FAQs – The Court Process for Social Tenants

This section aims to answer Frequently Asked Questions on eviction proceedings for rent arrears for council and housing association tenants, explain your rights and responsibilities, and how we can help you.

If you are facing eviction proceedings, contact Edinburgh Housing Advice Partnership (EHAP) for advice: Phone  0845 302 4607 or email us at: EHAPAdmin@chaiedinburgh.org.uk

Edinburgh Housing Advice Partnership (EHAP) is a service delivery partnership comprising: Community Help & Advice Initiative (CHAI), Granton Information Centre, Four Square, Move On and Changeworks – all of which are established charities delivering  a range of advice and homelessness prevention services in Edinburgh.

 

Read our answers to Frequently Asked Questions below or download our leaflet here.

I have received a Summons. What can I do?

You will be sent a Summons if your landlord wants to ask the Sheriff Court for a Court Order for your eviction. The Summons will show the date when the case will call in court
(a Friday morning).

If you have received a Summons, make an appointment for housing advice with us or another advice agency. If we cannot give you an appointment at short notice, you should attend court, where one of our advisers can give you some last minute advice and book an appointment for you if possible. You will need to represent yourself at the first calling and ask the Sheriff for “a continuation of a few weeks”, to give you time to get advice and representation.

What happens at the first calling?

The first time a case calls in court, we call it the ‘first calling’. At that point, we will ask for a continuation, that is for another court date, so we can make an offer of repayment to your landlord and ask for more time to resolve any benefit issues and to give you time to start making payments.

How can EHAP help me with my court case?

In the first instance, we will try and negotiate a ‘continuation’ with your housing officer, to avoid the case actually calling in court.

If we can’t get your housing officer to agree to a payment plan and continue the case, you can instruct us to represent you in court and speak to the Sheriff on your behalf. We will state why it is not reasonable to grant a court order for your eviction. We will need to explain your circumstances, explain why the arrears built up and what you are doing to address the problem, for example apply for housing benefit, look into benefit issues, and make an offer of repayment for the arrears.

How long will the case stay in court for?

Once a housing officer or Sheriff has agreed to continue the case, we get another date for the next court calling. The case is likely to get continued over several weeks or months for the landlord to monitor payments, i.e. to make sure you keep to the arrangement and not miss any payments, but also to address any benefit issues.

If you do not keep to your payment plan, however, the landlord is likely to ask the Sheriff to grant an eviction order (called a decree). 

Can I get court representation from EHAP?

We can represent you as long as we have clear instructions from you, i.e. we need to hear from you in the week before the case calls in court. Although we will try and contact you, it is your responsibility to contact us at least 3 days before court, if you do not hear from us.

 Do I have to attend court?

We always recommend that you attend court if we cannot get an agreement with your landlord beforehand. If you are unable to attend court for whatever reason, we can speak to the Sheriff without you as long as we have spoken to you beforehand. However, it shows goodwill and helps the case if the tenant is present.

 What will I need to do at court?

If you instruct us to, we can speak to the Sheriff on your behalf and you would just stand next to us, in case the Sheriff wants to speak to you directly or ask you any questions. The Sheriff will make a decision there and then, about whether to continue the case or grant an eviction order. Court is public.

What is a ‘sisted’ case?

Once a payment arrangement has been adhered to for a number of weeks or months, and all benefit issues have been resolved, the landlord will eventually agree to ‘sist’ the case. This means that the case will no longer call in court, so there won’t be any more court dates at that point, but you will have to keep paying the agreed amount until the arrears are paid off.

If you default, then the landlord can easily bring the case back to court, with a single letter, by issuing an ‘Incidental Application’ form.

When the case is sisted, it will technically remain on the court books (but without any court callings or court dates) until the arrears are repaid.

 When does the case stop being in court?

Once the arrears are repaid in full, the case will be called back to court one last time for it to be ‘dismissed’. In most cases, the court will award expenses to your landlord (approximately £350), unless you can show the court action wasn’t necessary. Expenses of a court action aren’t treated as rent arrears but rather as an ordinary debt. You won’t have to repay the expenses in one go and can arrange a payment plan for these.

New Housing Support Service in South-West Edinburgh!

