Helping Tenants in Arrears Kit

When tenants run up arrears of thousands of pounds it is easy to throw up your hands, assume that they will never be paid, and move straight to eviction proceedings.

However, this is a mistake.  If you take the time and trouble to speak to tenants and source additional funding, you will often find that tenants can be supported so that they can carry on living at the property.  Often you may be able to find grant or other funding to clear their arrears.

Eviction proceedings help nobody.  They are expensive and time-consuming and once they are over the landlord has all the bother of finding a new tenant.  If the existing tenants look after the property well and are decent people it is far better to try to help them remain.

This Guide will take you through the steps to do this.  We can’t guarantee that you will always be able to help tenants remain but in many cases, you will.  And every tenant who is helped to  remain in their property is a gain:

  • Tenants will gain as they will not be at risk of homelessness – a terrible thing for tenants which could affect them negatively for the rest of their lives
  • Landlords will gain as their income will be stabilised and they will not have to suffer the expense and inconvenience of court proceedings and finding new tenants
  • They will often find that their tenants are so grateful that they will remain long term – meaning landlords avoid the expense of voids
  • Landlords’ agents will gain as there will be money available to pay their commission, plus
  • Their landlord clients will be delighted with their service and more likely to remain with them and give testimonials

So let’s start.  The process is a step by step process.  You start at step 1 and then proceed through the kit.  However, there are a few things we need to discuss first – which we look at in the introduction.

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Introduction

Before you start

You will not always be able to find a solution

It is important to be clear from the start that this kit will not be able to help everyone.

  • Some tenants will refuse to engage – in which case it will be impossible to help them
  • Some tenants will be in such difficulties that help is virtually impossible (although don’t dispair totally – you may be able to do something, if not very much)
  • In some cases, the only help you are able to source will not be what the parties want.

However, it is important that you do not give up too soon.  There are thousands of charities and other organisations which can offer grant and other aid.  It may take a lot of searching and digging around to find the right one for your tenant.  Then, some organisations may not specifically say that they will, for example, provide a grant to help clear arrears.  You need to ask them.

Often, as you can see from Julie’s case stories, it is possible to pay off arrears with a combination of several different grants and maybe loans, but you need to warn your tenant or (if you are an agent) your landlord, that it is not a given.

We hope that with the help of this kit you will be able to assist most tenants who need help but there will inevitably be some situations where this will be impossible.

Things you may be able to do

So what sort of help will you be able to find, using this kit?  It could be any one (or more) of the following:

  • Improving benefit entitlement
  • Grant aid
  • Loans
  • Rehousing

The first three, or a combination of them, will hopefully be able to help pay all or part of the arrears and allow the tenants to remain in situ.

However, for other situations, it may be inappropriate for the tenants to remain in the property.  In which case, help and support to allow the tenant to relocate to somewhere more suitable may be found.

You saw some case studies on the sales page for this kit.  Below is a video taken from a recording with Julie in May 2021 where she discusses eight case studies, some of which are the same as the sales page examples:

 

 

Using this kit

Which are you?

  • A landlord of one property with a tenant in difficulties
  • A portfolio landlord with several tenants in arrears
  • A small letting agency or property manager
  • A larger, or maybe very large, organisation dealing with many tenants who need help?

If at all possible, we would suggest that, unless you are on good terms with your tenants, someone other than the person who deals with the normal management issues, contact the tenants to offer help.  If you have been putting tenants under pressure to pay arrears, they may be unwilling to open up to provide the information needed to use this kit.  Someone new may be better able to gain their trust.

If your organisation is a fairly large one, you may want to consider allocating this work to one member of staff (or more), so they can gain experience and expertise over time.

Or maybe the person who dealt with the tenants at the start of the tenancy, who got them into the property, would be a good choice – as the tenants will have a positive recollection of them.  And they will not be associated with continual demands for rent.

If you run a large letting agency, having a member of staff experienced in this work will prove priceless as they will be able to deal with problems at an earlier stage and ‘nip problems in the bud’.

