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Pay your Rent

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Person making a payment with a debit card

Every OTHA tenant has a Scottish Secure Tenancy Agreement which states:-

"The rent is £_______every calendar month inclusive of the service charge payable in advance by you on or before the first day of each rental period."

This means that by the 28th of each month, your rent account should be showing a full month’s rent in credit. This is to pay the rent for the coming month which is then charged on the 1st of the month.

Our staff works with existing tenants to ensure that rent accounts are in advance and if they are not then we are happy to make an agreement that will allow small, regular payments to be made that will bring the account into advance over a period of time.

All new tenants are be expected to pay a full month’s rent before the tenancy begins and the offer will be withdrawn if payment is not made.

This will mean that if you are thinking of moving to another Oak Tree Housing Association property you will need to pay the full month’s rent for your new property before you sign the tenancy agreement.

This helps make new tenants aware of some of the costs of taking on a tenancy and realise that they have a responsibility to pay rent – even if they are entitled to benefit assistance.

If you are likely to be affected by Universal Credit in the future then you will need to wait at least 5 weeks for your first monthly payment and you will be responsible for paying rent for that 5 week period. Having a full month in advance on your rent account will help you at that time as your rent will be covered for a month.

Managing Your Rent

Our aim is to charge rents that people on a low income can afford but will also give us sufficient funds to maintain high standards of services and properties.

To allow us to manage your rent effectively, we will:

  • Review rent and service charges every year
  • Give you 28 days' notice of any increase to your rent or service charges
  • Offer a variety of ways to pay

Paying your Rent

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Housing Benefit or Universal Credit

If you are receiving welfare benefits or your income is low, you may be entitled to Housing Benefit or the Housing Cost element of Universal Credit to cover some or all of your rent.

You can choose to have any Housing Benefit paid direct to Oak Tree HA. The Council pays the yearly rent over thirteen payments instead of twelve calendar monthly payments.

You can also choose to have the Housing Costs element of Universal Credit paid direct to Oak Tree HA too. Payments are made monthly.

Both of these options mean that your rent account is likely to be in arrears for much of the year. We will discuss this with you individually with a view to making an arrangement for the balance owing as your rent is due to be paid in advance.

Paypoint outlet or Post Office

You will be given a plastic swipe card with your tenant reference number on it. This allows you to make payments at all Post Offices and PayPoint outlets. You can pay by cash or debit card or by cheque at the shopkeeper’s discretion. We will give you a wallet to keep all your receipts in so that you have a record of your payments.

If you lose your card, we will order a new one for you. It will be sent out the next day by first class mail. Your card can only be used to pay your rent, and is of no value to another person.

Direct Debit

We can set up a Direct Debit arrangement with you which means the money comes direct from your bank to ours on a date that is suitable to you. Monthly payments are preferred but you can set the payments to be paid weekly, fortnightly or 4 weekly if you prefer. Having a Direct Debit in place means we can change the amount when your rent increases without you needing to contact your bank. You can complete a Direct Debit form or we can set it up with you over the telephone.

On-line Payment

You can pay using a debit or credit card using Allpay’s secure internet site at Allpay.net. There is also an Allpay App that you can download to your smartphone and you can make payments this way too. You can make payments on-line via our on-line Myoaktree portal. Click on the "Tenant Login" tab on the homepage to register. You can view your account from this portal as well as amend your household details, report repairs or contact us.

AllPay Website

Debit or Credit Card Payment

A number of our customers like to call the office and make a payment over the phone. It means you can speak to a member of staff and as well as having the reassurance that your payment has been made, you can also speak to us about any other aspect of your tenancy. You can also call into the office and we can take a card payment with our card machine.

Universal Credit 

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Already on Universal Credit

Requesting direct payments

If you have received at least one Universal Credit payment, you can request that your Housing Costs are paid direct to Oak Tree HA. You can request this on your Journal.

You need to be aware that there may be a delay between you requesting this and payment being made. This will mean an arrear is showing on your account and we will expect you to make additional payments. You may also receive a Housing Cost payment in the meantime and you will need to pay this to your account.

Report rent increases

If you have a claim for Universal Credit you will need to report any rent increases on-line. You should log in and in the "Home" section click on "Report a Change" then click on "Housing". You will not be able to report it until after 1 April each year and the Association will send you a separate letter with details of how to report your new rent charge and the amounts when the increase is due.

Alternative payment methods

If you usually call the office and make a payment over the phone, you may want to look at other ways of paying your rent. This would allow you to make a payment when our office is closed.

You can still use your Allpay card in any of the usual outlets – if you don’t have an Allpay card please contact us for a new one.

