Housing Rights Service is fully supportive of the aims of this pre action protocol. It is a very positive step which we hope will encourage more pre action contact; promote the benefits of getting good independent advice; and, above all, help to avoid costly and unnecessary legal action. In our experience, tenants whose cases have ended up in court are generally unaware of the legal consequences of a court order. We are therefore wholly supportive of the Lord Chief Justice’s decision to issue a Practice Direction in cases of social housing rent arrears. As the protocol states “Eviction should always be viewed as a last resort and should only be used when all other avenues have been exhausted.”
Housing Rights appreciates that DFP is facing the major challenge of meeting the 10% Westminster funding cut for rates support while trying to ensure that assistance remains available for the most vulnerable. We broadly agree with the preferred approach and that existing levels of support for those who are least able to pay should be retained. Housing Rights is concerned about the impact of the funding shortfalls imposed by Westminster. However in this context, the ‘least worst’ option would be to make up savings from removing or reducing other rating support measures and allowances for households. We are aware that the removal of this support could have a negative impact on some low income families. We therefore recommend that the Department considers developing a hardship scheme.