On 1 March 2018, Four Square, in partnership with CHAI launched a new housing support service for people living in South-West Edinburgh.

This new South West Edinburgh Locality Support Service aims to prevent homelessness by providing visiting support to people facing housing issues – for example we can help you if you are worried about losing your home, or if you are actually homeless and staying in temporary accommodation.

What services do we offer?

Our support workers can help you with one or more of the following areas:

  • Accessing Housing Advice
  • Setting Up A New Home
  • Moving On To More Appropriate Accommodation
  • Keeping Accommodation Secure
  • Personal Budgeting/ Debt Counselling/Rent Arrears
  • Benefits
  • Arranging Adaptations To The Dwelling
  • Organising Minor Repairs To The Dwelling
  • Dealing With Neighbour Disputes
  • Life Skills
  • Dealing With Correspondence
  • Training / Education / Employment
  • Improving Confidence/ Self Esteem
  • Accessing Local Services/ Facilities
  • Reducing Social Isolation
  • Engaging with Other Relevant Professionals

Use the contact details below to make a referral or for more information.

Four Square Visiting Support
Tel: 0131 285 1227
Email: info@foursquare.org.uk
Website: www.foursquare.org.uk

Click here to download our Service leaflet.

Debunking HOUSING Myths

There is a lot of false information or ‘myths’ out there about housing and homelessness which we have found to be harmful to people, causing them unnecessary stress and worry. Read on and let’s debunk those myths!

1. MYTH: “You don’t have to pay any rent if you are on benefits such as JSA, ESA, Income Support.”

>>TRUTH: You may have to pay some rent even if you are on means-tested benefits, for example due to a non-dependant deduction if you have adult relatives living with you, or due to a Housing Benefit overpayment.

 

2. MYTH: “If my landlord wants to evict me, they just need to send me a letter.”

>>>TRUTH: Landlords must follow specific legal procedures and issue certain documents such as notices, depending on your type of tenancy, before they can legally evict you. Ask us for help to check whether the documents issued by your landlord are valid. But here is an overview—for each type of tenancy:

(a) Social landlords, such as a housing association or the council, can only evict you on certain grounds (specific reasons), for example due to a breach of tenancy agreement or rent arrears. They must issue a Notice of Proceedings with sufficient notice period, followed by a Court Summons before the case can go to the civil court. A Sheriff (judge) may issue a Court Order if they decide it is reasonable to evict you.

(b) For private Assured Tenancies, landlords can only evict you on certain grounds and must obtain a Court Order first. First they need to issue you with a Notice to Quit and a Notice of Proceedings (AT6 form) which must give enough notice.

(c) For private Short-Assured Tenancies, landlords do not need to use any grounds to evict you, but must issue valid notices before the eviction can proceed. If you refuse to leave after these documents have been issued, your landlord would need to get a Court Order to forcefully remove you. However, it’s not a good idea to wait for that stage because you would have no defence in court and would be liable for court expenses due to the type of tenancy you have.

(d) A new Private Residential Tenancy regime replacing Short-Assured and
Assured private tenancies came into force in December 2017.  For these new tenancies, landlords must issue you with a Notice to Leave and give sufficient notice period, which varies depending on how long you’ve lived in the property and the reasons/grounds for the eviction. Landlords must also obtain an Eviction Order from the First-Tier Tribunal (Housing & Property Chamber) who decide whether it is reasonable to evict.

 

3. MYTH: “If I don’t move out, my landlord could change the locks or forcefully
remove me from the property.”

>>>TRUTH: Changing the locks or removing a tenant without an Order (from Court or from the Housing and Property Chamber for new Private Residential Tenancies) is a criminal offence. Call the police if the landlord attempts to evict you without a Court Order. If the landlord has a Court Order, Sheriff Officers may then come to the property to forcefully remove you if you refuse to leave.

 

4. MYTH: If I live with my landlord they can ask me to go at any time as it’s their home.”

>>>TRUTH: The resident landlord only has to give reasonable notice to evict their tenant. If the tenancy is longer than 4 months’, 40 days’ notice is required. If the tenancy is for less than 4 months, resident landlords must give a minimum of 28 days’ notice. The lease (tenancy agreement) may extend but not reduce these notice periods.

