent and Council Tax before any other Council debts.
We will promote a rent payment culture, encouraging early payment and preventing customers falling into arrears
At all times, deal with rent arrears in a confidential and sympathetic way and explain what will happen if the debt continues to increase
Help to clear arrears by entering into a reasonable and realistic agreement with the tenant/licensee
Provide advice and information on welfare benefits
Always signpost the tenant/licensee to agencies able to provide debt advice before taking court action
Ensure we act consistently and in accordance with the protocol for rent arrears possession claims.
Customers are responsible for paying their rent, including any service charges, as set out in their occupancy agreement and for informing us if they are having any problems paying their rent or if they have fallen into arrears.
Customers who experience difficulties with paying their rent are able to discuss this directly with their Housing or Rent Officer via our Housing Contact Centre on 0208 547 5003.
At the Sign Up
At sign up a new tenant/licensee shall:
Where possible, unless the tenant/licensee is entitled to full (HB)/(UC). It is expected at the sign up that the tenant/licensee will provide one week’s rent in advance. This payment can be made via debit card.
Rent is due weekly in advance each Monday and the tenant/licensee is obligated to pay the weekly rent promptly when due in accordance with the terms of the tenancy/licence agreement. The Council will accept rent weekly in advance.
Joint tenants/licensees are jointly and severally liable for the payment of the rent and the Council may seek recovery for all or part of any arrears from any individual joint tenant/licensee.
Tenants/licensees are encouraged where possible to pay their rent by direct debit.
Providing assistance for customers in arrears
If arrears do arise, we will engage with the customer to identify and tackle the causes.
If a customer falls into arrears we work with them to make arrangements to clear their debt with us, outlining the importance of maintaining regular payments to their account and highlighting the consequences of not doing so.
We do not offer our customers financial advice or debt counselling however our Housing Officers, rent income officers and Financial Inclusion Officers will offer signposting to appropriate agencies where appropriate.
Customers wishing to seek financial advice or debt counselling will be signposted to suitable independent agencies which may include the Citizens Advice Bureau, Stepchange or the Money Advice Service.
if a customer in arrears is identified as vulnerable or in need of debt advice we will liaise with the relevant support agencies and internal departments as appropriate
As a Social Landlord, it is accepted that tenants/licensees may suffer exceptional financial hardship from time to time. Therefore, the Council is prepared to accept reasonable repayment agreements. However, it will be made clear to tenants/licensees that non-payment of rent is not the equivalent of an interest free loan that can be paid back at their convenience, and therefore must be adhered to.
The agreements Rent Officers make with tenants/licensees for the repayment of arrears will be based on Rent Officer assessment of what they can afford. Rent Officer will regularly review the terms of agreements to see if they are still appropriate considering what they know of the tenant/licensee income, the tenants other outgoings and the size of the debt.
For tenants/licensees who are on Income Support, or an equivalent low income, the minimum weekly arrears payment we will agree to, will be the equivalent of the amount deducted by the Benefits Agency from benefit for direct arrears payments to landlords.
Loss of rights for customers in arrears
Customers in arrears for a specified period may not be granted a joint tenancy from a sole tenancy and will not normally be eligible for transfer, move-on or mutual exchange.
There may be situations where discretion can be used to allow a management transfer for a customer in arrears, for example, where the customer is being harassed or where the customer is experiencing severe financial hardship, depending on the severity and circumstances of each individual case.
The Housing Allocations Scheme 2017 provides details of exclusions from the register and offers of accommodation for customers with rent arrears.
Unpaid rent/service charge or other housing debts may also impact on: a tenants/ leaseholders/ licensee's ability to rent a garage or exercise the Right to Buy with RBK. It may also impact on the tenants/ leaseholders, licensees ability to obtain credit in the future if a County Court judgement is requested.
Taking enforcement action
Seeking possession will continue to be the most common form of legal action taken against tenants/licensees who fall into rent arrears. Though the type of action taken will differ according to the type of tenancy. In all cases the tenant/licensee will be served with a Notice and a Court order must be obtained as part of the process. Where necessary the firmest possible legal action will be taken to deal with rent arrears.
All rent accounts are monitored on a weekly basis. Unless there are issues of vulnerability or other reasons to prevent routine recovery action, accounts in arrears the Council will take action to obtain a Court Order;
The customer will be kept informed of actions taken and will still receive advice on debt repayments, the requirements of court orders and where to obtain independent legal advice
We aim to minimise losses from former customers who leave owing rent by: pro-active early intervention while the customer is still in residence.
A significant amount of rent is owed by former tenants/licensees. It is clear that having an effective recovery process for this aspect of rent arrears is a major area of concern to most local authorities and Registered Social Landlords.
Former tenants/licensees leaving with monies owed for previous rent will be written to by the Council, in accordance with the current policies. Appropriate resources (e.g. tracing agents) will be used to track down tenants/licensees who have either abandoned their homes or who have been evicted with no forwarding address.
Any cases where a former tenant/licensee can be traced will be passed to Legal Services for recovery and enforcement.
All interviews regarding arrears will be carried out in confidence. The details of a customer’s rent account will not be made known to people outside of the Council without the written permission of the customer.
When dealing with a phone query, we will not disclose personal information without first confirming the customer’s identity.
Customer Credits If there is a credit balance on a customer’s account, the customer must apply for a refund. Where a credit refund has not been requested by a customer within 6 years of termination of the tenancy, we will submit the credit for write back.