Newham

Rent arrears

If you have rent arrears, it is likely that they are your most important debt. Your landlord can start court action to take your home from you.

Whether a judge may have the power to let you stay against your landlord’s wishes depends on the type of tenancy you have.

What type of tenancy do I have?

The agreement you signed at the start of your tenancy should tell you what type it is. The more common types are described below.
 

If you rent from the council

You are likely to have a secure tenancy unless:
  • you have an introductory tenancy because you have had it for less than a year, or the council has extended your introductory tenancy beyond the year
  • you have a non-secure tenancy because you have been housed temporarily
  • you live in a hostel.
Get information on ways to pay rent to the council

If you rent from a housing association

You are likely to have an assured tenancy unless:
  • you have a starter tenancy because you have had the tenancy less than a year or the housing association extended your starter tenancy beyond the year
  • the tenancy started before 16 January 1989
  • the housing association gave you an assured shorthold tenancy

If you rent from a private landlord

If they do not live in the property, it is likely that they gave you an assured shorthold tenancy for a fixed period. If this period has ended and the landlord has not renewed it, you have a periodic assured shorthold tenancy.
Get information on assured shorthold tenancies

Other tenancies

If your tenancy started after 15 January 1989 and is not one of those described above, your landlord may be able to evict you very easily. Get advice.
 
 
 

How do I deal with rent arrears?

Contact your landlord if you have not already done so. If you cannot make your offer immediately, pay as much as you can and tell your landlord you will make your offer soon. Claim Housing Benefit if you may be eligible.
 

How much should I offer to pay?

Your offer should cover the full rent and an amount towards the arrears. Aim to clear the arrears as soon as possible, as you do not know whether you will have other financial difficulties in the future. But do not offer more than you can afford.
 
If you rent from the council or a housing association and you get Income Support, Pension Credit, income-related Employment Support Allowance or income-based Jobseekers’ Allowance, you may be able to ask the DWP to take payments direct from your benefit. The most that can be taken for rent arrears is currently £3.60 a week. The DWP may also take payments direct from your benefit for rent not covered by Housing Benefit.
 
If you rent from the council or a housing association and have a low income, you could offer a similar amount. Otherwise your landlord will expect significantly more than £3.60 a week. The council and housing associations usually take into account the size of the arrears and the payment history. Private landlords do not usually let arrears build up and take court action early.
 

What can I do if my landlord asks for more than I can afford?

Show them a copy of your financial statement and pay the offer anyway. If your landlord takes court action and you have a secure or assured tenancy, the judge may let you stay in your home as long as you pay your offer. If you have another type of tenancy, coming to an agreement with your landlord may be the only way you can stay in your home.
 

What happens if my landlord takes court action?

Below are summaries of court processes and judges’ powers for different types of tenancy. We then describe what happens in a court hearing and afterwards.
 

Types of tenancy - court processes and judges' powers

Council secure tenancies

  • The council must first send you a Notice of Seeking Possession, saying why the council wants to repossess your home.
  • If it is because you have rent arrears, the council must arrange a court hearing before they can evict you.
  • Contact the council to try to arrange how you will pay the arrears, start paying your offer immediately.
  • If the council arranges a court hearing, the court will send you a claim form with the time and date of the hearing and a defence form attached.
  • Complete and return the defence form within the time limit.
  • Go to the hearing, there is more information on court hearings below.The judge may let you stay in your home on condition that your rent is paid in full in future and you pay a set amount off the arrears every week or month.

Council introductory tenancies

  • The council must send you a Notice of proceedings saying that they plan to evict you.
  • Complete and return the form attached to the Notice within 14 days, asking the council to review their decision.
  • If you are not already paying your rent and something towards the arrears, start now.
  • If the council still plans to evict you, they will ask the court for a possession order. The court will arrange a hearing and write to let you know the date.
  • Go the hearing but it is unlikely that the judge will be able to let you stay in your home against the council’s wishes.

Council temporary accommodation

  • The council will send you a Notice to Quit, giving you four weeks notice that the tenancy will end.
  • If you are still living in the property after this date, the council may ask the court for a hearing. The court will write to tell you the date.
  • Go the hearing but it is unlikely that the judge will be able to let you stay in your home against the council’s wishes.

Housing association assured tenancies

  • The housing association must first send you a Notice of Intention to bring Possession Proceedings, saying why the housing association wants to repossess your home.
  • If it is because you have rent arrears, the housing association must arrange a court hearing before they can evict you.
  • Contact the housing association to try to arrange how you will pay the arrears, start paying your offer immediately.
  • If the housing association arranges a court hearing, the court will send you a claim form with the time and date of the hearing and a defence form attached.
  • Complete and return the defence form within the time limit.
  • Go to the hearing, there is more information on court hearings below.
  • The judge may let you stay in your home on condition that your rent is paid in full in future and you pay a set amount off the arrears every week or month. If the Notice or claim form specifically states that you have at least two months or eight weeks rent arrears, the judge is unlikely to be able to let you stay in your home against the housing association’s wishes. It is rare for a housing association to use this ground for possession, if it is happening in your case get advice.

