Housing associations’ compliance with the rent arrears pre-action protocol and use of Ground 8
In recent years the Government has taken steps to address concerns about unnecessary and premature use of court action by social landlords in dealing with rent arrears. In October 2006, the rent arrears pre-action protocol was introduced, setting out the steps landlords must take before resorting to court action.
However Citizens Advice believes there remains unfinished business. Some housing associations continue to choose to seek possession for rent arrears using the mandatory Ground 8. This allows them to obtain outright possession wherever an assured tenant is in arrears of at least eight weeks at the time notice is served and at the time of the proceedings. Use of this ground prevents the court from exercising discretion based on the circumstances of the case, and it is not an option available to local authority landlords.
CAB research indicates that the pre-action protocol has had a broadly positive effect in preventing unnecessary court action, although the extent of compliance varies. In contrast however, the continued use of Ground 8 by a minority of housing associations, in some cases as a matter of routine, is resulting in some vulnerable tenants facing the risk of losing their homes. This might have been avoided if discretionary grounds had been used.
In the context of the Government’s homelessness prevention agenda this report recommends that:
- the pre-action protocol is more thoroughly embedded in court procedures to reduce variation in practice
- the use of Ground 8 by housing associations is discontinued.