FERGUSLIE PARK HOUSING ASSOCIATION. Current Tenant Arrears Recovery Policy (ref: HS P7)

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1 FERGUSLIE PARK HOUSING ASSOCIATION Current Tenant Arrears Recovery Policy (ref: HS P7) Committee Approval Date: Effective Date (post consultation) : Review Date : 1

2 1. Introduction Contents 2. Legislative and Regulatory Framework 3. Aims and Objectives:- Prevention Arrears management and recovery Arrears Enforcement 4. Monitoring and Reporting 5. Publicity and Communication 6. Complaints 7. Policy Review 2

3 1. INTRODUCTION Ferguslie Park Housing Association recognizes that the collection of rent and other housing related charges, including arrears of money due, is critical in order to maximize the resources available to ensure that the Association can continue to meet our core business objectives of improving and maintaining our stock and delivering and developing responsive customer services. This document outlines Ferguslie Park Housing Association s policy in relation to current tenant arrears prevention, control and recovery. 2. LEGISLATIVE AND REGULATORY FRAMEWORK This policy has been developed taking account of current good practice and compliance with the following:- Legislation The Housing (Scotland) Act 2001 The Housing(Scotland) Act 2010 The Homelessness etc (Scotland) Act 2003 The Data Protection Act 1998 The Equality Act 2010 Debtors (Scotland) Act 1987 (as amended) The Bankruptcy and Diligence etc ( Scotland) Act 2007 Debt Arrangement and Attachment (Scotland) Act 2002 The Debt Arrangement Scheme Regulations 2004 The Scottish Social Housing Charter Ref no 1 Equalities Social landlords perform all aspects of their housing services so that Every tenant and other customer has their individual needs recognized, is treated fairly and with respect,and receives fair access to housing and housing services Ref no 2 Communication Social landlords manage their business so that Tenants and other customers find it easy to communicate with their landlord and get the information they need about their landlord,how and why it makes decisions and the services it provides Ref no 3 Participation Social landlords manage their businesses so that Tenants and other customers find it easy to participate in and influence their landlords decisions at a level they feel comfortable with Ref no 11 Tenancy Sustainment Social landlords make sure that Tenants get the information they need on how to obtain support to remain in their home; and ensure suitable support is available, including services provided directly by the landlord and by other organisations Ref no 13 Value for Money Social landlords manage all aspects of their businesses so that Tenants, owners and other customers receive services that provide continually improving value for the rent and other service charges they pay 3

4 3. AIMS AND OBJECTIVES This policy reflects the Associations core values as detailed within our Internal Management Plan in terms of : Customer focus by offering early support and guidance to customers to reduce arrears and prevent homelessness. Offer realistic payment arrangements taking affordability into account. Ensure customers are treated fairly and equally. Ensure all arrears information is treated confidentially. Ensure tenant engagement underpins all aspects of the arrears recovery process. Enhance Housing Quality to maximize funds available for the provision of quality housing services. Develop our People ensure staff receive appropriate and ongoing training to ensure they have the required skills and knowledge to deliver this policy. Continuous Improvement to continually consider ways to improve efficiency and effectiveness of rental collection management. Partnership Working to promote and encourage customer access to services which can assist with income maximization and debt management. Performance Targets to ensure arrears are monitored in line with agreed targets. ARREARS MANAGEMENT SERVICE The Association aims to manage rent arrears through focus on the following: Prevention Effective and efficient recovery of arrears when they occur Enforcing action for the recovery of debts where appropriate 1. Prevention Pre Tenancy Advice and Information Provision of good quality advice and assistance at pre allocation interviews and viewing stage in order that prospective tenants can make informed decisions prior to accepting a tenancy Ensuring rent obligations are emphasized at sign up and arrears process explained Ensuring rent due is collected at sign up where applicable and due rent dates explained 4