Keeping Records

It is always a good idea to keep detailed records of everything that you do.  Such as dated telephone attendance notes of all phone calls, notes of any meetings and things that were agreed, and all contact details for everyone you contacted in connection with the case.

For example, even if someone or an organisation failed to respond or were unhelpful, it will be useful to have a record of this so you do not waste a lot of time trying to contact them again in a future case.

Your records can either be kept in paper form in a physical folder or on your computer (in which case you should scan in all letters and other documents received so you have a complete record).

If you record things electronically, make sure you name your folders appropriately so you will be able to find them later.  If you do a lot of this work, you should have a section devoted to this record-keeping and maybe order your records by date or property area.  Whatever makes sense to you.

Make sure you do this on an ongoing basis and in particular prepare your telephone and meeting attendance notes immediately after the event as otherwise, you will find it hard to remember what was said.

Webinar training

For a quick guide to helping tenants in arrears, watch first this clip from a training session by Julie on 16 June 2021.  This will give you a quick overview of the process.

 

 

This kit was inspired by a webinar delivered by Julie Ford to Landlord Law members in February 2021.

We are copying this webinar for you here.  We suggest you watch this next, and then proceed to follow the step by step guide below.

 

 

Step 1

Initial contact

So, your tenant is in arrears of rent.   Maybe they have just fallen into arrears.  Or maybe the arrears have been building up for some time.

It is best to deal with arrears situations as early as possible – ideally just after the tenants have first stopped paying.  However many people buying this kit will have tenants whose arrears are high.  How should you deal with this?

The first thing to do is to contact the tenant and speak to them.  Depending on how you normally deal with them you could either

Ring them up, or
Send a letter asking if you can meet – for example by way of a phone call, a physical meeting or perhaps a Zoom call.

If you are on very bad terms with the tenants this may be difficult and in this situation, you may need to use a third party.  For example, you may decide to use Julie’s service – in which case we suggest you use her initial assessment form here (but read the rest of this guide first).

If you have purchased the Plus version of this kit you will find a number of letter/email drafts you can use – with different options depending on whether you are a letting agent or the landlord.

If you do not have the plus version, then you need to make the following points:

That you are not a debt collector, or (if you are the landlord or the agent who normally deals with them)
That you are not contacting them to chase them about their rent arrears but to help them
Say that you have access to databases with details of over 2,000 charity grants and trusts which may be able to help them with their arrears
That you need to talk to them to find out more about their situation.

In most cases, tenants will not want a physical visit.  Most tenants will prefer a Zoom or What’s app call or maybe a telephone conversation.  Younger tenants in particular tend to prefer electronic means of communication such as text messages and email.

The only time you should really consider a physical visit is if you are getting no contact whatsoever and are worried about their welfare.

Video clip on contacting tenants

Before going further you may like to watch this clip from Julie’s training session in June 2021 when she discussed the problems in approaching tenants and asking them to talk about what will to them be a sensitive subject.

 

 

Engagement with the tenant

When you have your first meeting with the tenants – what is the best approach to take?

Generally, it is best to focus on ‘them’ not the arrears and to have a ‘non-judgemental attitude.  Remember that the tenants will be feeling vulnerable and if they feel you are just ‘having a go at them’ will be unwilling to co-operate.  You need to convince them that you are on their side.

Although YOU may be primarily interested in getting your rent, when talking to them you need to look at things from THEIR point of view.  The benefit to tenants of getting the arrears cleared is that

  • It will allow them to stay in the property (if this is what they want), and that
  • They will avoid CCJs and the problems that come with them (such as poor credit ratings)
  • You may also be able to help them with other debt issues (which is one of the things we will be looking at later)

So these are the things that you should emphasise.

When you first meet, use phrases like

“How are you”
“Tell me about your current situation”, or
“How can I help you”

Encourage them to talk about themselves (people normally enjoy talking about themselves!) and show an interest in what they tell you.  Probably best to say as little as possible at this stage and let them speak.

