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Welcome to birmingham.gov.uk

FAQ Rent and Debt Collection

What do you mean by ‘rent and debt collection’?
We are responsible for collecting your rent – and any other money due to the council on your home – so that we can continue to provide you with housing services.

We offer advice and support based on your personal circumstances if you find it difficult to pay your rent or if you need help to reduce any outstanding housing debts.

If we need to take legal action against tenants who consistently fail to pay their rent, we follow the rules on rent possession as set out by law.

These Frequently Asked Questions explain more about our rent and debt collection processes.

RENT AND SERVICE CHARGES

How is my rent set?
How do you decide how much to increase my rent by?
How are service charge levels set?

HOUSING BENEFIT

Who can give me a rough estimate of how much housing and/or council tax benefit I might get before I make a claim?
How will I know if I qualify for housing benefit?
How can I appeal against an overpayment of housing benefit?
How can I get the housing benefit deductions reduced?
I have completed my housing benefit forms and still not received any payment or confirmation of how much I will be entitled to. What do I do next?

HOW TO PAY

How can I pay my rent?
How can I set up a direct debit to pay my rent?
Can I still pay by direct debit if my rent account has fallen into arrears?
I don’t have a bank account but I would like to pay by direct debit or standing order. What can I do?
How do I qualify for ‘arrears direct’?

PAYMENT HOLIDAYS

What are rent payment holidays?
Do I still receive payment holidays if my rent account has fallen into arrears?
Do garage rent accounts have payment holidays?

ARREARS AND LEGAL INFORMATION

What is the Debt Advice Team?
I have been sent a Notice Seeking Possession of my property. What should I do?
I have received a letter stating that I am being taken to court due to rent arrears. What should I do?
I have missed payments with my court order. What should I do?
I have been given my eviction date. What can I do?
I have been evicted, but I had to leave my furniture and other goods in the property. What can I do?

TENANCY INFORMATION

How do I change the name(s) on the letters I receive from you?
I will be away from the property for an extended period of time. What should I do?
What is the difference between an introductory and a secure tenancy?

OTHER

Can you help me if English is not my first language?
Can I become more involved in helping to monitor the rent and debt collection service?
How else can I share my views on the rent and debt collection service?
Who do I contact if I have any other queries on rent and debt collection?

RENT AND SERVICE CHARGES

How is my rent set?
The rent for each individual property will be changed from April 2013 in line with the national rent formula introduced by the former Government in April 2002. The formula takes into account the average earnings for the West Midlands, the number of bedrooms in the property and the valuation of that property at 1999 prices. The rent charged from April 2013 will increase the average annual rent levels for 2013/14 by 4.94 per cent when compared with the average charged for 2012/13. This is the average across the City and some tenants may see a slightly higher or slightly lower increase than this average.

How do you decide how much to increase my rent by?
Any rent increases use the Retail Price Index (RPI) as a factor in setting the increase. The RPI measures the rate of inflation in the UK, and rent increases are set using the RPI from the previous September. This is 2.6% for 2013/14.

We also limit rent increases so that an increase in the annual rent charged cannot be higher than RPI + 0.5% + £2 per week.


How are service charge levels set?
Service Charges are set in line with national guidelines that say they have to be separated from the rent for your property and fully cover the costs of providing that particular service. A range of Service Charges (but not all) are payable depending on the services provided to tenants and may include concierge, cleaning communal lighting and sheltered accommodation


The council put into place a policy of recovering the full service costs over a five-year period from October 2002 to October 2007. This is now complete and charges are now made for the actual cost of the service. Service Charges will increase by 1 per cent from April 2013 to reflect the increasing costs of service delivery and is the first increase since October 2010. The Service Charges are separately calculated for each District to reflect local service costs and will also be levied over a 48 week cycle alongside the weekly rent


HOUSING BENEFITS

Who can give me a rough estimate of how much housing and/or council tax benefit I might get before I make a claim?
Please contact us on 0121 464 7000. You can also make an appointment at your nearest Customer Service Centre by calling 0121 303 1111. Or you can check your entitlement with the .gov.uk Benefits Adviser.

How will I know if I qualify for housing benefit?
If you receive benefits or are on a low income you may be eligible to receive housing benefit. You can telephone Benefit Services for more information on 0121 464 7000.

If you are self-employed, a student or have come to Birmingham from abroad you will need to make an appointment with your local Customer Service Centre for a housing benefit assessment. Alternatively, you can contact the Rent Service on 0121 675 2006 for further advice.

How can I appeal against an overpayment of housing benefit?
You only have 28 days to appeal against a housing benefit overpayment. You can either make an appointment at your local neighbourhood office or contact Benefit Services directly on 0121 464 7000 and ask for the overpayment team.

It is best to advise the Rent Service you are appealing as it may affect your rent account. Housing overpayments may be deducted from any existing benefit entitlement which means you will be expected any shortfall in the weekly rent.

