The Pre-action Protocol for Debt Claims came into force on 1st October 2017 and applies to any business seeking to recover monies owed by a third party. In this definition a landlord is considered a business and a tenant (or guarantor) would be considered the third party. A landlord must follow the Pre-action Protocol for Debt Claims before taking legal action to recover rents arrears.
The intention of the introduction of the Protocol is to encourage early communication between parties and the promote the possibility of resolution before court action is required.
Under the Pre-action Protocol for Debt Claims the creditor (landlord) must send a letter of claim to the debtor (tenant) before applying to the court for a money judgement. The letter must be clearly dated and include the following information:
- Details of the debt (including any interest)
- If instalment have been offered or paid why this is not acceptable
- How to repay the debt or how to contact the creditor to discuss acceptable payment options.
The creditor (landlord) must include in the letter the following documents: -
- Up to date stamen of account (rent statement)
- The required regulatory information sheet containing advice on responding to the letter of claim, and a list of organisations offering free debt advice*
- The Reply Form*
- A financial statement form *
*Copies of these document are available at here
The letter should be sent by post unless the debtor (tenant) has explicitly advised that they requirement correspondence by email. The creditor (landlord) should allow a minimum of 30 days for the debtor (tenant) to respond. The debtor (tenant) should respond by completing and returning the Reply Form. Where no Reply Form is received within the 30 days the creditor (landlord) may start court proceedings.
This document was last amended on 31 July 2018 and was considered accurate at that time. Changes to legislation which occurred after this date will not be reflected in the content. This document should not be consider comprehensive, nor should it take the place of legal advice where this is required.
If a reply Form is received by the creditor (landlord) the landlord must wait a minimum of 30 days after receipt before starting any court proceedings. If in the reply form the debtor (tenant) indicates that they are seeking debt advice the creditor (landlord) must allow reasonable time for this to take place. This might mean that the 30-day period needs to be extended.
If the debtor (tenant) requires copies of relevant documents the creditor (landlord) must provide these or provide adequate reason why they cannot be provided. Any court action must be delayed until a minimum of 30 days after the request for additional information has been fulfilled. Where the debtor (tenant) uses the reply Form to indicate that they need additional time to repay the debt the creditor (landlord) should try to arrange a suitable repayment plan. If no agreement can be made the creditor (landlord) must wait 14 before beginning any court proceedings.
If an agreement about the debt cannot be reach both parties should consider Alternative Disputes Resolution (ADR). If an agreement is reached the creditor (landlord) must not begin court proceedings.
If the agreement is breached by the debtor (tenant) the creditor (tenant) must begin the Pre-action Protocol for Debt Claims again from the beginning. Creditor (landlords) may be required to provide evidence of compliance with Pre action Protocol for Debt Claims so must be sure to keep dated documentation and log of all correspondence and negotiation with the debtor (tenant).