The things you need to find out:

During your conversation with them, you need to establish the following key points:-

  • Are they on benefits?
  • Is the rent their only debt
  • What is the main reason they can’t pay the rent?

When talking to them – watch out for key words and issues which you can follow up when hunting for grant aid.  For example:

  • If they mention that they have been ill
  • If they or someone in their household has any form of disability
  • If they have had a particular trade or profession
  • If they have recently lost their job
  • If they or anyone in their household has been in the armed forces, or
  • In prison
  • If they have a different nationality

These things all need to be followed up, and further details taken

You also need to

  • Agree a day and time when you can call them back to go through the Grant criteria search process, or
  • Send them a form which asks these and has an income & expenditure sheet, and
  • Get a signed letter of authority to act on the tenant’s behalf, for when you apply for DHP and grants

Always follow up the telephone conversation with an email confirming what was talked about and any actions agreed with any deadlines agreed.

Once you have an understanding of the tenant’s situation you can look at the options available.

Obtaining their information

The information you get from the initial meeting will be useful but before you can assess the tenants’ situation properly you will need to find out as much information as possible about them.

If you have purchased the Plus version of this kit, you will have access to Julie’s special form which she has developed over many years.  You can either complete this yourself by asking the tenants questions, or you can send it to them and ask them to fill it in and send it back to you.

If there is more than one tenant then get them all to complete their own form.

If you do not have the Plus version, then note that you will need information about the following:

  • Their full name and address (and other contact details)
  • The monthly rent
  • Whether they are on universal credit and if so if payments go direct to the landlord
  • Their date of birth
  • Their marital status
  • Who they live with
  • The names, date of birth and sex of any children
  • Whether anyone in the property is disabled
  • Their employment history and current occupation
  • Whether they have ever served in the armed forces
  • Whether they have ever served time in prison.

NB If they get annoyed at the last question, tell them that there are special charities that will assist released prisoners.

You will also need details of their monthly income and expenditure and a list of any people or organisations that they owe money to.  Plus kit buyers will find a form for this with the documents.

In our feedback form, some landlords confessed that they felt very uncomfortable asking tenants for personal financial information.  This is understandable.  In this applies to you, you may want to consider using Julie’s service.

Data Protection

Do not forget that when you hold other people’s data you are responsible for dealing with it in accordance with the data protection legislation. Ideally, you should have a data protection notice which you can give the tenants setting out how you will be dealing with their data.

For more information about your obligations under the Data Protection legislation, please see the website for the Information Commissioner’s Office which is very informative.

Step 2

Investigation work – outline

After your meeting with the tenants, or (if a meeting is not possible) after they have returned the completed forms, you should proceed as set out below.  Preferably in this order:

  • Check to see if the tenant has any utility debt, or
  • Council  tax arrears, then
  • Check their benefits to make sure they are getting all that they are entitled to

Once you have checked all of these items out thoroughly you can move to consider and apply for grant aid.

However, read the next section first!

Priority and non priority debts

Priority and Non-Priority Debts

One of the first things you need to do is separate out the ‘priority’ and  ‘non-priority’ debts and make sure that the priority debts are dealt with rather than the non-priority debts.

Priority debts will include:

  • Rent and the arrears
  • Council tax and Council Tax arrears
  • Gas & Electricity
  • TV License
  • Court fines
  • Payment of goods on HP
  • Unpaid income tax, National insurance or VAT
  • Unpaid child maintenance
  • Phone and internet bills
  • Overpaid tax credits
  • Mortgage arrears or secured loan arrears

Tenants also need to keep up payments which affect their employment or employment prospects.  For example, Uber drivers will need to have a car in good condition with up to date tax and insurance.