How can I get the housing benefit deductions reduced?
Contact the Rent Service on 0121 675 2006 or Benefit Services on 0121 464 7000 to request the relevant paperwork.

I have completed my housing benefit forms and still not received any payment or confirmation of how much I will be entitled to. What do I do next?
Contact the Rent Service on 0121 675 2006 or Benefit Services on 0121 464 7000 who will be able provide an update on the progress of your claim. In the meantime you must make the full rent payment or a contribution towards your rent.

Please take a look at our Benefit Service pages if you have any other questions about housing benefit.


HOW TO PAY

How can I pay my rent?
You can pay your rent weekly, fortnightly or monthly as long as payments are made in advance.

Direct debit is the easiest way to pay your rent - it's hassle-free and saves time. We recommend this method of payment. When you first set up your direct debit, it can take up to six weeks before the first payment is taken. To avoid falling into arrears, you should continue to make your rent payments until the first direct debit instalment date.

You can also pay your rent by setting up a standing order with your bank. Speak to the Rent Service on 0121 675 2006 for more information.

Other ways you can pay include:

  • by telephone: our cashiers office (0121 464 9671) during office hours, or telephone 0121 464 2001 at any time to use our automated service. You will need your rent payment card and your credit or debit card
  • by telephone: contact the Rent Service on 0121 675 2006 8.45am – 5.15pm Monday to Thursday or 8.45am – 4.15pm Friday
  • at a Pay Zone outlet: you can pay your rent with cash or debit card at your local PayZone outlet. You will need your rent payment card
  • at a PayPoint outlet: you can pay your rent with cash at your local PayPoint outlet. You will need your rent payment card
  • at the Post Office: you can pay your rent by cash or cheque at your local post office. You will need your rent payment card
  • online at www.birmingham.gov.uk/payrent. You will need a debit or credit card and your rent payment reference number
  • housing benefit: for more information about a new or existing claim for housing benefit, telephone 0121 464 7000

You can also find out more information about paying your rent by viewing our rent and debt collection service standards.

How can I set up a direct debit to pay my rent?
You will need to complete a direct debit mandate and return it to us. You can download a direct debit mandate form, or request the mandate from the Rent Service on 0121 675 2006.

Can I still pay by direct debit if my rent account has fallen into arrears?
Yes you can – but the amount requested will include both your rent, and an arrears repayment (the amount of repayment will be agreed with you.) Although both payments will be taken together, they will appear separately on your bank account statement.

To set up a direct debit when your rent account is in arrears, you will need to contact the Rent Service on 0121 675 2006 and we can adjust your existing direct debit payment to take an additional amount in respect of your arrears arrangement.

I don’t have a bank account but I would like to pay by direct debit or standing order. What can I do?
There are several alternative methods that you can use (see above). If you need a bank account to pay your rent by direct debit or standing order and are unable to have a current account you should consider opening a “basic bank account”.

How do I qualify for ‘arrears direct’?
Arrears direct is a way for us to collect rent arrears directly from your benefits. Qualifying benefits include Jobseekers Allowance, Employment Support Allowance and Income Support. Contact the Rent Service on 0121 675 2006 to find out more.

PAYMENT HOLIDAYS

What are rent payment holidays?
Rent payment holidays are weeks when tenants are not required to pay rent if their current rent account is clear or in credit.

All tenants receive notification of the rent payment holidays and their new rent charge with their annual rent increase letter in September each year.


Do I still receive payment holidays if my rent account has fallen into arrears?
If your rent is in arrears, you will not be entitled to rent payment holidays. You should use these four weeks to reduce or clear your arrears. For further information see section 5.3 of your conditions of tenancy.

Do garage rent accounts have payment holidays?
Yes. Customers who have garage accounts will receive a separate letter informing them of the change. Service charges form part of the payable rent and will be calculated in the same way.

If your account is in arrears, you should continue to make payments during payment holidays in order to reduce or clear your arrears.

ARREARS AND LEGAL INFORMATION

What is the Debt Advice Team?
The Debt Advice Team has been working since January 2003 to help people who are experiencing debt problems. Each year thousands of clients make use of the service. The members of the team use their extensive knowledge and expertise to maximise client income for both in and out of work.

The team offers a free and confidential debt advice for its tenants with experienced and friendly advisors. Advisors will provide you with independent and impartial advice and information on welfare benefits and well as solutions to your personal debt problems

They can help you by:

  • making sure you are getting all the welfare benefits you are entitled to
  • completion of relevant welfare benefit application forms
  • providing budgeting advice
  • preparing a full debt repayment plan
  • talking to people to whom you owe money, including the rent service.

For more information telephone the debt advice line on 0121 303 2087.

