As reported by Elite Homes and Property, in May of this year, the Obligation Respite Scheme (‘breathing space’) went into force, providing renters a defined amount of time during which they cannot be pursued for rent arrears or any other debt covered by the breathing space.
Anyone with a financial problem has access to a “standard breathing space.” Experts at Elite Homes and Property claimed that it protects individuals from creditor action for up to 60 days, halting most enforcement actions and communication with creditors, as well as freezing most interest and penalties on their debts.
Someone getting mental health crisis therapy has access to a ‘mental health crisis breathing area,’ which provides additional safeguards. It lasts for the same amount of time as their therapy plus 30 days as per identified by Elite Homes and Property.
You must put any action you are taking in regard to the rent arrears on hold if the renter has included rent arrears in their breathing space. You can still contact the renter regarding property issues like inspections and maintenance, but you must not mention the rent arrears under any circumstances.
How do tenants get breathing space?
Tenants cannot just give themselves breathing room; they must work with a qualified debt counsellor who has been approved by the Financial Conduct Authority (or an approved mental health professional, where seeking mental health crisis breathing space).
Tenants should also be mindful that having some breathing room does not imply they can walk away from their debts; rather, it allows them to think about their finances and choices. The rent arrears must still be paid, and the breathing space does not apply to rent that is due in the future.
How mediation can help with breathing space
We frequently encounter landlords and renters who require the assistance of a neutral third party.
Ian, a landlord in arrears for two months and a renter in need of some breathing room, approached us for assistance. For the reasons stated above, we were not permitted to speak with the renter about their rent arrears; but, we were permitted to speak with them about their future plans, when they expected to be able to resume paying rent, and what it would mean to them if they were unable to do so.
To cut a long tale short, the renter realised that staying in the property would just add to their debt. The renter promised to depart by the end of the month, and Ian agreed to relieve the rent arrears. Ian considered it a modest price to pay to reclaim his property, especially when contrasted to the potential for a protracted court battle.
Using one of our mediators allows you to identify solutions that work for both landlords and renters by combining common sense and experience. Rent arrears or other difficulties that have developed during a tenancy might be the source of a dispute. When it comes to resolving disputes with renters, landlords should consider employing mediation because:
- It saves you time, money, and stress – we generally reach an agreement in 10 to 15 working days
- It works – renters work with us once they realise we aren’t simply looking out for the landlord
- It saves you time, money, and stress – we find quick practical solutions without having to go to court. For NRLA members, our fees start at £200 + VAT.