Struggling to pay?

What should I do if I can’t pay my rent?

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If you are unable to pay your rent, for any reason you should:

  • Contact your Rent Management Officer Immediately on 0300 1234 161
  • If you think you might be entitled to housing benefit, contact Cornwall Council on 0300 1234 121 to make an application 
  • Keep your Rent Management Officer up to date with information about your housing benefit claim and financial circumstances
  • Seek independent advice on debts, money management and rent arrears from agencies like from the Citizens Advice Bureau on 03444 99 41 88 or the National Debt Line on 0808 808 4000

Do not ignore the problem, it will not go away!

 

If you're on a low income, or having financial problems, check if you qualify for any benefits - such as Housing Benefit, Council Tax Support, tax credits or Universal Credit. You don't have to be out of work to claim benefits and you could qualify for more than one. Even if you already receive Housing Benefit, if it doesn't cover your rent you may be able to get some extra money - called 'discretionary housing payments'. For benefits advice contact the benefits team on 0300 1234 121.

You should also consider seeking advice from a debt advice agency, which should be able to advise you on how to maximise your benefits and about any additional benefits you may be able to claim. They may also be able to assist you with filling out the forms and ensuring that any claims are not held up by incomplete paperwork.

What can happen if you don't pay your rent

Landlords usually have the right to seek a court order to evict you for rent arrears. In certain circumstances the council, your landlord, may be able to evict you without the need to obtain a court order first.

The rules about when and how a landlord may evict you for rent arrears differ according to the type of tenancy agreement you have. You will either have an introductory tenancy or secure tenancy.

Introductory tenancy:  An Introductory tenancy lasts for the first year of a council tenancy (it can be extended if legal action has been taken or if you break any of the tenancy conditions such as paying your rent when it's due) and the tenant has fewer rights than a secure tenant. It is easier for the council to repossess during this introductory period if tenancy conditions are broken or the rent is not paid. However, if the rent is paid and tenancy conditions are complied with, the tenancy will automatically become a Secure Tenancy after one year.

Secure tenancy:  You will remain a secure tenant for as long as you live at the property as your sole or principal home. This tenancy also means that the only way you can be made to give up your home is through an Order from the County Court. To get such an Order it must be clear that one of the grounds for possession applies, such as breaking your tenancy agreement.

The way that we collect rent and arrears, follows a specific structure that aims to maximise rent collection, but also to ensure that our tenant’s individual circumstances influence that process. 

If you do not pay your rent on time, you will be in arrears and we will have to take action to recover those arrears.  In brief, we will take the following actions:

  • Write to you to detailing how much your rent arrears amount to and ask for payment or to contact your Rent Management Officer to make a payment agreement.
  • If arrears continue, you will be contacted by an officer of the Rent Management Team to discuss your arrears and a way forward.  This could be a telephone call or a visit to your home.
  • If arrears continue, we will write to you again detailing how much your rent arrears amount to and ask for payment or to contact your Rent Management Officer to make a payment agreement. This is a final warning; the letter will explain that a Notice of Seeking Possession will be served if rent arrears continue.
  • Failure to contact or rectify the arrears will result in your Rent Management Officer personally serving a Notice of Seeking Possession on your home.  This is the first step to taking you to court.
  • Continued withholding of payments will result in a possession claim being made. The court will order you to pay costs of £325 minimum as well as the rent arrears you owe.
  • If you fail to pay after the court hearing, you may have to leave your home. If you move out while you have rent arrears, you will still have to pay the money that you owe!

Please remember, you will always be given the chance to pay the arrears that you owe.  If you stay in touch with your Rent Management Officer we will try to provide you with the support that you need to resolve the issues you have and help you to sustain your tenancy and keep your home.

Further information is available in the Tenant Handbook or the leaflet Paying your rent - information and advice.

Sometimes, rent arrears arise as a result of problems with claiming and processing Housing Benefit and other entitlements. If your Housing Benefit hasn't been paid, contact the council's benefits team on 0300 1234 121 to find out what's happening. There could be a backlog, or they might need more information to deal with your claim. You must keep in contact with your Rent Management Officer and advise them of why your rent has not been paid. 

Do seek advice from an independent adviser who may be able to assist you with making a claim; incomplete paperwork will hold up your claim.

Make sure you tell our estate management team what's going on and keep copies of any correspondence.

Shelter

Shelter offers face-to-face, phone, email and online advice about any housing problem (not just homelessness).

You can contact them at:
Shelter Cornwall, Palace Building, Quay Street, Truro, TR1 2HE
Telephone: 0344 515 2399

or

Shelter Devon, The Guild, Buckwell Street, Plymouth, PL1 2DA
Telephone: 0344 515 2399
Email: info@shelter.org.uk

Shelter National Helpline
0808 800 4444

Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB)

The CAB offers free, confidential advice face-to-face or by phone. Most CABs also offer home visits, and some give email advice.

You can contact the CAB at:
Citizens Advice Bureau, 21 Dean Street, Liskeard
Telephone: 03444 994188
There are also CAB outreach centres in Looe, Callington and Saltash

National Debtline

National Debtline is a free, confidential service offering independent advice about dealing with debt. You can get information online or by calling the free helpline: 0808 808 4000.