I have been sent a Notice of Proceedings seeking possession of my property. What should I do?
A Notice Seeking Possession is sent if rent payments are not made and there has been no response to the reminder letters already issued, any telephone contact or visits made. You should contact the Rent Service on 0121 675 2006 immediately at this stage.

The Rent Service will work with you to identify how your rent has fallen into arrears and if you are unable to clear the arrears in full, you will need to make a realistic repayment plan based on your personal circumstances to avoid further action being taken. It is important to resolve any problems at this stage as the Notice Seeking Possession is the first stage of the legal action that may result in your losing your home.

If you are an introductory tenant, you are also entitled to request a review of your case, to challenge the Notice of Proceedings for Possession.

Where necessary the housing team will make a referral for independent debt advice. (See above, "What is the Debt Advice Team?”).


I have received a letter stating that I am being taken to court due to rent arrears. What should I do?
You should contact the Rent Service on 0121 675 2006 immediately. They will consider stopping action or adjourning the case if you are able to clear the debt in full or make reasonable repayment arrangement.

Again, your local rent team will work with you to identify the reason for your arrears and if you are unable to clear the arrears in full you will then agree a realistic repayment plan based on your personal circumstances.

The rent team will offer you and make a referral for independent debt advice. (See above, “What is the Debt Advice Team?”).

If you have made an arrangement this must be adhered to; if no payment is made further action will be taken against you, which may lead to the loss of your home. It is important to note you will be liable for the court costs - £100 for a possession hearing, £40 for a general application and £95 for execution of the eviction warrant.

I have missed payments with my court order. What should I do?
You must contact the Rent Service on 0121 675 2006 immediately and they will attempt to help you to bring your payments up to date. You will have a maximum of one month to do this.

If you are unable to keep to the terms of the court order you may request that your order is varied by the courts. The independent debt advice team may be able to assist you in completing your application form.

I have been given my eviction date. What can I do?
You must contact the Rent Service on 0121 675 2006 immediately. The only way that we will be able to halt the eviction proceedings is if you clear the rent arrears account and any court costs you may be liable for, or make an application directly to the courts.

We will do our best to avoid eviction action wherever possible.



I have been evicted, but I had to leave my furniture and other goods in the property. What can I do?
You must contact the Rent Service on 0121 675 2006 to arrange to have the furniture removed or moved to your new address. You will be liable to pay the removal costs – this is a condition of your tenancy.

If you do not arrange for the furniture to be removed, we will put it in storage for 28 days and if you do not claim it, we will arrange for it to be sold to recover any outstanding debt.

TENANCY INFORMATION

How do I change the name(s) on the letters I receive from you?
The procedure varies, depending on why you wish to change the name(s). However, we will put you in touch with your local housing office; they will be able to review your request. Contact the Rent Service on 0121 675 2006 to discuss this further.

It is important that you tell us straight away about any changes in your circumstances as this may affect your housing benefit claim, the service we provide and the support you may need.

I will be away from the property for an extended period of time. What should I do?
It is important that you contact the Rent Service on 0121 675 2006 to discuss the circumstances. It may be helpful to authorise someone to act on your behalf if you need to go into hospital or on holiday for a period of time. However, as this is your principle home you are still liable to pay rent.

If you are in receipt of housing benefit you should notify Benefit Services if you are away longer than two weeks by telephoning them on 0121 464 7000.

What is the difference between an introductory and a secure tenancy?
An introductory tenancy usually lasts for one year. If after this time you have not broken any of your conditions of tenancy, you will become a secure tenant. If you break any of your conditions of tenancy in the first 12 months, we may take action to either extend your introductory tenancy by six months or end your tenancy.

During the introductory period you do not have the same rights as a secure tenant. For example, you cannot apply to buy your home or make any structural changes to the property. We may allow you to take in a lodger or someone to provide you with support and care. However, you must get written permission from us. Contact the Rent Service on 0121 675 2006 for more information.

OTHER

Can you help me if English is not my first language?
If you do not understand our documents, then please ask a friend or relative, who understands English, to contact your local Customer Service Centre or housing team on your behalf. We will then arrange for an interpreter to meet with you who understands English.

We will:

  • provide induction loops and sign language facilities if you need them<
  • use written and spoken language that is clear and easy to understand
  • provide you with written documents that are easy to read and offer them in large print, Braille or on audio CD if required.
  • arrange to translate documents or for an interpreter to explain written documents to you if you are a non-English speaker.

Can I become more involved in helping to monitor the rent and debt collection service?
Yes you can – we value feedback from customers as it helps us to improve and develop our services. If you would like to find out more about how you can get involved, please contact the Rent Service on 0121 675 2006.

How else can I share my views on the rent and debt collection service?
You can email your comments to views to rent@birmingham.gov.uk. You can also use our comments, compliments and complaints procedure.

Who do I contact if I have any other queries on rent and debt collection?
Please contact the Rent Service on 0121 675 2006.