Non-priority debts will include

  • Credit card or store card debts
  • Unsecured loans and overdrafts including payday loans
  • Catalogue debts
  • Unpaid water bills (the supplier can’t cut off the water supply)
  • Overpayments of benefits – apart from tax credits
  • Unpaid parking tickets – these are called Penalty Charge Notices or Parking Charge Notices
  • Money owed to family and friends

The priority debts are all things which if not paid will either send them to prison or make them lose their current home.

All the other debts are non-priority debts that can be paid off later.  The worst that can happen with them is a CCJ, whereas being made homeless is far more serious – for example, tenants will find it very hard if not impossible to find employment if they are homeless.

Tenants often respond to the creditor which is shouting at them the loudest!  However, you need to make sure that their precious resources are not being wasted on non-priority debts which can easily wait.

Julie talks a bit about priority and non priority debts in the audio below:

Alternative options

Sometimes you will not be able to find any resources to pay arrears or it may be clearly inappropriate for the tenants to remain at the property.

However, this does not mean that you will be unable to help them!  For example, see the two case examples below where Julie was able to arrange for alternative accommodation.

Lodger rehoused:

 

Tenants with drug addictions rehoused

 

Always bear in mind that this type of solution may be available, and be more suitable than arranging for the tenants to remain.

Step 3

Utility debts

First, we need to check to see if there are any debts with utilities – for example, gas and electricity, water and sewage etc.  If there are any utility debts:

  • Work out how much they owe
  • Identify who the utility provider is and locate their website
  • Check to see if they have any grant schemes*
  • Check to see if the tenant is eligible for WarmHomes discount scheme

*Many providers have their own grant scheme that will pay off the customer’s debtor or pay a good % towards the debt.  You can normally find out above this on the supplier’s website.  However, if  you can’t find anything there, the grant book (discussed later) has a list too.

Note that utility debts are priority debts as when tenants fall into arrears, the suppliers can disconnect the service.  So they should be paid in full before tenants consider making payment to ‘non-priority’ creditors.

But let’s take a closer look at the different utilities:

Gas and electric arrears

If you don’t pay your gas or electric bills, your supplier can apply to Court to get a warrant to enter your home to fit a pre-payment meter.  So you need to bear this in mind when advising tenants.

Many gas and electricity companies have their own customer support schemes that can pay a grant towards arrears or write off the debt in some cases.  For example:

Water arrears

If you fall behind with your water payments, your water supplier can’t disconnect you.

However, they can start court action to get debtors to pay the arrears back, and in some cases apply to deduct money straight from benefits payments through a scheme called Waterdirect.

Water companies also have a range of support funds for those who are struggling to pay

In addition, most water companies have payment support schemes, such as social tariffs (special rates for people on low income or receiving specific benefits).

To name but a few………….

It is always worth contacting the utility supplier direct to ask what funds they have available.

In addition, if the tenant is vulnerable they can also ask to be added to the Priority Services Register.

This is a free service provided by suppliers and network operators. Each energy supplier and network operator maintains its own register. To get on it, you need to contact the energy supplier.  Find out more at Priority Services Register | Ofgem.

There are also Government schemes that could help

  • Winter Fuel Payment – An annual one-off payment to help pay for heating during the winter
  • Cold Weather Payments – These are one-off payments to help pay for extra heating costs when it’s very cold.
  • Warm Home Discount Scheme – £140 off the electricity bill under the Warm Home Discount Scheme if you’re either:
    • getting the guarantee credit part of Pension Credit
    • or on a low income

All of which are worth trying.  If you can deal with the utility bills, that is one less worry for the tenants – and will release extra money for clearing rent arrears!

Pre-Payment Meters

Below Julie Ford answers a question on prepay meters.

The company Julie recommends is Utilita.

You could also consider going to the main supplier and they may help by coming out and changing the meter.  The company will probably be:

Council Tax

Many tenants in arrears of rent are also in arrears of Council Tax.  (If their rent is inclusive of Council Tax, or if they are an HMO (where landlords are responsible for the Council Tax – skip this section).

Otherwise –

There is a lot of information on the gov.uk website about Council Tax here.

