Recovering rent arrears
The procedure the Housing Executive uses to recover rent arrears depends on how much you owe, the type of arrears you have and your personal circumstances.
It is possible to negotiate with the Housing Executive, especially if you owe less than £200. The Housing Executive can offer basic and intermediate money advice. If you’d rather speak to an independent adviser you can contact Housing Rights Service, a citizens advice bureau or an independent advice agency.
Rent recovery procedure
The Housing Executive should notify you as soon as you have missed a rent payment or if you have paid the incorrect amount. They will send you a first warning letter to let you know that you have fallen into arrears and to ask you to contact them to discuss repayment.
If your arrears increase after you receive the first warning letter, but remain below £200, the Housing Executive will send you a second letter, stating what level your arrears are now at and advising you to contact them within 7 days. At this stage, you can still negotiate a repayment plan with the Housing Executive.
If your arrears increase above £200 the Housing Executive will write to you informing you that they intend to start legal proceedings to recover the arrears. This letter should let you know what type of legal action they intend to take. The Housing Executive may:
- Apply to have the debt recovered in the Magistrates Court
- Apply to recover possession of the dwelling in the County Court
- Apply to the Social Security Agency to make direct deductions from your benefits
Before starting legal action against you, the Housing Executive must try to visit you in your home to discuss the problem and give you an opportunity to repay the amount voluntarily. The budgeting tools in our Repossession and Mortgage Debt advice section may help you come up with a realistic and sustainable repayment proposal.
When you get into rent arrears the Housing Executive will ask you to visit your local District Office for an interview. At this interview the Housing Executive will discuss four voluntary repayment methods.
- repaying your debt in full,
- a lump sum and instalments,
- weekly repayments,
- voluntary deductions from earnings.
The Housing Executive will normally look for a downpayment no matter which method you agree to. However, you may be able to avoid this if you can show that you are in financial hardship.
Repaying the debt in full
The Housing Executive will only ask for you to pay the debt in full if it thinks that you can afford it. For example, from your savings, an inheritance or a compensation payment.
Pay a lump sum and then monthly instalments
The Housing Executive may accept that you pay a lumps sum followed by monthly instalments. Make sure that the monthly instalments are affordable. The Housing Executive will arrange compulsory repayments if you don't keep up with your monthly payments.
The Housing Executive may accept weekly repayments if you can't afford a lumps sum payment. Bring a copy of your financial statement to the meeting. This will show the Housing Executive exactly how much you can afford to pay.
Make sure that you agree to repayments you can make. If you don't keep up your weekly repayments the Housing Executive will arrange compulsory repayments.
Voluntary deductions from earnings
If you work in the public sector you can repay the arrears directly through your wages. Your employer can pay up to £5 per week directly to the Housing Executive. This is then deducted from your wages.
Does the Housing Executive have to offer a voluntary repayment package?
The Housing Executive can refuse to offer you a voluntary repayment package if:
- you have broken a previous agreement,
- you don't give the Housing Executive details of your income,
- you don't make a lump sum payment when it believes you can afford it,
- you don't make a down payment when it believes you can afford it.
The Housing Executive will usually only use compulsory recovery methods if a voluntary agreement isn't possible or workable. The Housing Executive will try to recover the arrears through:
- deductions from benefits,
- deductions from money you are owed.
Deductions from benefits
The Housing Executive can apply to get paid directly from the Social Security Agency. You will usually have to owe at least six weeks rent. The Housing Executive can only get £3.30 per week unless you agree to pay more.
Deductions from money the Housing Executive owes you
The Housing Executive can deduct money from payments it makes to you. For example, a redecoration allowance.
The Housing Executive can only deduct money from other payments if it gets a court order. For example, you are getting a compensation payment from the Northern Ireland Office.
Going to court
The Housing Executive can go to the County Court to recover the money owed and to evict you from the property. It is very important that you go to the court hearing to present your case. The Court will look at your personal circumstances to decide if it is reasonable for the Housing Executive to evict you. If you are evicted you may not be allowed to apply for Housing Executive or housing association accommodation for another two years. You should get advice from Housing Rights Service or another advice agency if you are worried about going to court for rent arrears.
If you are no longer a Housing Executive tenant, the Housing Executive may go to the Magistrate's Court to get the rent you owe. It is very important that you appear in court to present your case, particularly if you believe the amount owed is incorrect otherwise a judgement will be made in your absence.
The Magistrate's Court will decide:
- if you owe the Housing Executive money,
- how much money you owe.
If the Magistrate's Court decides that you do owe the Housing Executive you will usually be allowed to repay the money as a lump sum or in instalments.
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