You can pay online at www.oaktreeha.org.uk

You can download the Allpay app at www.allpay.net and pay with your smartphone.

Additional payments in your assessment period

If you are working and are paid weekly, fortnightly or 4 weekly and receive Universal Credit, you will find that there are periods when extra wages are received in the assessment period and this will affect your Universal Credit payments.

The website www.gov.uk has a tool that you can use to show you in detail how this might affect you.

Go to the website and enter “different earning patterns and your payments” into the Search box and then follow the links.

If there is a bank holiday, you may find that your Universal Credit payment is made into your bank account earlier than usual – depending on the due date and this could also affect future payments.

It is very important that you are aware of this and if you are worried that this will affect you, please speak to our team as soon as possible.

Moving onto Universal Credit

If you are not a pensioner and you are in receipt of Housing Benefit or Tax Credits and you have a change of circumstances then it’s likely that you will move onto this benefit.

A change of circumstance could be:

  • You move house. Some tenants will remain on Housing Benefit so please ask us for advice if you are concerned about this.
  • Someone moves into your household or someone moves out
  • You are working and you stop working or your hours reduce
  • You were in receipt of ESA and are assessed as being fit for work

We are working hard to help tenants deal with the changes and there are a number of organisations that can assist you make a claim and maintain your claim.

If you move onto this benefit, you will be responsible for paying your rent from the monthly payment you receive and you must make sure that you let the DWP know that you have “Housing Costs”. This is another name for your rent.

There are some very important differences between Universal Credit and the benefits you may have received in the past.

  • You will need to wait at least 5 weeks for your 1st payment
  • You can ask for an advance of up to 100% of your entitlement but you need to repay it from future payments.
  • You can now ask for Housing Costs payments to be paid direct to the Association. You can do this after your 1st assessment period
  • You can ask for your payments to be made twice monthly

The Association charges rent in advance so it is very important that we speak to you as soon as we know that you are going to be claiming Universal Credit to avoid arrears building up on your account.

We can make an agreement with you so that you can pay extra each month so that you do not fall into arrears and your account becomes in advance.

Our Housing Services staff will be able to answer any questions you have about Universal Credit and how you might be affected.

Being in advance with your rent account is very important as it will stop your account getting into arrears while you are waiting for your first payment.

Problems with Paying your Rent

Your rent is due in advance at the end of each month. If there is a balance on your rent account after the rent is charged on the 1st of the month then you have a rent arrear.

If you are having difficulty paying your rent, we will work with you to stop an arrear building up and to reduce the debt over time according to your financial circumstances.

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Why do arrears happen?

Arrears most often arise due to:

  • Delays in submitting claims for Housing Benefit
  • Housing Benefit not being payable as the tenant hasn’t moved into the property
  • A change in income so that Housing Benefit is overpaid and is clawed back.
  • Failing to start paying rent directly when you start a new job
  • A change in your household, e.g someone who needs to contribute to your rent moves in or someone in your house reaches an age when the benefit rules means that they are due to contribute to your rent.
  • The tenant failing to pay what they are due
What will Oak Tree do?

Our approach is to work with you to deal with any arrears or rent payment problem at a very early stage. We will try to make personal contact with you as soon as we can after an arrear arises. This is so that we can try to find out the root cause of the problem and to jointly find a way of dealing with it before the debt gets out of hand. The rent charge is made every month and a debt can soon get out of control.

There are several positive things we can do:

  • Discover if there is benefit issue, which may be causing your arrear.
  • Assess your financial circumstances to discover the cause of the problem.
  • Give advice about benefits, which you may be entitled to, but are not claiming.
  • Put you in touch with specialist advice agencies who can deal effectively with multiple debt problems.
  • Agree if you need some support to help you cope with your tenancy and try to get you the help you need.
  • Agree a payment plan going forward to deal with the ongoing rent as well as the arrear.

We will certainly attempt to contact you once an arrear arises, but we would also advise you to get in touch with us as soon as you know you may have a problem. We will try all means of contacting you including calling at your home.

What can I do?

The most important thing you can do is keep in contact with us.

The Housing Services team monitor arrears cases and chase up payments. If you miss a rent payment, we would try to speak to you in the first instance or send you a message. We aim to send a letter within 7 days and to follow up with a visit if you do not contact us.

We may need to speak to you face to face to discuss your rent account in detail. This interview can be held in our office or in your own home and can be at a time that suits you including out of normal office hours. The interview is confidential. You can have another person present to support you if you wish to do so.