Note that if they have not been getting, for example, a discount they are entitled to, they will be eligible for a refund which could help repay their arrears.

If there is a large Council tax bill outstanding you may be able to persuade the Council Tax Office to allow the tenants to spread the arrears across their next bill which will make it easier to pay.  However, Council Tax Officers are not able, for example, to agree to any discounts or waive payments.  Council tax must be paid.

Step 4

Benefit entitlement

You next need to check if the tenants are entitled to benefits.  There is an excellent online service you can use to help called ‘entitledto’ which you will find here.

You can use this to check

  • Where tenants are in receipt of benefits – that they are getting all that they are entitled to, or
  • If they are not getting benefits, whether they would be entitled to anything

See here a clip from Julle’s training webinar in June 2021 when she discusses using this service:

 

You should also check the Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rates for the area – see the government site here.

But be aware though that the LHA rate applies to the allowance the tenant is entitled to – not necessarily to the size of property they live in.  For example: a single person over 35 would be entitled to a 1 bed property.  So, if they are renting a 2 bed flat, they would not get a 2 bed LHA rate.  This can be a problem.

Direct payment

If the tenant is in receipt of Universal Credit,

You should arrange for this to be paid direct to the landlord – this will prevent the tenant from spending the money by mistake or being pressured by other creditors to pay it to them.

You can find out more about this service here where you will also find links to explanatory guides.

If the tenant is not getting Universal Credit

When applying for this (if the tenant is eligible) request that it be paid directly to the landlord.

Step 5

Discretionary housing payment (DHP) & local authority funding

Once you have sorted out all benefit related issues, we move on to see what help the Local Authority can offer.

Note that you can find out your Local Authority (or Council) details here.  Then proceed as follows:

  • Contact the local council to find out what funding they offer for those struggling to pay rent or facing eviction
  • Check to see if the tenant is eligible for a Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP), if so
  • Support the tenant to apply or apply on the tenants behalf

You will find online guidance on claiming DHPs from the gov.uk site here.  There is also a Guidance Manual on DHPs here.

Note that the precise procedure will vary depending on the requirements of the relevant council.

Before applying for a DHP it is important that you read the policy for the Council.  You can find this by doing a search on the Council Website for “Discretionary Housing Payment Policy”.  You need to read this carefully and see what their policies are.

For example, some Local Authorities will not allow the DHP to be used towards rent arrears, but will only allow this to be used for rent in advance and moving costs if the tenant is moving to a new property.  In which case they will often have a separate fund for rent arrears.

The policies are not normally longer than about 4-5 pages long so reading them will not be too onerous a task!

Know your Local Authority

You need to be aware of what YOUR Local Authority provides.  For example, sometimes Local Authorities will have other funds available but because they have an obscure name you may not realise that they are something your tenant can apply for.  For example ‘financial inclusion fund’ or ‘homeless prevention fund’.

When you speak to the Local Authority you need to ask the right questions as if you don’t ask specifically they won’t tell.  Be aware also that some Local Authorities are more helpful that others!

Here is a short video of Julie discussing this:

The Landlord Law Local Authority Directory

We have a directory of all (or most) Local Authorities/Councils.  It was originally intended to be an information resource for HMO landlords and so it contains such information as we have been able to locate about licensing fees and link to licensing forms and the link.

However, we are now working to amend the directory to include links which will help kit users (and Landlord Law members) locate information about any funding available to prevent homelessness.

Not all Councils offer support (other than the DHPs) and if support is offered it varies widely between one Council and another.  For example, some will offer grants and whereas others will only offer loans.

Information is not easy to find – if our directory has not yet been updated for your tenants Local Authority, the best thing to do is to pick up the phone and try to speak to someone.  You should ask for either the Private Sector Housing Team or the Homelessness Prevention Team.

We will also be putting in links to the Discretionary Housing Payment Policy for each Council.

Step 6

Grant search

You should now have a lot of information about the tenant(s) so you can start looking for grants.

