Rent Collection and Arrears Recovery Policy

    1. Your Rent

      1. Every year the Co-op sets rent levels for its members. The rents are set at a level to cover the running costs of the Co-op for the following year.
      2. By paying rent on time members enable the Co-op to meet its running costs and to continue providing affordable housing.
      3. This policy describes the processes involved in collecting rent and the action to take in the event that rent is not paid.

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    1. Service Charges

      1. As well as rent all members are expected to pay a weekly service charge. This covers the total cost of providing gas, water and electricity to each property.
      2. Again this amount is set at a level to cover the cost of services for the following year. If a house and/or co-op member uses less in services than that charged during the financial year, they may receive a service charge rebate.

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    1. Paying Rent

      1. Rent is due every Monday, a week in advance.
      2. The easiest way to pay rent is by standing order. Rent can also be paid by cash or cheque at the ASH Co-op office. The Rent Worker is normally available every Monday and Wednesday between 12.00pm and 7.30pm to collect rent and provide advice on payment methods, Housing Benefit claims, account balances etc. Members paying by cash or cheque should ensure that payments are recorded in their rent book each time they pay rent.
      3. Members, whose cheques are returned unpaid by the bank (i.e. bounced cheques), must make all payments in cash until further notice.
      4. Members on low incomes or in receipt of benefits may be entitled to claim Housing Benefit (see below).

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    1. Housing Benefit

      1. Housing Benefit should be paid directly to the co-op. Claim forms are available from the co-op office and should be counter-signed by the Rent Worker before being submitted in person to the local Housing Benefits office.
      2. To prevent any unnecessary delays members should seek to make their claim as soon as possible, and ensure that they have provided the required documentation in support of their claim (e.g. proof of identity, bank details, tenancy agreement etc.). Failure to do so may result in less benefit being paid.
      3. Housing Benefit does not cover the total rent charged and members are required to make up any shortfall between their weekly rent due and the amount contributed by Housing Benefit.
      4. A claim for Housing Benefit can take time to process and members may find themselves with significant arrears because the payment is late. Whilst members still remain responsible for any rent owed, the co-op will take the delay into account when considering the arrears (following confirmation from the Housing Benefit office that direct payment is to be made).
      5. Members on Housing Benefit are still required to pay their services whilst their claim is being processed.

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    1. Rent Arrears

      1. ASH Co-op’s sole source of income is rent received from its’ members. When members fail to pay their rent the co-op’s ability to cover its running costs is put at risk.
      2. Given this, the co-op operates an arrears policy to ensure that members do not accumulate rent arrears. Whilst the policy exists to help members manage and repay any arrears, it also provides the co-op with a framework to take appropriate action against any members, whose debt to the co-op has become unacceptable.
      3. Arrears action will be taken dependent on the level of arrears accrued and is based on the payment due each week. For the majority of members this will represent the weekly rent charged.
      4. For members receiving Housing Benefit the payment due represents the shortfall between the rent charged and the amount paid by Housing Benefit.
      5. There are several stages to the arrears procedure:
        1. Stage 1 – arrears equivalent to one week’s payment due. Members will be sent a letter informing them that they have arrears. The letter details the various ways in which rent can be paid and also lists organisations to contact should they be encountering problems paying their rent.
        2. Stage 2 – arrears equivalent to two week’s payment due. A warning letter and a copy of this policy will be sent. The letter will state the amount of arrears and advise the member what will happen if the arrears continue to rise. If you are unable to repay the arrears in one lump sum, you are advised to negotiate a repayment agreement at this stage (see Section 6).
        3. Stage 3 – arrears equivalent of three week’s payment due. ASH Co-op will issue a Notice to Quit (NTQ), which gives the member four weeks notice of the termination of their tenancy. This is a very serious step as it is the first stage of a process that may end with the member’s eviction. A repayment agreement can still be agreed at this stage (see below).

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    1. Rent Agreements

      1. Members falling behind with their rent should contact the Rent Worker or a member of the Rent Group immediately to negotiate a rent agreement, which allows members to pay repay their arrears over an agreed period of time by.
      2. The Rent Worker and Rent Co-ordinator are delegated by the co-op to negotiate and ratify rent agreements with members, using guidelines agreed annually at a General Meeting.
      3. Any such agreement needs to be made as soon as possible. ASH Co-op will not negotiate any new agreements after a Notice to Quit has expired.
      4. Each member making an agreement will be given a written record of any agreement made, with a copy being kept by ASH Co-op for reference.
      5. ASH Co-op will take no further measures to recover the arrears as long as the terms of the agreement are met. However, if the repayment agreement is broken it immediately becomes void, and the entire debt owing becomes due.

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    1. Court Action

      1. A Notice to Quit allows the member 28 days to clear your arrears. If he/she does not clear their arrears or keep to an agreed repayment schedule within this period, a letter will be sent confirming that ASH Co-op will start court proceedings after seven days of the expiry of the NTQ. This means that ASH Co-op applies to the court for an immediate possession order on the room and a money judgement set by the court.
      2. Immediate possession order: this means that the member must vacate their room within 28 days of the court hearing. If the member refuses to leave within this time ASH Co-op is entitled to and will arrange for the court officer (bailiff) to enforce the order and evict the person from the room.
      3. Money judgement: this is an amount of money that the court says a member must pay to ASH Co-op each week to clear the arrears. Once this amount has been set it can only be altered by the court.
      4. If at any stage you clear or substantially reduce your arrears this process may be suspended at the discretion of ASH Co-op through a General or Committee Meeting.
      5. Court costs: currently when applying for a court hearing the co-op incurs a cost of £120.00. Following the court hearing this cost will be added to the members’ rent arrears.

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    1. Administration

      1. The Rent Worker with the support of the Rent Group will administer this policy.
      2. The Rent Group will consist of the Rent Co-ordinator, the Treasurer and one other member of the ASH Co-op Management Committee.
      3. The Rent Group will present a rent report to each Management Committee and General Meeting detailing the co-ops’ performance as regards rent arrears. In line with the co-op’s Confidentiality Policy, no personal information, other than the amount of arrears and action taken, will be provided to any co-op meetings.

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  1. Exceptions

    1. Making an exception to this or any other policy is a major step and can only be done by a General Meeting.
    2. Any member, who believes that exceptional circumstances have affected their ability to pay their rent, should contact the Rent Worker or a member of the Rent Group immediately, to discuss their arrears. The Rent Group will ensure that the matter is discussed at the next General Meeting.
    3. Whilst the Rent Group will provide the General Meeting with a summary of the main issues involved, members seeking to obtain an exception to policy are advised to attend the General Meeting if possible, or send a representative to speak on their behalf, so that the meeting may be fully aware of all the facts involved in the matter.
    4. The meeting will consider the information provided by the member and the Rent Group and will decide whether it feels that an exception is appropriate. If an exception is allowed this will be as agreed by the meeting and will be confirmed in writing to the member concerned.
    5. If the General Meeting decides that an exception to policy is not appropriate then further action will continue in line with that described in this policy.