 

Homelessness

 5. MYTH: If I am evicted, I will be re-housed by the Council.”

>>>TRUTH: If you have nowhere to stay, you should make a homeless presentation to the local authority. Currently presentations can be made at City of Edinburgh Council’s office at 1A Parliament Square, Edinburgh, EH1 1RF. They can be called on 0131 529 7368 or 0800 032 5968 for out-of-hours assistance. Presentations can also be made at any local council office.

The Council will initially give you temporary accommodation until they can do a full homelessness assessment to decide if they have a duty to re-house you. They will use specific criteria to make their decision:

  • You must be actually homeless.
  • You must have a local connection with Edinburgh, for example if you live/have lived, work or have relatives here.
  • You must not be intentionally homeless, i.e. they will look into whether you deliberately did or did not do something that caused you to leave accommodation which you could otherwise have stayed in.

If the Council decide that they don’t have a duty to re-house you, we can appeal the decision. Ask us for an appointment.

 

6. MYTH: The Council can refuse to give me temporary accommodation if there is no accommodation available at the time.”

>>>TRUTH: The absence of available accommodation does not excuse the local authority from their legal duty to provide temporary accommodation.  Ask us for advice and we can help you challenge this.

Click here to download this article as a factsheet (PDF – Housing Myths).

Click here to read our next post ‘Busting Myths about Debts and Bankruptcy’.

Click here to read our next post on Benefit Myths.

Partnership working battling to provide basic needs

EHAP advisers have been attending the Bethany Care Shelter on Tuesday nights where people are able to get a three course meal and somewhere warm to sleep for the night.

An EHAP adviser is available every Tuesday night for a chat and some housing advice until lights out at 10.45pm.

Bethany has seen demand for the service increase alarmingly over the last few years and the total number of individuals presenting this year for the duration of the service is on target to top nine hundred. In fact, this winter they have regularly had to turn people away having reached capacity. They offer those turned away sleeping bags, if available.

For more information and an example of a success story see the following article: http://www.ehap.org.uk/about-ehap/news/bethany-christian-trust—blog.aspx

Don’t be lonely this Christmas

 

Christmas Lunch with the Salvation Army

This festive period, The Salvation Army will be holding a Christmas lunch.

The lunch is open to all those who are lonely and would like company for Christmas. There will also be a Church service at 11.00am, open to anyone who would like to attend.

Lunch will be from 12.30pm to 3.00pm, with coffee which will be served from 12.00pm.

The lunch is free but booking is essential. Help with transportation can be arranged. Please contact Kathy Betteridge on 0131 346 2875 or 07769 224667.

Christmas at Crisis Skylight

Crisis Skylight Edinburgh support single people who are homeless or vulnerably housed.

They are holding a Christmas event at the Southside Resource Centre at 117  Nicolson Street which people can drop-in into. The event will run on:-

Christmas Day and Boxing Day from 8.00am to 8.00pm

New Year’s Day from 12 noon to 8.00pm

For more information contact the Christmas team at ccedinburgh@crisis.org.uk

The Bedroom Tax – Say No to Evictions

Housing Benefit EvictionWe’re now only a few short weeks away from the introduction of one of the more contentious elements of the UK Government’s Welfare Reform agenda.  Perhaps appropriately, All Fools Day sees the start of the Under Occupancy Charge or ‘Bedroom Tax’ – as it is increasingly known.

The Bedroom Tax is targeted on working age Social Sector tenants (those in Council and Housing Association properties) who are deemed to be under-occupying their accommodation by one or more bedrooms.  Those who are affected, and who are in receipt of Housing Benefit, will have that Benefit reduced by between £13 – £24 per week depending on their rent costs and the number of ‘extra’ bedrooms they have. Continue reading

Homes at Risk

A poll commissioned by Shelter Scotland, by YouGov, has found that up to 280,000 Scots may skip their mortgage or rent payments in December in order to help pay for Christmas.

The results of the poll – reported here – make worrying reading as 1 in 12 tenants and 1 in 14 home-owners suggest that they may be prepared to go into arrears with their housing costs to meet the short term costs associated with the annual festive blow-out.