5 Housing Benefit, Welfare Rights and Advice Services As a participating partner in Renfrewshire Council s Verification framework, provide assistance to tenants with completion of Housing benefit forms and notification of changes in circumstances. Early tenant contact where housing benefit suspensions and cancellations are notified to the Association Encourage tenants to notify the Association and all relevant agencies of changes in circumstances Liaise /make referrals to the Welfare Rights Officer service and signpost customers to other external advice agencies providing assistance with maximizing income/ debt counseling services Customer Services/communication with customers Issue regular information to customers on rent accounts Regularly review information issued to customers on rent payment through the tenants handbook/newsletters/website/annual rent statements Offer a range of payment methods and payment frequencies to meet customers needs Ensuring early identification of customers with particular support needs who may require involvement of other agencies to assist with arrears issues Undertake post allocation visits within 1 month to allow the opportunity to reinforce rent payment Regular monitoring of tenant credit balances to ensure transfer tenant accounts are updated accordingly 2. Effective and efficient recovery of arrears when they occur Ensure timeous processing of payments to ensure accurate balance information is available Ensure early identification of arrears, effective monitoring and prompt action in accordance with our policy and procedures to prevent arrears escalation Ensure accurate recording of all tenant contact and actions regarding arrears An emphasis on developing personal regular and continuing contact with tenants in arrears, with face to face contact through office interview/home visit being the preferred contact method Ensuring realistic repayment arrangements are made with tenants balancing the tenants ability to pay with the amount outstanding. An income /expenditure assessment will be carried out where appropriate. Arrears arrangements will be confirmed in writing and tenants encouraged to confirm written acceptance of agreements Ensure regular liaison with Housing Benefit regarding application and change of circumstance processing to enable review of payment arrangements where required 5

6 3. Enforcing action for debt recovery where appropriate The Association will seek the recovery of possession of a property only as a last resort and when all other avenues to recover the arrear have been exhausted Ensure all Pre Action Requirements are met prior to legal action commencing Actively continue to engage with the tenant regarding payment arrangements and encourage the tenant to engage with other agencies for advice and assistance. Ensure adherence to the Renfrewshire Council Eviction Protocol for all cases where legal action is initiated to ensure appropriate notifications to Homelessness and Social Services teams who will offer advice and assistance to tenants Or a. The authorization of the Management Committee is required prior to proceeding with an eviction. The tenants identity will not be disclosed in any Committee report. b. The Housing Manager has delegated authority to enforce an eviction decree. Prior to enforcement the Chief Executive will review all actions taken to ensure compliance with the Current Tenant Arrears Recovery Policy and procedures. 4. MONITORING and REPORTING Performance reports will be provided on a monthly basis to Committee with a detailed report outlining : Monetary value of Gross Arrears, technical arrears and non technical arrears Gross, technical and non technical values expressed as % of Gross Rents Receivable Gross, technical and non technical arrears % targets Total value and number of cases in arrears bands over 1000; ; ; and < 100 Legal action information detailing number of NOP s issued ; Number of Recovery of Possession(ROP) Actions instructed; Number of decrees obtained ;Number of 2 nd tenancies granted; Number of Evictions; Number of post ROP Terminations/Abandonments Comparative historical info for the previous year will be provided to allow consideration of annual performance trends. Benchmarking information will be provided for the previous year, when available, to allow peer group and FLAIR comparisons. 6

7 5. PUBLICITY AND COMMUNICATION The policy will be publicised and made available to tenants on request Information on the arrears policy and procedures is made available to tenants at pre tenancy, sign up and post let stage though the tenants handbook, newsletters, leaflets, website, dvd, tenant meetings and letters. Tenants views on this policy and any subsequent review are sought and considered as part of our consultation procedures. 6. COMPLAINTS Any tenant who considers that they have been treated unfairly by staff during the course of the arrears process has recourse to the Association Complaints procedure copies of which are available from our office (or website? ) 7. POLICY APPROVAL AND REVIEW The Association s Management Committee has responsibility for approval of the Current Tenants Arrears policy The Current Tenants Arrears Recovery policy will be reviewed every 3 years The Management Committee will review targets relating to arrears recovery on an annual basis 7

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