Before you do this, watch this clip from Julie’s training session in June 2021 where she discusses the various places where you can hunt for grant aid (which are all listed in the sections below):

 

 

Here are some good places to start:

  • If the tenant or anyone in their household has ever been in the armed services, check out SSAFA here.  The Royal British Legion may also be able to help.
  • If there are children in the house, try Children in Need
  • If the tenant or someone in the household has been in prison, try Unlock.
  • If the tenant was working in the hospitality sector (which applies to many tenants who have lost their jobs) try Hospitality Action.
  • Also, try St Martins in the Field Vicars Relief Fund which will frequently offer a ‘small quick’ grant of up to £350 against rent arrears if it will help prevent homelessness.

If these are not able to help – or even if they are, you can move onto the other places to search for grant funding.

General guidance

Be aware that grant applications are only considered where a landlord is willing to allow a tenant to remain in the property for a minimum of 6 months from the date the grant is received.  If the tenant is subsequently evicted for rent arrears, you may be required to pay the grant back to the funder.

Although you need to check the criteria and many grant organisations will say that they do not support applications for rent arrears – if you ask them they may sometimes make an exception.  So if someone appears to fall within the parameters of a charity or grant body, if they fit the criteria of persons the organisation was set up to help – it is always worth asking the question.

They can only say ‘no’ in which case you will be no worse off than you were before.  But they could say ‘yes’!  Or maybe suggest something else that could be helpful.  It is often worth picking up the phone and having a chat with them.

The Charities Commisison

The Charities Commission

You will find the website here.

In the Keyword search put your keyword such as ‘Hospitality” and this will bring up all the charities linked to that industry.  Filter this to “Registered” to leave you just with the active charities and then start checking the criteria.

Some charities may not be clear on criteria and you will need to send an email to enquire if your tenant would be eligible before you submit an application (to save wasting everyone’s time).

Again if you are uncertain about anything, it is often worth picking up the phone and seeing if you can speak to someone there.

Julie discusses using the Charities Commission briefly in the video below:

 

Turn2Us

Turn2Us

This is a very useful website which you will find here.  There is a grant search facility along with other helpful information.

It is fairly easy to use and will normally throw up some organisations you can try for.  The organisers are pretty good at keeping the information up to date so you should always try it.

Julie discusses it briefly below:

 

The Book!

The Guide to Grants for Individuals in Need

This is an annual directory – which you can purchase online here.  At the time of writing the cost is £95.  However, if you do a lot of this work it will be well worth it, plus you can include the cost in your fee and offset it against your tax.

When searching through the book, start with the key facts you know, such as occupation, area, illness. Then move on to exploring more detailed criteria such as nationality, age, sex.

The book is particularly useful for people who are uncomfortable using online resources – as it IS a book!  So you can use bookmarks and post-it notes, turn down pages and annotate it with your notes!

Although an online version is also available if you prefer.

Below is a clip from a talk given by Julie in May 2021 where she describes the book and how she uses it:

 

Funds Online

Funds Online

This is a database of over 8,000 funders – however, it is a subscription site so you need to be a subscriber to use it.

At the time of writing the subscription fee is £530 + VAT per year.  So unless you are going to do a lot of this work, when a subscription can be justified, this service will probably be too expensive.

However, if you are a larger agency and will be looking to help many tenants in need, it will be another string to your bow, and will almost certainly pay for itself during the subscription year.

It is particularly useful if you are looking for help for tenants for things other than rent arrears – for example, grants for white goods.

Julie discusses this briefly in the video below:

 

Grant Application

Once you have identified the grants you are confident the tenant meets the criteria for – you need to submit your application.

Before doing this check how the charity wants the grant submitted – is it by

  • Application form
  • Email, or
  • Letter?

It is important that you use the correct method.  For example, if they have specified an application by letter (or even a ‘handwritten letter’) they probably will not even respond if you just send them an email.

