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Debt Respite Scheme to freeze rent arrears enforcement action

Tuesday 09 March 2021

The Debt Respite Scheme, approved by Parliament in October 2020, will come into force on 4 May 2021 to help people who are in debt, which includes rent arrears, to help better manage finances, seek professional debt service advice and reach sustainable solutions.

What does it mean?

The Breathing Space Moratorium and Mental Health Crisis Moratorium) (England and Wales) Regulations 2020 were approved by Parliament in October 2020. It will pause enforcement action from creditors, such as letting agents and landlords, and freezing charges, fees and certain interest on qualifying debts for up to 60 days. There is also an alternative way into the scheme for people receiving mental health crisis treatment. A mental health crisis moratorium lasts as long as a person’s mental health crisis treatment, plus 30 days.

Access to the Scheme

A Breathing Space moratorium can only be accessed once every 12 months, but there is no limit to the number of times that an individual can enter a mental health crisis moratorium.

Who can start a breathing space?

A Breathing Space can only be started by a debt advice provider who is authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to offer debt counselling or local authority (where they provide debt advice to residents).

The impact on letting agents and landlords

From 4 May, when letting agents, landlords, and other creditors are notified about a moratorium debt, they must pause enforcement action and freeze charges, fees and certain interest for the duration of the moratorium. Agents must also conduct a reasonable search of their records for any additional debt(s) owed to them by the debtor, as they may be eligible to be added to the moratorium. Creditors must decide what constitutes a reasonable search, based on their circumstances.

Ahead of the scheme’s commencement on 4 May 2021, the UK Government has announced that landlords should consider whether they need to make any changes to their systems and processes to comply with the regulations.

Get in touch

If not done so already, the UK Government would recommend that agents and landlords contact them by email to discuss their options for receiving and managing notifications.

Propertymark resources

To find out more, members can access a Debt Respite Scheme – Breathing Space FAQs document by logging into their member area of the ARLA Propertymark website.