The tenancy conditions you sign at the start of your tenancy mean that by law, you must pay your rent regularly and not get into arrears. It is your responsibility to keep your rent account up to date.
If you get into arrears - don't ignore it!
If you have fallen into arrears and you have not contacted us, we will contact you either in writing or by phone, we may even send you a text message.
You need to pay the arrears as quickly as possible, ideally in one payment, to clear the whole amount.
Getting advice and support
If you do have problems keeping up rent payments it is important that you get in touch and keep us informed. You will be able to speak to an income officer, who will give you advice and try to help find a way to solve the problem. We may allow you to repay the arrears in instalments.
You can also get advice from local advice agencies who help you if you are having difficulty dealing with multiple debts.
You may be entitled to housing benefit to help with your rent. Please contact Lambeth Benefit Services on 0345 302 2312 for further details. You can apply for Housing Benefit by using the housing benefit application form.
What will the council do if I do not clear my arrears?
We will contact you by phone, letter or visit you at home to discuss your arrears, arrange payment and resolve any other problems.
If this action is not successful we will serve a 'Notice of Seeking Possession' if you are a secure tenant and a 'Notice of Possession Proceeding' if you are an introductory tenant. This is a legal notice telling you that we intend to take legal action if you do not pay your arrears.
If you do not arrange to pay off the arrears within the following four weeks, we will apply to the county court for a possession order for the rent you owe.
There are two types of possession order the courts can grant:
- a postponed possession order - this means that as long as you keep to the repayments ordered by the court to pay off rent arrears, nothing more will be done. However, if you do not pay as ordered, we can apply for a possession date and subsequently, a warrant to ask the court bailiff to come and evict you
- an outright possession order - this means you can be evicted.
If the courts grant either of these orders you may have to pay an additional amount towards court costs that the court may award the council for having to take you to court.
We will tell you, in writing, about all the stages of legal action and what is likely to happen.
We will do all we can to recover rent arrears. We do not want to evict you but will if you do not clear your arrears. Even when you have been evicted, we will try to recover the rent arrears and court costs you built up while you were a tenant.
Former tenant arrears
When a tenant ends their tenancy they become a former tenant. If you owe us money when your tenancy ends we will contact you to make an agreement to repay the debt. If this fails we will take legal action to get the money owed to us.
Good reasons not to get into arrears
As well as risking being evicted from your home, there are other reasons why you should avoid getting behind with your rent.
- You may have trouble getting credit (including loans or hire purchase) because a possession order always carries a money judgement, which lasts seven years, for the amount of arrears plus court costs. This judgement will be revealed in a credit enquiry.
- You may not be able to get a mortgage or other loan if you have rent arrears as, with your permission, building societies and other lenders may ask for references on your rent payments.
- You will not normally be able to get a transfer or mutual exchange.
- You will not be allowed to rent a garage. If you already rent one, it could be taken away from you.
- You will not be able to buy your home under the right to buy if you break the conditions of a possession order.
- If you are evicted for rent arrears, we will not normally re-house you.
What should I do if I think there is a mistake on my rent account?
Contact the Lambeth Service Centre on 020 7926 6000. We will be able to examine your rent account and sort out any problems. If a payment you made is not showing on your account, you will need to bring (or send) your receipt into any area housing office, so the payment can be traced and ensure that the correct amount is put into your rent account.
What should I do if I am waiting for housing benefit to be paid?
You should contact us. Housing Benefit claims should be sorted out within four weeks of the Lambeth Benefit Service receiving your claim form. You can also contact the Lambeth Benefit Service on 0345 302 2312 to find out the progress of your claim.
We may be able to calculate whether you will be entitled to housing benefit. Please contact your income officer who will be able to work out how much, if any, housing benefit you may be entitled to.
Please be aware that any calculation the income officer does is based on income details you provide, and any amount we may ask you to pay, will be an estimate. The actual amount you could pay once your Housing Benefit has been assessed could be higher or lower than the estimate we gave you.
We will not usually take legal action against you if we know you are waiting for a claim to be sorted out and you are making payments.
Remember that housing benefit does not pay for water rates, even if it is included in your rent - you will still have to pay that proportion of the rent (plus, where appropriate, charges for garages, car spaces and home insurance) yourself.