Of course, the immediate post-Christmas period, when the credit card bills and over-spending tend to catch up with us all, has traditionally been a busy one anyway for Advice Agencies.  The cold, harsh weather of January and February is often mirrored by the financial hangovers that linger long after the Christmas and New Year sore heads have eased.

The impact of the continuing economic downturn and the ever-rising cost of basics such as food and fuel has placed even more pressure than normal on households to stretch beyond their means.

Delaying payment of mortgage or rent commitments may seem like an easy way to see us through the holiday period, when the messages of consumption and  festivity remain undiminished by the hard realities of many family budgets.  However, given the general pressures on those budgets, catching up with those missed payments may not be quite so easy – and the consequences of an uncontrolled spiral into housing debt can be traumatic.

CHAI would advise that the temptation to skip a mortgage or rent payment for the sake of that extra present is one that is best avoided.  For those – and there will be many – for whom the choices are perhaps even more stark at this time of year, it is important to remember that help is always available to deal with money and/or housing worries.

CHAI’s Advice Service can be contacted on 0131 453 6410 or through the CHAI website.

If you are worried about mortgage or rent arrears,  you can contact the Edinburgh Housing Advice Partnership (EHAP) on 0845 302 4607 or through the EHAP website.

Have a good, safe Christmas.

So, what exactly is it that you do?

CHAILOGOnew

If I had a pound for every time I’ve been asked that question about CHAI over the years … well, I’d have several more pounds than I do at the moment.  It’s commonly asked by a wide range of people who may have had a specific reason for initial contact with us, but who then quickly grasp that there’s more going on than they may have at first thought.

The basics:  CHAI – the Community Help & Advice Initiative – is a ‘third sector’ organisation with charitable status, operating as a Limited Company.  In very broad terms we are a social welfare agency, delivering a range of services which are intended to improve the conditions of life of vulnerable people living in our communities.

So, what do we do?

We’ve just started a new operating year (2011/12) so, in a summarised answer to that question, here’s a quick tour round what CHAI will be doing in the months ahead.  These are in no particular order:  they’re all equally important.

Advice Services

SNSlogo_RGB

One of the cornerstones of our service delivery is ensuring that the people we work with have access to quality advice, information and representation about income, debt, housing and the myriad of other issues which affect daily life.  Our National Standards Accredited Advice Service operates from full-time offices in Wester Hailes and Liberton/Gilmerton – as well as providing home visits and outreach surgeries as required.  We alsEHAPo provide specific support to NHS Lothian’s Vocational Rehabilitation Service – ‘Working Health Services Lothian’, and CHAI is the lead contractor for the City wide homelessness prevention advice service – the Edinburgh Housing Advice Partnership (EHAP).   During 2011/12 our Advice Service will continue to deliver Advice Services in line with City strategies on Advice and Health Inequalities.  Changes to Housing Benefit, and to the assessment conditions around Incapacity Benefits are likely to feature significantly in workloads this year.

Addictions Support

CHAI is commissioned by the Edinburgh Alcohol & Drug Partnership (EADP) to provide drug andEADP Logo alcohol support services across the South-West of the City, operating from office bases in Wester Hailes and Oxgangs.  The focus of these services is on individuals and families where substance misuse is an issue, with specialist staff working towards harm reduction, child protection and recovery outcomes through a mix of practical, social and clinical interventions.  Close links are maintained with the NHS Lothian Community Drug Problem Service and with a range of other referring medical professionals.  Joint working on delivery is carried out locally with the Wester Hailes Health Agency.  This will be an important year for the Service, with the recently launched EADP Strategy:  ‘A Framework for Partnership Action 2011 – 2014’ providing a template for service delivery.

Housing Support

smallNS

Maintaining vulnerable people in their homes, and assisting them to live as independently as possible is a key component of CHAI’s service mix.  Our Housing Support Service works across the City, supporting individuals who require help with independent living skills such as budgeting, dealing with official correspondence, managing appointments and relationships with third parties and generally managing their tenancy or home.  Although Service Users can be anything from 16 years to over 100 years old, most of the people supported by CHAI’s Housing Support Services are over 50, with over a quarter in the 65+ age range.  Our Housing Support Service is regulated and inspected by the new body, Social Care & Social Work Improvement Scotland (formerly the Care Commission).