Make sure that all information is given clearly, applications by letter should be typewritten (unless they have specified a handwritten letter), with all relevant information provided.  Do not forget to give your contact information and provide a copy of the tenant’s letter of authority.

Time frames & payment

Note that unless the charity state otherwise, such as they only look at applications twice a year (which is the case for some organisations), you can expect an application to take 6-8 weeks to be addressed.

Most payments will be made via cheque so if your tenant does not have a bank account you may need to help them set one up.  A local Credit Union may be worth investigating if a traditional bank will be inappropriate.

And Finally

Options in Wales

Support & Assistance in Wales

This part of the course is aimed specifically at Welsh landlords to understand the four different types of funds/grants that are available to tenants.  In particular to help tenants out of rent arrears and so reduce housing costs.

Wales have a more centralised programme rather than based on each local authority.  Here are three ways you can help your tenant with their fees & rent.

Note: While the Welsh Discretionary Assistant fund and Utility bills will continue beyond Covid, the Tenancy saver loan currently will only run to September 2021

Welsh Discretionary Assistance Fund:

This fund scheme provides for two types of grants:

  • Firstly, there is the Emergency Assistance Payment which is a grant for essential living costs such as gas & electricity bills. You cannot use it for ongoing payments that you cannot afford to pay, such as rent.
  • Secondly, there is the Individual Assistance Payment which is a grant for people moving into a property. This grant is primarily used for furniture and ‘white goods’ items such as a fridge or a washing machine.

The guidance and eligibility criteria can be found here

Tenancy Saver Loan: this is for tenants who have had problems paying their rent due to a change in circumstance because of the pandemic. The change in circumstances has to be a drop in income for them to be eligible so in situations such as:

  • Furlough
  • On a zero-hours contract but working fewer hours
  • Having been made redundant and starting a new job
  • On statutory sick pay because they are self-isolating

If the loan is approved then the payment will be paid directly to the landlord or letting agent.

The eligibility rules are quite strict but the three main points are that:

  • The tenant must have rent arrears caused by the changes in the pandemic
  • Must not be in significant rent arrears (not paid rent eight weeks in a row)
  • Not be a recipient of housing benefit or housing support.

The Eligibility and the way to apply can be found here

Welsh Hardship Fund:  A fund was introduced on 1st July 2021 to help tenants who have financially suffered due to the Covid-19 pandemic which means the tenant has been unable to pay their rent.

To be eligible, the tenant must:

    • have built up 8 weeks worth of rent arrears between March 2020- June 2021.
    • have built up rent arrears due to changes caused by Covid.
    • not be in reciept of Housing benefits or housing payments through universal credit during the time the tenant has built up the arrears.

    The grant scheme will be administered by the local authorities with applications being accepted around mid-July 2021. The eligibility and way to apply can be found here

    Energy, Electricity & Water Bills: if there are problems with utility bills, check out the website as some have schemes and funds available. Companies usually have support in a variety of ways such as:

        • Reduced bills or debt repayments
        • A change to the bill payment plan
        • Cap on how much the household can pay
        • A temporary break in the bills and debt repayment

    For example, Welsh Water have four schemes as a way to reduce costs for tenants.

    On top of these Welsh tenants also have available to them Discretionary Housing Payments (DHP) & Local Housing Allowance’s from local authorities, the same as in England.

If the grant funding is not quite enough

You may find that the money you are able to raise through your efforts is not enough to clear the arrears.  Or perhaps it is not quite enough to cover the ongoing rent.  Or maybe both.

In this case, you should consider allowing the tenant extra time to repay the arrears or consider reducing the rent.  Particularly if they are otherwise a good tenant.

It is up to you (or the landlord if you are not the landlord) but consider:

  • If you decide not to proceed with the grant funding because it is not enough to pay everything, it will take  you up to 12 months, or maybe more, to evict the tenant
  • Most tenants stop paying if they are being evicted so during that time you will get nothing
  • Few landlords are able to recover unpaid rent after tenants have been evicted.

