Council tenants: frequently asked questions

Paying your rent, problems paying and arrears

What is my ‘rent reference number’?

Your rent reference number starts with ‘50’ and it contains 11 numbers. You should be able to find the reference number on any letters that we have sent you.

If you are unable to find it, please phone us on 0300 373 0373 and select ‘option 3’.

Rent payments – what is my responsibility?

The tenancy agreement that you agreed to before you moved into the property sets out your legal obligations to your landlord, us. 

Whatever type of tenancy you have, it is always made very clear that it is your responsibility to ensure that your rent payments are up to date. 

Your rent is due weekly and in advance. 

If you are unable to make a payment, please tell us immediately. We will do everything we can to help you to stay in your home. 

However, we have no legal responsibility to house you if you refuse to pay your rent or do not work with us to sort out a rent arrears problem.

I can’t pay my rent, who should I tell?

As soon as you realise you will not be able to make a rent payment, you should contact us to discuss your rent arrears, or arrange an appointment with our income recovery team provide you with advice and support.

Phone our income recovery team on 0300 373 0373 and select ‘option 3’.

When speaking to a member of you team, they will:

  • Confirm your rent balance and give you advice on how to pay your rent.
  • Be responsible for the monitoring and management of all rental income.
  • Write to you should you get into arrears.
  • Agree a payment plan if formal legal proceedings have not begun.
  • Advise you about the legal implications of not paying your rent.
  • Work with you to identify possible support that might be available to you.
  • Work with you to help maximise your income.
  • Advise you on how to manage your finances and look at ways you can resolve any debt issues. Or, if appropriate and with your agreement, refer you to an agency which specialises in this field, such as Citizen Advice, Step Change, Christians Against Poverty and other organisations.

If I’ve missed rent payment or payments, how much will I have to pay?

If you are unable to clear the debt in a one-off payment, we will ask you how much you can afford to pay and assess your offer against the amount of the rent arrears and your payment history.

We will not ask you to pay an unreasonable amount that will make your situation worse, but you may have to provide us with details of your income and expenditure.

What will happen if I ignore my rent arrears?

You will receive a letter, email, text message or phone message  from us informing you that you are in rent arrears. If received, it is important that you contact us immediately. 

If you do not work with us to resolve the problem, we may take legal action against you that could ultimately result in an eviction and you could lose your home.

If we take legal action against you, you will be liable to pay the court costs. For example, the current minimum court fee for possession claims is £325 and our solicitor’s fee is £69.50. 

Legal action could affect your entitlement to be re-housed in the future and a court judgment for unpaid rent arrears – known as a ‘CCJ’ – will adversely affect your credit rating. A CCJ will impact on applications for credit and store card, loans, mobile phone contracts and more.

What legal action could be taken against me?

Every effort will be made to help you pay your rent arrears. 

If you ignore our requests, or if you fail to meet the agreed payment plan, we will commence recovery action in the county court. This could result in:

  • Possession proceedings – these could lead to an eviction and you will lose your home.
  • County Court Judgment (CCJ) – this will seriously affect your credit rating.
  • Deductions from your benefits – deductions are made before you receive a payment.
  • Attachment of earnings order – deductions are made directly from your wages/salary.

What will happen if I am taken to court?

When we apply to the court for a possession hearing, you will be sent details of the date and time when your case will be heard by the district judge at Guildford County Court.

We would strongly recommend that you attend this hearing so that you can explain to the judge the reason for your arrears and your plan to repay these.

The judge will consider all the evidence before deciding on whether to give us, Woking Borough Council, possession of your home.

The judge could consider making one of the following possession orders:

  • Immediate possession order. You would need to leave your home immediately.
  • 28-day possession order. You will have 28 days before you have to leave your home.
  • Suspended possession order. Possession of your home has been suspended as long as you keep to the terms decided by the court. If you fail to keep to the terms of the court order we could apply for an eviction date which could result in you losing your home.
  • Postponed possession order. This is similar to the suspended possession order. The court has granted us possession of your home but postponed the order as long as you keep to the terms decided by the court. If you fail to keep to the terms of the court order, we can take legal steps to evict you from your home.

I have received a ‘possession order’, what happens next?

In most cases it is still not too late to keep your home. You must keep to the terms of the court order until your arrears and any court costs are paid in full. 

If you miss any payments we could continue with legal action to evict you from your home.

We will evict tenants who refuse to pay their rent or persistently break their agreements with us.

I have received a notice of an eviction date, what should I do?

It may still be possible to keep your home. Talk to your rent officer to find out what you need to do to stay in your home, but at this stage of the process we would normally recommend that you obtain independent legal advice either from Citizens Advice or a solicitor.

You can also apply to the county court for a ‘stay’. This means that you can ask a judge to consider cancelling or postponing the eviction to give you more time to pay your arrears. There is no guarantee that the judge will agree to this and there is a court fee payable for making this type of application.

Will I have to repay my rent arrears if I am evicted?

Even if you have been evicted or you abandon your home you still have a legal duty to pay your landlord any rent arrears owed. We will trace former tenants who owe us money. 

We use a variety of legal measures to recover rent arrears from former tenants which can lead to more court hearings and legal costs. In addition, owing rent arrears to us could prevent you from being re-housed at a later date, even if you apply to another landlord.

Where will I live if I am evicted because of rent arrears?

If you have been evicted for not paying your rent you would be homeless and the local authorities may decide that you have made yourself intentionally homeless. This means that they are unlikely to offer you alternative accommodation and you would have to make your own arrangements to find a home.