WHAT IF I HAVE PROBLEMS PAYING MY RENT?
This page explains:
1. The steps we will take to collect rent that is not paid when it is due; and
2. How we can help if you fall behind with your rent
Our Rent Arrears Policy
The aim of our Rent Arrears Policy is to make sure rent is collected on time and also to ensure that you are given every help to clear rent arrears at an early stage. We have a process that means you are contacted as soon as your rent account falls into arrears. We will therefore contact you at an early stage as rent arrears can quickly rise and the larger the debt gets the more difficult it becomes to pay it off.
We will work with you to try and resolve any problems and will make repayment arrangements that are affordable for you. However, rent does have to be paid, and ultimately, if we have taken all the action we can but the arrears are not reducing then we will via the courts repossess your home.
What should I do if I get into rent arrears?
Anyone can have money problems from time to time. If you are having difficulty paying your rent you should contact your Housing Officer immediately. The sooner you let us know there is a problem, the sooner we can work with you to resolve it. We will do our best to help you.
Your Housing Officer will also make contact with you. This may be by letter, e-mail, telephone or a home visit. He/she will tell you how much you owe and ask that you either clear the arrears or make an arrangement for regular payments that you can reasonably afford to reduce the arrears. We may refer you to other organisations that can give you specialised advice e.g. debt, money, and/or benefits advice. If you clear the arrears or keep to the arrangement you have made then that should be the end of the matter.
However, if the arrears increase or do not reduce then your Housing Officer will contact you to discuss the situation and try to help you resolve the problem. If you do not contact your Housing Officer and come to an acceptable arrangement to reduce your rent arrears then we may be forced to take court action. This could result in you losing your home.
Can I get help to pay my rent?
You may be entitled to Housing Benefit to help with your rent. However, it is still your responsibility to make the claim and return all the information on time to West Dunbartonshire Council Housing Benefit Department. To get an estimate of how much benefit you may be entitled to, you can use the entitledto calculator, which can be accessed here.
Arrears paid directly from your benefit
If you are on Income Support, or Job Seekers Allowance we may be able to request that a set amount is taken from your benefit and paid directly to us. This is an easy and straightforward way to make sure that your rent arrears are reduced and no further action is taken against you.
Dealing with other debts
Your rent should be paid before any other debts you have as you may lose your home if you do not.
Organisations such as Citizens Advice Bureau can help you make affordable repayment arrangements with other creditors. Citizens Advice Bureau is now also available by appointment in our offices. If you would like to make an appointment to see Citizens Advice Bureau please contact one of our Housing Management team on tel. 01389 765179.
Many people, especially those on low incomes, are using credit companies which charge a very high rate of interest which means you can pay 3 or 4 times more for your purchase than they cost without credit. There are other ways of getting credit that do not have high interest e.g. DSS loans, Credit Union Loans.
The 'Information & Advice ' page lists the contact details of several organisations that can help you deal with other debts you may have. It is important that you deal with any outstanding debts. The longer you leave it, the worse they will get.
Notice of Proceedings for Recovery of Possession (N.O.P)
This is a legal document that can be served on you by the Association. The notice is the first step we take in order to start legal action to recover your tenancy and rent arrears owed to us.
The notice gives a 4 week period to enable you to clear your arrears or reach an arrangement to make regular payments to reduce your arrears. If after this period there is no improvement to your rent arrears then the Association has a maximum of 6 months to apply to the Sheriff Court for a Decree to repossess your tenancy and recover the rent arrears owed.
It is however still not too late to contact your Housing Officer to resolve the problem. At all times throughout this process you should contact your Housing Officer to reach an acceptable repayment arrangement.
If during the period the N.O.P is valid, your arrears have not been cleared or a repayment arrangement has not been made or has been broken then we will take court action to allow us to evict you from your home. If we have to apply for a court hearing, this will cost you money as you will be charged court expenses.
When your case comes to court it is in your best interest to attend the court hearing so you can tell the Sheriff why the problem has occurred. You can ask for advice about representation at court from organisations such as Citizens Advice Bureau. Even after court action has started you will still be able to pay your arrears in full or come to a repayment arrangement with us. If you do not offer to repay the arrears and then keep to the arrangement, the court is likely to grant a Decree for payment and/or eviction against you.
If the Sheriff awards a Decree for possession of your tenancy we will then ask our Management Committee for permission to proceed with your eviction. (We can also use the Decree to arrest your wages if you work). Even at this stage it may not be too late to contact us to resolve the problem.
You can appeal against the court decision and if you want to do this you should ask for independent legal advice.
If the eviction decision stands and our Management Committee approve your eviction we will write and let you know. We will also confirm the date that has been set for your eviction.
West Dunbartonshire Council Homeless Persons Team and Social Work Department (if applicable) will be informed of your eviction date. They may contact you to attend an interview and advise you of your housing options.
What should I do at my eviction?
Before the eviction date you should remove all your belongings. You should leave the property in a clean and tidy condition and ensure that all those living with you have left the property. You will no longer have right of entry to the property once the eviction has taken place.
You need to remove any alterations you have made to the property without permission and complete any required repairs. You should also provide us with your new address. Relevant staff members will meet Sheriff Officers, and Police if required, at your address. If you have not handed back your keys, access will be forced by a joiner and the locks changed. If you have not left the property Sheriff Officers will evict you and any member of your household from the property.
Former Tenant Arrears
If there are arrears at the end of a tenancy we will continue to pursue these which may mean we pass your details on to a tracing agent and / or a debt collection agency should you fail to start payments to your rent account. It is also unlikely that we (or other housing providers) will be able to re-house you in the future if you do not repay any debt owed to us.
We have produced the following information guides/leaflets which you may find useful - Preventing Rent Arrears and Legal Action, Welfare Benefits Advice Services and one for A Guide for Qualifying Occupiers. If, however, you are experiencing any problems with your rent payments please do not hesitate to contact your Housing Officer at the earliest possible stage.