Dealing with priority debts

Priority debts

They are debts that can cause you particularly serious problems if you don't do anything about them. You need to work out which of your debts are priority debts and deal with them first.

Mortgage arrears

Contact your lender immediately and let them know you are having difficulties. Lenders must deal fairly with borrowers in arrears and must follow a code of conduct to reach an agreement to repay arrears. The housing Debt Advice team can help you to negotiate with your lender and will ensure that they follow the mortgage protocol. They can also help you to maximise your income, explore all of your options and make affordable offers of payment to clear your mortgage arrears.

Rent arrears

Contact your landlord straight away and let them know you are having difficulties. The Housing Debt Advise Team can also assist you. They can help by;

  • negotiating a repayment plan to clear your arrears based on your affordability with your landlord
  • advice on income maximisation
  • assist with court paperwork
  • represent you in court
  • if you have been given an eviction date we can help you apply for a stay of execution by completing court form N244. There is a fee of £50.00 but this can be waived if you are  in receipt of a low income of a qualifying benefit. We can also represent you at the hearing if you wish.
  • you can also apply to Buckinghamshire Council for a Discretionary Housing Payment which if successful may entitle you to extra housing benefit for a short period. Click the following link to make an application

If you believe you are at threat from being evicted from your home, complete the online form via the self referral portal

Council tax arrears

This is a priority debt and must be dealt with immediately. If you ignore these you could incur additional costs, bailiff action or possibly bankruptcy or imprisonment. Contact the council tax team for advice.

  • always check your bill.
  • you may qualify for discounts. People who live alone usually get 25% off their bill.
  • you  can  pay by instalments, which could be weekly, fortnightly or monthly.
  • ask to have your bill spread over 12 months as this will spread the cost and lower the payments.
  • you may qualify for council tax  reduction
  • you can pay direct from your wages
  • if you have arrears and get Job Seekers Allowance, Income Support, Pension Credit  employment support allowance or Universal Credit  you may be able to a direct deduction £3.75 per week taken out of your benefit.
  • if you have been served with a Statutory Demand notice or Bailiffs have called , this will increase your debt and you could lose your car, personal goods and possibly lose your home.

Tax debt to HMRC

This is a priority debt and must be dealt with immediately. If you ignore these you could incur additional costs, bailiff action or possibly bankruptcy or imprisonment. Contact the National Debtline for more information.

  • don’t delay or ignore your invoice as it could make the situation worse.
  • check that your tax code is correct.
  • seek immediate advice and guidance.
  • repayment plans can be negotiated.

Taxaid can help with further information

Paying your utility bills

If you are in arrears with your utility bills you need to contact your supplier straight away to arrange a payment plan to cover your ongoing costs and repay the arrears at an affordable rate. Contact the National Debtline for more information.

Gas and electricity bills are priority debts because if they are not paid you could be disconnected. The utility companies will usually give you an option to repay the arrears over 12 or 18 months. If this is unaffordable or you have defaulted on payment plans before, you may be given the option of having a prepayment meter installed.

Prepayment meters are set to deduct the arrears from any weekly payments made at an agreed rate. If you are unemployed or suffer from a disability the amount deducted can be minimal. If you have arrears of more than £50.00 and have dependents living with you, you can have the arrears and on-going charges deducted from your benefit. Therefore make sure you let your provider know what income you get and if you have any health issues.

If you are unemployed and receiving a qualifying benefit or suffer from health issues you may be entitled to have your tariff adjusted to a social tariff which is at reduced rate. Please ask your provider for details. Remember you can still switch supplier if you have a pre payment meter, providing your debt is below £500.00

Many of the utility providers have Trust Funds which may provide a grant to clear your arrears. Ask your provider for details or visit turn2us