Rent Arrears Pre-action Protocol
Local authority and housing association landlords must follow the rent arrears pre-action protocol if they intend to evict you from your home for rent arrears. The pre-action protocol does not apply if the local authority is your landlord and you are a ‘non-secure’ tenant, for example living in temporary accommodation.
Purpose of the Pre-action Protocol
The protocol aim is to avoid going to court & to encourage contact between you and your landlord. If your landlord wants to evict you for non-payment of rent, it is necessary that they follow the steps as set down by the rent arrears ‘pre-action protocol’. This is essential before the matter can be escalated to court.
If you have not paid your rent and as a result your landlord wants to take you to court, they must serve you with a legal notice. Your landlord should contact you to discuss a solution, as eviction should be a last resort.
Before the matter proceeds to court, the protocol stipulates they should contact you first. The purpose of their contact is to discuss why rent arrears has accrued and to see if you have any benefit entitlement.
The landlord will assist you with any claim for housing benefit, universal credit or discretionary housing payment that you want to make.Court action to evict you should not proceed at this stage if you have already made a claim for benefits, if you have provided all the necessary information and paperwork and where it is likely your claim will be successful.
Your landlord should seek to agree, an affordable repayment, with you towards your rent arrears. They will consider options, such as direct payments, to be taken directly from your welfare benefits if you receive them.
If you have debts other than your rent arrears, your landlord should provide information on where to obtain free, independent and confidential advice.
If you are disabled, have a long term health condition, difficulty understanding information or another vulnerability, your landlord must consider any further help or assistance you need.
Court hearing and proceedings
If a repayment arrangement was agreed, since court proceedings started, and you have managed to make the payments, it would be reasonable for your landlord to agree to adjourn the hearing to a later date.
If an agreement has not been reached and your landlord does take you to court, the landlord must do the following;
- Provide an up-to-date rent statement (at least 10 days prior to the court hearing)
- Tell you what your benefit entitlements are (housing benefit or the housing element of universal credit)
- Inform you of the date and time of the court hearing (and location)
- Give details of what they are seeking from the court. For example an order to evict you, or an order suspended on condition you make certain payments
If the steps in the pre-action protocol have not been followed by your landlord, the judge can dismiss or adjourn the claim for possession of your home. In addition to this the judge may refuse to order you to pay costs. However if you have not shown any cooperation with your landlord, or not kept to any repayment plan, the judge is more likely to make an order for possession of your home.