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When everyone has a home

028 9024 5640: Housing & Debt Helpline for Northern Ireland

New protocols for dealing with social rent arrears

Over the last number of years, as a result of the economic downturn, there has been an increase in the number of possession proceedings against homeowners and social tenants who have fallen behind in paying their mortgage or rent.

Failure to pay rent constitutes a serious breach of the tenancy agreement. As such, a social landlord is able under law to seek possession of the property as well as recovering any rent arrears. However, Department for Social Development guidance states that "Eviction should always be viewed as a last resort and should only be used when all other avenues have been exhausted...”

Pre-court action

In order to address the growing numbers of social tenants facing court action, the NI Courts Service has recently issued a new ‘Pre-action Protocol for Ejectment Proceedings based on Non-Payment of Rent in the Social Housing Sector’. The protocol sets out the steps which the County Court will expect social landlords and tenants to take before initiating possession action and right up to the date of the court hearing.

For example, when a tenant falls into rent arrears the social landlord will be expected to contact the tenant as soon as is reasonable to discuss:

  • The cause of the arrears;
  • The tenant’s financial circumstances;
  • The tenant’s entitlement, if any, to benefits; and
  • The repayment of the arrears.

Aims of the protocol

The protocols aim to:

  • Ensure that social landlords and tenants act fairly and reasonably with each other in resolving rent arrears issues; and
  • Encourage more pre-action between social landlords and tenants in an effort to reach agreement rather than the matter going to court. Where this is not possible, the protocol aims to enable court time to be used more effectively.

To find out more

A copy of the protocol can be found on the courts website.

Housing Rights Service will be delivering training on 'Safeguarding Homes using Forbearance and the New Pre Action Protocols' on the 6 Feb.

Tagged In

Repossession, Social Tenancies, Legal