During the interview we will discuss:

  • Your income
  • Who lives in the house
  • What you spend money on
  • The reason for the arrears
  • Your employment details
  • How to contact you
  • If you receive support or help from a relative or support organisation
  • Where to go for debt or budgeting advice if this is needed

Having discussed all the possible avenues we can jointly take to help your situation, we will be looking to make an arrangement with you to stop the arrears increasing and to bring down the balance owed. We prefer to make an arrangement for regular payments towards the rent and arrears rather than large one-off payments. If you receive certain income benefits, a deduction can be made to contribute towards your arrear otherwise you will need to arrange to make payments yourself.

The arrangement will be confirmed in writing so you are clear about what you have agreed. When an arrangement is made, it is important that you stick to it. We take your circumstances into account to ensure the arrangement is realistic and reasonable so that you should be able to keep to the payments schedule.

Most arrears are sorted out in this way. If we cannot work with you to resolve the arrears, we may have to take legal action against you. We can take action to recover the debt or to repossess your home or both.

What does legal action mean?

Taking Legal Action to Recover Unpaid Rent

Before taking any legal action, we will serve a Notice of Proceedings for Possession on you and any other adult resident of your home, warning you of the court action. We will keep trying to make an arrangement with you to sort out the arrears problem, but if this fails we will instruct an action to be raised.

After a date is set for the court hearing, we will still try to work with you to resolve the arrears problem. You will be informed of the court date and should take your own legal advice and be represented in court.

We will tell you of what we intend to ask the court to do – this may be to seek decree for your eviction or recovery of the debt or it may have been agreed to drop the action if the arrears problem is resolved. Often, we will postpone the court action to see if you stick to the agreed repayment arrangement.

You can seek advice from the Legal Services Agency who have a Housing Rights Project and they have offices at 9 Sir Michael Street, Greenock. More information can be found at their website.

Visit Legal Services Agency Website

How can I get help?

There are lots of agencies that can help you and we are very happy to tell you about them or make a referral. Please don't bury your head in the sand. We want to keep you in your home and will support you if we can.

Problems with Debt

Many people have bigger debt problems than just rent arrears. The best way to deal with the problem of multiple debt is to face it head on as the longer you leave it, the worse the debt can get.

If your outgoings are bigger than your income, you will get into difficulties with keeping up to date with your bills. If this is the case, you may need outside help and advice. Some details of advice services are given below. They can give advice as well as practical help in renegotiating debt and maximising your income by claiming more benefits. The full contact details are in section 8 of the handbook.

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Financial Fitness Team

Financial Fitness are a charitable company (established in 1999) providing free, independent, confidential welfare benefit information and financial support services to the residents of Inverclyde. Financial Fitness Team provide services from Oak Tree Housing Associations' offices as well as their own premises. You can also visit their website for more information about the services they provide.

Financial Fitness Website

Welfare Benefits Advice Service

Independent advice on all welfare and local authority benefits including benefit checks, form filling and advocacy can be provided by Advice First. This is an Inverclyde Council service Their advisers can spot any unclaimed benefits and help people to claim a wide range of means tested and non-means tested benefits, whilst also helping clients who are having difficulties with benefit problems. Telephone 01475 715 299 or call into Hector McNeil House, Clyde Square, Greenock

Better off in Work Service

Financial advice and support to help people make the transition from benefits into employment, accessing in-work and return-to-work benefits where applicable. Clients can also find out more about other services which can help them back into employment

Money Advice Service (over 50’s only) - confidential advice for older clients to help them manage their money more effectively, manage their debts, prepare for their retirement and cope with major life changing events in later life. This service is designed to help older people take control of their finances.

For more information on these services contact the Financial Fitness team on 01475 729 239 or speak to a member of the Housing Services team

Join the Local Credit Union

Tail O’The Bank Credit Union, based at 14 Kilblain Street is the third biggest community based Credit Union in Scotland, with almost 3,000 members and over £900,000 worth of assets.

OTHA think joining this credit union makes such good sense, that we offer to pay your joining fee.

To apply for membership, either call into the Credit Union’s office or telephone 734655 for more information.

Inverclyde Advice First

Inverclyde Advice First can be contacted on 01475 715299. It is a telephone service that can help with:-

  • Advice on sanctions/benefit changes
  • Benefit entitlement check/better off calculation
  • Scheduling face-to-face appointments with Advice Worker
CAP Debt Help

Christians Against Poverty (CAP) can offer help and advice on dealing with debt. contact them on 0800 328 0006 or at www.capdebthelp.org

Available Downloads

File Description File Size
Legal Action & Eviction Policy PDF icon 331KB
Rent Arrears Policy PDF icon 165KB
Rent Setting Policy PDF icon 270KB
Tenants Handbook PDF icon 2MB

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