A Face-to-Face Case Study from the Advice NI Debt Service


This client was originally referred by the Macmillan Benefits Service to the Advice NI Debt Service. The client was a young mother of two young children with substantial debt.  This included a Housing Benefit overpayment of over £20k and Choice Housing arrears of £5k.
An adviser was not able to meet with the client, as she was extremely ill. However, theymet with her partner who was now living in the family home and the relevant authorisations were obtained with the help of Macmillan. 
 
The adviser contacted Choice Housing and it was clear that they were aware of the circumstances and were taking a very supportive position with the clients.  The adviser spoke to the Housing Officer who explained that the client was the named tenant and that she faced significant arrears.  However, they were aware that she was terminally ill and they hoped that they would be able to transfer the tenancy to the name of her partner who was now working on the case.  It was also implied that the significant rent arrears could be written off but this was never confirmed.
 
Unfortunately the client passed away a short time after.
 
Various letters were sent to the client’s creditors to let them know that she had passed away and one by one these have been tidied up.  This included the Northern Ireland Housing Executive who confirmed that as the client had no estate they would not pursue the large overpayment.  Choice Housing agreed to transfer the tenancy into her partner’s name as discussed, however, they also transferred the £5k rent arrears into the name of the client’s partner.
 
Advice NI contacted Choice to discuss the case with them and was informed that their plan was to transfer the arrears into the name of the new tenant and then, if he maintained token payments towards the arrears for a couple of years, they would consider writing the debt off.
 
Following this conversation the adviser contacted Advice NI Specialist Support to seek their opinion as they was concerned that if the new tenant made any payments towards the arrears then, by doing so, he would be accepting liability and would significantly weaken his position with Choice.
 
It was agreed the adviser would write to Choice to ask them to re-consider this decision, pointing out that Advice NI did not believe that Choice had the legal right to transfer the debt to the new tenant.
 
Unfortunately no response to the letter was received, despite several reminders, and the adviser again contacted Specialist Support.  Specialist Support provided them with a senior contact at Choice Housing. After some further delay and follow up Choice have eventually agreed to write off the £5k debt.