28.The Council will appoint a supervising officer, who shall be a senior member of staff and who will be responsible, together with the Principal of the bailiff firm, for the operation of this Code of Practice and for resolving any complaints from the debtor. The bailiff firm must establish and maintain an internal complaints procedure overseen by a senior member of staff. The Council’s supervising officer shall be responsible for ensuring that any complaints received from debtors or their authorised representatives by the Council are handled efficiently and promptly.
29.The Council reserves the right to make amendments/add new procedures at any time resulting from changing practices. The bailiff will be notified in writing of any proposed changes and invited to make comments.
Reminders will be issued when an account falls behind.
If the arrears are not cleared and continue to increase, an attempt to visit the customer will be made before a Notice Seeking Possession is issued.
Customers will be encouraged to contact the section to discuss payment arrangements and the difficulties that they are experiencing paying their rent. Customers will be advised to claim Housing Benefit if the member of staff thinks that they may be entitled. Temporary arrangements based on an estimate of their entitlement may be made whilst waiting for a claim to be processed.
If customers require help to complete a claim form for Housing/Council Tax benefit, a visiting officer can call to help them to complete this form.
When court action is being considered a court-warning letter will be issued. This will advise that the Council is considering court action and will request information about the customer’s financial situation and information about other people resident in the household. A member of staff will deliver this letter and attempts will be made to speak to the customer about their account and discuss a suitable payment arrangement. Customers will be encouraged to claim Housing Benefit if it is felt that there may be possible entitlement.
The possibility of deductions from Income Support to cover arrears or a heating charge and arrears will be explored. If the customer agrees to this then court action may be avoided. The arrears must be over four weeks full rent for the application to be made. The customer has to sign a pro-forma agreeing to these deductions.
If an arrangement is then not maintained and the arrears continue to increase the account may then need to be entered into court. If no contact is received from the customer at this point a visitor will visit the property and attempt to make contact. All customers will be sent a date and time for a court interview approximately two to three weeks before the court hearing.