However

  • If the tenant is able to pay the rent – even if this is less than the contractual rent – you will be getting an income
  • You will have a better chance of recovering any unpaid arrears later, for example, if the tenant obtains employment
  • You will not have to go through the stress and expense of court proceedings and then having to find a new tenant
  • Your tenant will be grateful and a grateful tenant is normally a good tenant

Remember that these are difficult times for us all. If you are able to raise even part of the money your tenant needs this should be counted as a success.

Julie talks about her success rate in the video below:

 

Reporting back to the funder

Reporting back to the funder

Be aware, that In the majority of cases once a funder has provided payment they will expect acknowledgement and proof the payment has been used as requested.

There is usually a deadline attached to this and funders can request the money is returned if this is not adhered to.  You may want to diarise the deadline so it does not get overlooked.

 

Employing Julie

If you have problems and feel you would like some ‘one to one’ help from Julie Ford, we have two options.

A case assessment

Julie can carry out a case assessment for you for a fee of £50.  This works as follows:

  • Click the button below
  • Complete the form carefully and click the submit button
  • Julie will then assess the information, prepare a report and invoice you for the £50 fee
  • Upon receipt of payment, the assessment will be emailed to you.
  • If you then want Julie to revise the assessment (for example if you forgot to include some vital information) there will be a further fee of £25.

Telephone advice

We are also giving kit users access to the Landlord Law members telephone advice service for advice with Julie (which is cheaper than the non-members’ service!  This works as follows:

  • Click the orange button below
  • Make the payment – you can pay by card (debit or credit card) or by paypal.
  • Once payment is made you will be re-directed to a page with a form.  It is essential that you complete this.  Nothing will happen until this is done.
  • Once you have completed the form and clicked the submit button it will be emailed to Julie
  • Julie will then contact you within two working days to arrange a time for your advice call.

Notes:

  • Telephone advice is subject to the terms and conditions here
  • When you click the submit button on the form you should be taken to a new page.  If this does not happen it means that you have not completed the form properly – so scroll up and add any missing information (which will be highlighted in orange).  Some fields on the form are ‘required’ and the form will not send until they are completed.
  • Prices are inclusive of VAT
  • If there are any problems – contact us via the green button service (see the button bottom right on the screen) for support.

Credit ladder

If you are able to help tenants clear all or part of their arrears and pay their rent regularly, the next thing is to help them to repair their credit rating.

Having a good credit rating will really benefit the tenants as it will help them to gain finance in the future.

One of the best ways to do this is to encourage tenants to sign to up Credit Ladder.

About Credit Ladder

Credit Ladder is an open banking service which monitors tenants rent payments and reports to one or more of the major credit agencies.  The service can also be used for benefit payments.

There is a free service where just one credit agency will be notified.  For two agencies to be notified there is a monthly fee of £5.

Suggest to tenants that they sign up to the free service now, and then once their finances are more settled they consider the paid service at that time.

Julie talks about Credit Ladder in the audio below:

Keeping a record

Before closing your file, it is a good idea to prepare a summary report of the case.

If you keep paper records, this could be placed at the top of the folder where you will see it first, otherwise, make sure it is easy to find in your computer folder system.  Perhaps give the file a suitable name such as ‘Summary of Case’.

This will be particularly helpful if you do a lot of this work, for example for a large letting agent, as you will be able to refer back to past cases easily.  If you have a lot of case records, it will also help you find a case you want to refer to easily.

Plus users will find a draft form of ‘record of case’ document you can use with the plus documents.

Your Feedback

We hope that this kit has been useful to you and you have been able to resolve issues with your tenants, either to allow them to remain in the property, or in some other way.

We would love to know how you got on!

So please give us some feedback, preferably via our feedback form linked below (as emails tend to get lost after a while whereas it is easier to find comments in the survey monkey).  We read all feedback and your comments will go to improve the kit at its next review.

Click here for the feedback form.

Best wishes

Julie and Tessa