Rent Arrears

Much of the information concerning financial problems is focused on individuals who own their home and are concerned about it being repossessed. However, debt problems can also be stressful for tenants who may be concerned about meeting their rent obligations and fear eviction.

First step

The first action to take is to review the tenancy agreement. This may state the course of action the landlord may take if a tenant falls into arrears. Should court action be taken, it will be reviewed by the judge to establish how to proceed. It is also important to discuss matters with the landlord if possible. It may be possible to reach an amicable agreement to repay arrears over a period of time. Any agreement should be confirmed in writing.

Budget and Prioritise

As with any individual facing financial uncertainty, they should review all income and expenditure and set a strict budget while avoiding any unnecessary expenditure. They should also prioritise their debt. Any unsecured debt, such as credit cards, bank loans and overdrafts, could be managed through a Debt Management Plan (DMP) or Individual Voluntary Agreement (IVA).

Seek legal and/or financial advice

There are many sources of information and advice available, such as The National Debtline, the government website (www.direct.gov.uk) and the Citizens Advice Bureau. There are also many reputable financial advisors and Insolvency Practitioners that will often offer free consultation and advice. They will also be able to assist with budgeting plans or agreements such as an IVA, though it is important to remember that there is usually a charge associated with these services.

Court Summons

Should a tenant receive a court summons, it is important they attend the hearing as if not, the judge will likely rule in favour of the landlord. It is also vital that the individual prepare for the hearing and have their reasoning for slipping into arrears. Furthermore, legal advice should be sought if not already. There are a number of outcomes the judge may order:

• Order for Possession. This means that the tenant is required to leave their home. Usually within 14 or 28 days of the hearing, the order will be provided in writing. Should the tenant not have left by the date given, the landlord can apply for an eviction order.
• Suspended order for possession. This will allow the tenant to remain in their home provided they continue to pay full rent and repay over a period of time any arrears. Again this will be provided in writing by the court. If the terms are not met, the landlord can request an eviction order.
• Money order. In this scenario, the judge will set out an amount repayable monthly, sometimes direct from wages. It is not possible for the landlord to use this to evict a tenant, but if the repayments cease, then it could go to court again, at which point the judge may be less favourable.
• Possession orders with money judgement. This could be a combination of the above, with a money order being made up of any arrears, court fees and/or the landlord’s legal costs. If the money is not paid, then the landlord could request the judge to enforce the Order for Possession.

Lodgers

In the case of a lodger, the landlord does not need to provide written confirmation of a request to leave the property, they can just ask the individual to leave, provided suitable notice is given. After this time, they are in their rights to replace the locks. They are not, however, allowed to keep the individuals possessions.

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