Water rates on Council Tenancies eviction
14/06/2011 10:16 am
Hi all, I am wondering what the legal aspect is in relation to arrears which are mainly water rates.
for example an applicant who's rent account is clear as its being paid by full housing benefit but has accrued over £600 can this arrears be held against them for accessing the waiting list.
the reason why i am asking this is that everywhere i have looked states that water rates are a non priority debt however currently when an applicant applies for rehousing if they have any arrears be it water or rent then they would have to pay off the full amount should they be offered a property.
if water rates are a non priority debt and an applicant has a clear account apart from substantial rent arrears should they be allowed to transfer and if not how could this be legally defended?
your comments and responses appreciated
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14/06/2011 10:36 am
Water rates are not rent, they can not therefore be the basis of rent arrears.
If a tenant is being prevented from moving because of a civil debt then they have a right to take action against the authority for misrepresenting that debt as rent arrears.
The courts will not evict on this basis alone.
The authority should have revised its accounting practices years ago away from rolling up all charges associated with the property as 'rent'. Indeed, the simplest way of avoiding this maladministration on the part of the authority is to cease being an agent for the private suppliers.
14/06/2011 11:20 am
Proceed with caution. If the agreement to pay water charges is within the tenancy agreement - e.g. we call it rent and other charges, and the tenant has accepted those terms, then it does become legally enforceable upon breach. This is would allow a social landlord to consider it actionable cause under possession Ground 12 (assured tenancies) or Ground 1 (secure tenancies); especially if attempts have been made to recover the debt and these have not been successful.
If the clearing of oustanding debts owed to a previous landlord is a condition of application, then of course these should be resolved at the earliest opportunity. Most social housing lettings schemes, I would hope, simply wish to see a sustained payment plan to reduce any debts to enable someone to apply to a waiting list.
14/06/2011 12:07 pm
True TC - but there is precedent to challenge such prescriptive agreements as unlawful. The landlord should not include charges as rent, and courts will uphold that.
The anomoly is hung over from when the Tories privatised water. That legislation clearly demanded that the charge for water be separate. If the landlord has failed to do so then they are in breach.
14/06/2011 11:04 pm
I understand that debt should not be misrepresented to take action against a tenant, but the tenant does sign an agreement and knows all the charges.
i agree that a tenant who is making regular payments should be able to access housing and that in all cases a thorough analysis needs to be undertaken of arrears why they accrued etc.
my only worry is that if for example we have a tenant who has never paid one penny in water rates, the rent is covered completely by housing benefits would be able to move and not be penalised for this,
it doesnt seem very fair that a tenant who has not paid one penny in charges should be allowed to move and also not to have those arrears held against them or action taken against their tenancy.
15/06/2011 9:02 am
If the rent is £50 and includes a £5 element for water rates and the tenant fails to pay the full £50 then who decised it is the £5 of water rates he has not paid or the rent...
The original question seemed to state that these were entirely seperate bills(or not the question was a little vague). If that is the case I agree with previous posters (mornin' Chris) that it cannot be used as a reason to refuse a transfer as it is only normally rent arrears which prevent a transfer.
If however the water rates are part of the total charge (ie not seperate) then they are right to refuse to allow a transfer IMHO.
15/06/2011 11:21 am
The original post states the tenant is in receipt of full H/B. I'm assuming therefore that the arrears are for non-H/B eligible elements of the rent - i.e. the water charge.
If the tenant has always been in receipt of full H/B, I don't think there is any ambiguity about what element of the rent the arrears are for.
As has been already mentioned, if the water charges are an element withih the rent then non-payment can be considered 'rent arrears.'
I have to ask though... how does an association allow a tenant to accrue a £600 debt in water charges alone? Why has no action been taken sooner?
I don't know how much the water charge is for the property but I can't imagine it being more than £5.00 per week. On that basis, £600 is 120 weeks!
15/06/2011 12:38 pm
It is potentialely unlawful to refuse to transfer a tenant simply because they owe rent or water rates to a public sector landlord. That is potentially challengable as operating a blanket policy without considering the individual merits of a case. So proceed with care on this. The tenancy agreement if well drafted should include as rent amounts payable as water rates so that even if the only debt is water rates, if there are arrears then arguable there are arrears of rent. Therefore the decision on whether or not to transfer having looked at the individual circumstances of a case will be based on the fact that rent is owing not just water rates. In any event the policy can be amended to say where rent or other payments due under the tenancy have not been made. That will include water rates.
15/06/2011 12:43 pm
i apologise if my question was vague, in relation to the issue identified of the tenant paying 50 in rent who decides where this 50 is deducted i think it mainly comes off the rent account before any other payments hit the other charges, i think this is because it would be considered a priority debt and in addition the hra is one which is used to fund social housing and management.
in addition it would increase the amount of debt owed as an overall figure if say water rates were paid first and then rent second.
what legal action could be taken and would we likely get a possession order on someone who just owed water rates, i would have thought it would most likely be a ccj or other arrangement?
15/06/2011 12:49 pm
You can get a possession order for just water rates because that is a breach of a condition of the tenancy. Obviously you will have nto satisfy the court that it is reasonable to make a possession order if all attempts tp recover have failed or the tenant is not engaging. It can be done and has been done before.
15/06/2011 12:53 pm
thank you all for your advice, you have been very helpful
01/11/2013 6:18 pm
I know what you mean.
i have the same problam
Slough Borough Council
Public servent SUNDEEP SHARMA IS
saying look at HOUSING ACT 1985
SECURE COUNCIL TENANCIE!