Employability Support

CHAI contributes to the City’s ‘Joined up for Jobs Strategy’ JobCentre Plusthrough our South West Neighbourhood focused Employability & Support project.  This service is specifically aimed at people who are most marginalised from the job market; those currently at Stages 1 & 2 on the ‘Employability Pipeline’ – and categorised as ‘Not Job Ready’.  The focus of our engagement is on removing those obstacles and barriers that prevent our target client group from moving on through the ‘Employability Pipeline’ and on into work, training or education opportunities; barriers such as debt, addictions, housing crisis, income, health and low confidence.  The key to this work is engaging with service users in their neighbourhoods, and at the point in their lives where they are ready to receive that support.  It’s about planting seeds and helping people move forward at the pace that is most appropriate to their needs.

Early Intervention Family Support

196079_145870425477476_105152659549253_296718_6468092_n

This service, focused on the Pentlands area of the City, is aimed at working with families where there are early indications of support needs, and providing interventions designed to address these at an early enough stage that they don’t go on to become more problematic later.  The activity supports the strategic objectives in the City Integrated Children’s and Young Peoples’ Plan.

Furniture Recycling Service

Furniture leafletOur Furniture project collects donations of re-useable furniture and household items and recycles these back out to the community.  Last year we diverted over 100 tonnes of furniture that may otherwise have ended up in landfill, carrying out 0ver 200 deliveries of basic start up and replacement furniture items to new and established tenants on low incomes.  If you have furniture items you no longer need, and are in good condition … give us a call!

DCHA Tenancy Support Service

DCHAcrop (2)

Commissioned and funded by Dunedin Canmore Housing Association (DCHA), this project works exclusively with new DCHA tenants housed in the Association’s ‘South Housing Area’, with the aim of assisting in tenancy sustainment outcomes.  Over 50% of new DCHA tenancies are let to people who have come through the homelessness route, and may have experienced issues with sustaining tenancies in the past.  This project works with the tenant and DCHA staff right from the very start of the new tenancy, addressing any issues which may impact on the sustainability of the tenancy.

Youth & Community Development Work

chai hands

CHAI’s work with the Rank Foundation promotes a range of group and individual support activities aimed at developing young people and the communities in which they live.  Realising potential and developing leadership is at the heart of this work: building the social capital of the community.

As well as this mix of advice, support and development services we also offer ‘Crisis Intervention Drop In’, where people experiencing short-term crises around, for example, income loss, can access emergency food parcels.

Joining these services together in one organisation maximises their impact, enabling cross-fertilization of the skills, knowledge and experience of staff throughout the Project – for the enhanced benefit of those using the services.

So, if you were wondering what we do … now you know.

For more information, details about how to contact CHAI – and how to access our services – have a look at our website:  www.chaiedinburgh.org.uk

It’s all going on …

Recognising Effective Practice in Tackling Poverty

EI RA Case Study Front Page

In December last year we blogged about some work that CHAI has been involved with around developing an Early Intervention approach to dealing with Rent Arrears problems in the South-West of Edinburgh.  See:(http://chaiedinburgh.wordpress.com/2010/12/10/evictions-and-how-to-prevent-them/)

We’re delighted that this work has now been recognised by the Scottish Government as demonstrating success and effective practice in tackling poverty.  The South-West Edinburgh Rent Arrears Early Intervention project has now been written up and published by the Scottish Government on its website as one of 12 ‘Good Practice’ Case Studies to be highlighted this year.

This has been a piece of genuine joint working and thanks are due to our partners in this activity:  Cyrenians HPS, City of Edinburgh Council South-West Neighbourhood Office and Prospect Community Housing Association.

The full Case Study can be seen here.

Welfare Reform: In whose interest?

bed incapacity

Last Thursday saw the publication of the UK Coalition Government’s Welfare Reform Bill, which will now begin its passage through Parliament and onto the statute book probably some time later this year.

