There are certain guidelines based on which council housing applications are approved by the authorities. Through this blog post, we aim to learn whether or not an applicant can get a council house if they have rent arrears. We will also explore whether a tenant can be evicted for having rent arrears as well as if there is any help available to them to pay off this priority debt.

Can I Get A Council House If I Have Rent Arrears?

Whether or not you can get a council house with rent arrears depends on the council’s decision as each council authority has its own ruling on the matter. 

If you are applying for a council house for the first time and you have rent arrears from a private landlord, you may be excused for not being able to afford rental payments due to high rent; considering your low-income status. If you have had rent arrears two to three years ago, this may not affect your council housing application by most councils.

Leicester Council states on their website that even though they conduct a rent arrears check to confirm whether an applicant has any rental debt or not, this will not affect their decision with regards to the allotment of a council house in their district. Applicants will continue to remain on a priority list for council housing in Leicester; based on the assessment of their housing needs.

On the other hand, there are certain councils that will neither allow you to get a council house if you have rental arrears nor permit a change of council house (this can be an upgrade, downgrade or mutual exchange) until your debt is cleared. 

It is only if you agree to a repayment plan according to which you pay back your rent arrears or a part of it that you will be allowed to be enlisted on the Housing Register or be considered for a council house swap.

If you have been part of court proceedings as a result of your rent arrears, you may find it extremely difficult to get a council house. Some councils will not allow rehousing if you had to leave your council house due to rent arrears.

Rent arrears in such cases include all housing-related debt regarding current and former tenancies incurred by an applicant; whether they rented from a private landlord, the council or a social housing landlord. 

If you have rent arrears, you can reassess your situation to see if you are living in a council house that is beyond your needs. If you have a spare room, you may consider moving into a smaller council house to reduce your rent expense or taking in a lodger to increase your income so you may be able to make rent payments on time.

Can I Get Evicted From My Council House If I Have Rent Arrears?

Yes, in some cases a tenant can get evicted from their council house if they have rent arrears. This does not happen all of a sudden as there are reminder notices sent to them by council authorities for clearance of their debt.  However, it is only in extreme cases that your social house landlord or the council takes the matter to court and as a result of the court order, you can be asked to evict the premises. This is called “seeking possession” by the council. 

On the other hand, if you are able to claim severe financial hardship such as homelessness due to eviction, you may be able to stay in the house until another one is arranged by the council.

Can The Council Help Me With Rent Arrears?

Yes, the council can help with rent arrears by offering tenants in social housing convenient options such as a payment plan to clear their dues and make future payments easier for them. In such a case, social renters pay an extra amount above their usual rent to cover their arrears. 

Claimants who are also on benefits in addition to availing of a council house will find it easier to seek easy payment plans from their councils or social housing landlords. 

No matter what your situation is, the best way to proceed is to contact your local council or housing association if you are expecting financial constraints in being able to meet your rent payments. It is better to make arrangements prior to going into rent arrears. However, if you are already in such a situation, you must inform the local authorities to work out a mutually convenient solution.

Can I Use Housing Benefit To Pay Rent Arrears?

Yes, you can use your Housing benefit payments to clear your rent arrears. In fact, if you are on Housing Benefit or claiming the housing element for Universal Credit, you may simply have your payments transferred to your council for payment of your rent through Direct Debit or a Standing Order.

If this is not a workable solution as Housing Benefit or Universal Credit do not account for the entire amount of your rent, you may apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP). This is extra money provided by your local council to meet your rent payments or arrears (if you have any). You are not required to return this amount to the council. If you are on Housing Credit or Universal Credit, you can ask your local council for a DHP form. 

If you are not on benefits check if you can get Universal Credit to make rent payments easier.

Conclusion:

The above discussion highlights that getting a council house while you are in rent arrears is primarily a decision of the council district that you are applying to. Even if your council housing is not completely rejected on the basis of this debt, your priority rank may decrease if you are known not to pay your rent on time without good reason.

FAQs: Can I Get A Council House If I Have Rent Arrears?

How many months of rent arrears lead to eviction in the UK?

If a tenant has accumulated 2 months of rent arrears in the UK, the court can order eviction from the property. In some cases, tenants can be asked to clear their rental debt before eviction.

What happens if I don’t pay my rent arrears?

If you don’t pay your rent arrears, you are at risk of being evicted from your rented property. In the case of council housing debt, you may also have difficulty in being re-housed.

Can I get help to pay my rent arrears?

Yes, you can get help in the form of Discretionary Housing Payment from your local council if you are claiming Universal Credit or Housing Benefit. DHP is an added payment that a tenant can claim from the council.

Does rent arrears affect credit score?

Rent arrears usually do not affect your credit score; however if the matter goes to court, the information becomes available to credit bureaus. This is the reason why rent arrears should be considered a priority debt by tenants.

How far back can rent arrears be claimed?

Landlords can claim rent arrears as far back as 6 years from tenants. In most cases, such situations are dealt with through court proceedings.

References:

Applying for council housing while in debt.

Rent Arrears. What Next If You Can’t Pay? StepChange

Who can join the housing register – Shelter England

Rent arrears: social housing | Westminster City Council

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