Housing association starter tenancies

  • The housing association must send you two month’s written notice saying they plan to evict you.
  • Contact the housing association to try to arrange how you will pay the arrears, start paying your offer immediately.
  • If the housing association still plans to evict you, they will ask the court for a possession order. There is usually no hearing. You may be able to ask for one but it is unlikely that the judge will be able to let you stay in your home against the housing association’s wishes.

Private landlord assured shorthold tenancies

  • To start court action to evict you during your fixed period, your landlord must send you written notice, giving a reason.
  • If it is because you have rent arrears, your landlord must arrange a court hearing before they can evict you during your fixed period.
  • Go to the hearing, there is more information on court hearings below.
  • If you have at least two months’ rent arrears, it is unlikely that the judge will be able to let you stay in your home against your landlord’s wishes.

Private landlord periodic assured shorthold tenancies

  • To start court action to evict you after your fixed period, your landlord must send you at least two month’s written notice.  Many landlords do this at the start of the tenancy, to save time later if they want you to leave after the fixed period has ended.
  • Your landlord must send a claim form to the court.  The court will send you a copy, with a reply form attached, giving you at least two weeks’ notice of when you have to leave.
  • There is usually no court hearing, unless you return the reply form, asking the court to let you remain in your home for six weeks after the claim date instead of two weeks.
  • Beyond the six week period, the judge is unlikely to be able to let you stay in your home against the landlord’s wishes.

  

The court hearing

Do I need to go to the hearing?

Yes, whether or not you have returned the defence form or reached an agreement with your landlord, go to the hearing. Take a copy of your financial statement and any papers the court might want to see, such as proof of income or any Housing Benefit claim.
 

What happens at the hearing?

Hearings do not usually last long, perhaps five or ten minutes. Do not interrupt anyone. If the judge has the power to let you stay in your home against your landlord’s wishes, they will give you your chance to comment after your landlord’s representative has spoken. They may ask you how the arrears happened, how you plan to pay them and how you will afford your offer on top of paying rent.
 
At the end of the hearing and depending at least partly on what type of tenancy you have, the judge will make one of the following orders.
  • Adjourn the hearing to a later date, usually because more information is needed.
  • Adjourn generally, usually because the arrears are small and you can clear them over a short period. No possession order is made and no date is set for a further hearing. If you miss a payment, your landlord can ask the court for a further hearing.
  • A suspended possession order, usually because you can afford to clear the arrears with set payments over a period. A possession order is made but, as long as you make the payments ordered, you will not be evicted for the arrears.
  • A postponed possession order, usually because you have a secure or assured tenancy and can afford to clear the arrears with set payments over a set period. As long as you make the payments ordered, you will not be evicted for the arrears.
  • A possession order, usually because your tenancy is not a secure or assured tenancy, or you are not at the hearing, or you cannot afford payments towards your arrears.  It means that your landlord can ask the court, usually after a set period, for a date to evict you.
 
 
 

Making payments ordered by the court

Can I pay more?

Yes, it is best to clear the arrears as soon as you can. You do not know whether you will have other financial difficulties in the future.
 

What if I can no longer afford the payments ordered?

Ask the court to reduce the payments ordered.
Get form N244 online or from the court, complete and hand it in at the court. 
To visit Bow County Court, you will need to make an appointment by calling the court on 020 8536 5229 between 10am and 2pm on a weekday. You may have to pay a fee when you hand in the form.

You should also:
  • continue to pay your rent each month, with as much as you can off the arrears. 
  • contact your landlord and ask them to agree to your reduced offer.
There will be a court hearing and it is important that you go whether or not your landlord has agreed to your reduced offer.
 

What if I do not keep up the payments ordered?

Your landlord can ask the court to send their bailiffs to evict you. Normally you will receive a letter telling you the date of eviction.
 
You can ask the court to stop the eviction and give you time to pay the arrears.
Get form N244 online or from the court, complete and hand it in at the court. 
You will be given a time and date for the hearing. If you do not attend, you will be evicted on the set date.

The judge may stop the eviction if you can explain:
  • why you did not make the payments ordered and
  • how you are now able to pay your rent and an amount towards the arrears each week or month.

 

If you are sorting out debt problems, start at the beginning of this guidance, otherwise you may miss valuable information.
 

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