Social Landlord Rent Arrears Pre-action Protocol

Overview

The aims of the protocol are:

  • to encourage more pre-action contact and exchange of information between landlord and tenants

  • if possible, to enable landlords and tenants to avoid litigation and settle disputes out of court

  • if court proceedings are inevitable, to enable an effective use of court's time and resources.

Communications & provision of information

The protocol requires that the landlord should take reasonable steps to ensure that the tenant understands any information provided. The landlord should be able to demonstrate what steps have been taken to this effect.

If the landlord is aware that the tenant is aged under 18 or is particularly vulnerable for other reasons, the landlord should consider at an early stage:

  • whether the tenant has the necessary mental capacity to defend a possession claim and, where appropriate, apply to appoint a litigation friend under Part 21 of the Civil Procedure Rules

  • whether there are any discrimination issues under the Equality Act 2010

  • if the landlord is a local authority, whether there is a need for a community care assessment.

Court Proceedings as a last resort

Court proceedings should be a landlord's last resort. Possession proceedings should not be issued prematurely when a settlement out of court is still actively being explored.

Scope

This pre-action protocol applies to all residential possession claims taken by social landlords, including local authorities, private registered providers of social housing and housing action trusts.

Part 2 relates to claims which are brought solely on the basis of rent arrears. It reflects the guidance on good practice given to social landlords in the collection of rent arrears.

Part 3 relates to claims brought on:

  • mandatory grounds for possession, and

  • claims where security of tenure is reduced and no grounds are required but the occupier may be able to rely on human rights, public law or equality law defences (for more information about occupiers' rights, see Security of tenure).

Part 3 aims to ensure that in such claims, when the tenant raises a defence under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, all the necessary information is collected and put before the court at the first hearing so that the court can deal with the issue of proportionality of the eviction summarily or give directions for trial as appropriate.

The protocol does not apply to claims in respect of long leases.

Claim for rent arrears - initial contact

As soon as practicable possible after the tenant falls in rent arrears, and before serving the required statutory notice of seeking possession, landlords should:

  • provide quarterly rent statements showing rent outstanding and paid in the last 13 weeks

  • contact the tenant to discuss the tenant's financial circumstances, any entitlement to benefits, and the reason for the arrears

  • try to agree with the tenant an affordable arrangement for paying the arrears with any arrangement to be confirmed in writing

  • assist the tenant with any claim for benefits, including housing benefit, the housing element of universal credit, and/or discretionary housing payments

  • advise the tenant to seek independent advice, especially if s/he has a general debt problem

  • if the tenant meets the criteria, arrange for direct payments of arrears to be made to the landlord from the tenant's benefits

  • not start possession proceedings when the tenant has provided all the necessary evidence to support a benefit claim and there is a reasonable expectation that s/he will be entitled

  • establish effective liaison with the benefit department and/or the Department for Work and Pensions.