The Pre-Action Protocol for Possession Claims based on rent arrears sets out a code of good practice for social landlords and private registered providers in the collection of rent arrears. The Protocol encourages more contact between landlords and tenants.
When does the Pre-Action Protocol for Possession Claims based on rent arrears apply?
The Protocol applies to residential possession claims by social landlords and private registered providers of social housing which are based solely on claims for rent arrears.
Social landlords include local authorities, Registered Social Landlords and Housing Action Trusts.
The Protocol does not apply to claims for possession where there is no security of tenure or to claims in respect of long leases.
What are the requirements of the Pre-Action Protocol for Possession Claims based on rent arrears?
Initial contact by the landlord
Where a tenant falls into arrears the landlord is expected to contact him as soon as reasonably possible to discuss the cause of the arrears, the tenant’s financial circumstances, his entitlement to benefits and repayment of the arrears. The contact can be in person or in writing. Where it is in writing the landlord is required to write to each named tenant separately.
Repayment of the rent arrears
The landlord and tenant are expected to try to agree affordable sums for the tenant to pay towards the rent arrears. The sums payable should take into account the tenant’s income and expenditure where such information has been supplied by the tenant. The landlord is required to clearly set out in correspondence any time limits with which the tenant should comply.
The landlord is expected to arrange for the arrears to be paid by the Department for Work and Pensions from the tenant’s benefit, where the tenant meets the appropriate criteria.
The landlord is also expected to offer assistance to the tenant in any claim the tenant may have for housing benefit.
Provision of rent statements
The landlord is expected to provide the tenant with a rent statement on a quarterly basis. This should be in a comprehensible format showing the rent due and sums received for the past 13 weeks.
The landlord is also expected, upon request by the tenant, to provide him with copies of rent statements from the date when the arrears first arose. These should be in a comprehensible format and should show all amounts of rent due, the dates and amounts of all payments made, whether through housing benefit or by the tenant, and a running total of the arrears.
If the landlord is aware of any difficulty the tenant may have in reading or understanding any information given, the landlord is expected to take reasonable steps to ensure that the tenant understands the information. The landlord may be required to demonstrate that he took reasonable steps to ensure that the information has been communicated in a manner in which the tenant can understand.
If the landlord is aware that the tenant is under the age of 18 or is particularly vulnerable, the landlord is expected to consider at an early stage the following matters:
- whether or not the tenant has the mental capacity to defend any possession proceedings. If the landlord considers that the tenant does not have such capacity he is expected to apply to the Court for the appointment of a litigation friend;
- whether or not any issues arise under the Disability Discrimination Act 1995; and
- whether or not, in the case of a local authority landlord, there is a need for a community care assessment of the tenant in accordance with the provisions of the National Health Service and Community Care Act 1990.
For more information on:
- Possession proceedings to be brought as a last resort
- Alternative dispute resolution
- Action required of the landlord where Court proceedings have been commenced
- What happens if a party does not act in accordance with the Protocol?