Total: £0.00

picture of telephone  click icon for access to housing law in practice reference manual for membersMailing ListTwitterFacebook  YouTube

When everyone has a home

028 9024 5640: Housing & Debt Helpline for Northern Ireland

Draft Pre-action Protocols for Social Rent Arrears Released

The Lord Chief Justice believes, in cases of social housing rent arrears, it would be helpful for all parties to be aware of the steps that the court will expect to be taken before starting court action. A draft pre-action protocol setting out these steps has been released for consultation.

Eviction should be a last resort

The protocol describes the behaviour the court will normally expect from social landlords and tenants prior to the start of a possession claim. It recognises that, in the interest of both parties, rent should be paid on time and that problems are resolved without legal proceedings. The protocol states “Tenants have a responsibility to pay the rent on time and social landlords have a responsibility to maintain and sustain tenancies”.  However, there are times when failure to pay rent will lead to court action and eviction. As the guidance says “Eviction should always be viewed as a last resort and should only be used when all other avenues have been exhausted”.

Aims of the rent arrears protocol

The protocol aims to ensure that landlords and tenants act fairly and reasonably with each other and to encourage more pre-action contact between them in order to reach agreement. This will allow the courts’ time to be used more effectively in cases where agreement cannot be reached.

There can be consequences for not complying with the protocol. For the landlord, the court can take this into account when considering whether it is reasonable to make an order for costs or any other relief it deems appropriate. For the tenant, the court can take this into account when considering whether to make a possession order. A handy checklist for compliance is included with the protocol.

Is more pre-action contact needed?

Housing Rights Service has been calling for the introduction of these protocols and sees this as a welcome development. The problem of rent arrears is growing steadily. We provide a Tenant Debt Advice Service to a number of social housing providers which has proved to be very successful. It encourages more contact between landlords and tenants to resolve arrears matters early and to prevent it reaching court.

Our Policy Manager, Nicola McCrudden, thinks the protocols are necessary: “In an ideal world rents would be paid on time and no one would have to go to court. However, the reality is there are many tenants who have genuine difficulties meeting their rent payments. Some need that extra bit of support for example, to claim benefit entitlements or to manage their money better. The pre action protocol will help to focus minds more on attempting to resolve problems at an early stage and to ensure that eviction will be a last resort.”

The closing date for response is Monday 21st October. You can get your copy of the Protocol here.

Tagged In

Repossession, Social Tenancies, Policy, Legal

This article was written on 5 September 2013. It should not be relied on as a statement of the current law or policy position. For help with housing issues please contact our helpline on 028 9024 5640 or use our online chat service at www.housingadviceNI.org.