Most of the contents of the Bill (which can be seen here) are familiar enough, having been well publicised in the White Paper which preceded last week’s First Reading in the House of Commons.  The key ‘highlights’ are:

  • the introduction, from 2013, of a new Universal Credit to replace Working Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, Housing Benefit, Council Tax Benefit, Income Support, Income based JSA and Income based ESA
  • increased focus on ‘work related requirements’ and a ‘claimant commitment’ (with extended benefit sanctions for non-compliance
  • the replacement, from 2013/14, of Disability Living Allowance by a new Personal Independence Payment
  • removal of Discretionary Social Fund (Community Care Grants, Budgeting Loans, Crisis Loans) and replacement by arrangements yet to be determined by the Scottish Government.

Fortunately, one of the White Paper proposals which didn’t make it into the published Bill was the suggestion that unemployed claimants should have their housing benefit cut by 10% after 12 months if they couldn’t find a job.   The argument that this measure would simply have led to increased homelessness was so compelling that it was sensibly dropped.

While cautiously welcoming the intent to unify and simplify the current over-complex benefit system through the new Universal Credit, CHAI has some concerns over the way in which the reforms may impact in practice – particularly given the extent of cuts to the benefit system already announced in last year’s Spending Review and Budget.

At the end of this month we will see the impact of the previous Government’s policies as those still in receipt of Incapacity Benefit (IB) start to be re-assessed under the tougher Employment & Support Allowance (ESA) rules (ESA replaced IB for new claimants in 2008).  This is predicted to increase the number of claimant appeals against adverse decisions, placing even more pressure on an Independent Appeal Tribunal system which is already creaking under the pressure.  The level of ESA related appeals is already putting considerable pressure on claimants, advice agencies and the appeals system – with it currently taking anything from 6 to 9 months for appeals to be heard.

CHAI currently has 190 appeals pending (submitted on behalf of claimants, but no date yet fixed for the hearing).  Our success rate at these Independent Appeal Tribunals is running at over 75%, so it is clear that there is something fundamentally wrong with the original decision making process.  This is a justice issue, with the length of time it takes for cases to come to appeal adding insult to the original injury.  An issue which was highlighted in the media this week, with ‘The Herald’ reporting on two cases where claimants have died while awaiting their appeals to be heard.  CHAI has also seen this happen recently in a case where, with the consent of the claimant’s family, we went on to represent at the delayed tribunal which took place after the claimant had sadly died.

The extra 2.5m people who may now be sucked into the appeals system following the rolling out of the new medical assessments of existing IB claimants will simply add to the these problems.looking for work form

The proposals around the replacement of DLA with Personal Independence Payment have caused concern among Disability organisations.  The Disability Alliance estimates that up to 750,000 disabled people may lose support under the new provisions, as the Government aims to remove £2.1Billion from the current DLA system.

CHAI is one of the organisations that will find itself at the coal face of the welfare reforms as they start to impact on individuals, families and communities.  Our Advice Service is already under significant pressure from demands for income, debt and housing advice.  Many of the clients of our Addictions and Housing Support Teams will be among the first to have their health and benefit positions re-assessed under the new ESA rules.  Work we have been doing to promote employability for those most marginal to the labour market has clearly demonstrated that there is no single straightforward path from benefit to employment that works for all people, and that we will have to ensure support is always available for those who can’t easily be catered for by mass programmes.

Ironically enough, on the day that the Welfare Bill was published at Westminster, I found myself in Glasgow at the Poverty Alliance’s ‘Scottish Assembly for Tackling Poverty’ listening to a range of academic speakers point out where we were failing to meet the Child Poverty targets that were established under the previous Government, and how things were heading in the wrong direction.  In fact, most child poverty now takes place within families who are in work, indicating that without a more progressive ‘joining up’ of the Tax/Benefit system the Welfare Reform Bill’s aim to move more people into employment will not, of itself, address the problems of poverty.

Even more depressingly ironic, the publication of the Welfare Reform Bill occurred at the end of the same week in which, with unfortunate timing, Barclays Bank reported paying Corporation Tax of a mere 1% on £Billion profits .  One of the academic findings reported at the ‘Scottish Assembly for Tackling Poverty’ was that the gap between those at the lowest end of the income scale, and those at the highest, has increased in recent years.

The poor get poorer; the rich get richer – and organisations like CHAI continue to be important in addressing and alleviating the symptoms of poverty in our communities.

CHAI can be contacted through our website at www.chaiedinburgh.org.uk.