4.1 Non-payment by some homeowners may affect provision of services to others, or may result in other homeowners in the group being liable to meet the non-paying homeowner’s debts in relation to the factoring arrangements in place (if they are jointly liable for such costs). For this reason it is important that homeowners are made aware of the implications of late payment and property factors have clear procedures to deal promptly with this type of situation and to take remedial action as soon as possible to prevent non-payment from escalating.
4.2 It is a requirement of section 1 of the Code (written statement of services) that a property factor informs homeowners of any late payment charges and the property factor’s debt recovery procedure is made available to homeowners.
4.3 Any charges that a property factor imposes in relation to late payment by a homeowner must not be unreasonable or excessive and must be clearly identified on any relevant bill and financial statement issued to that homeowner.
4.4 A property factor must have a clear written procedure for debt recovery which outlines a series of steps which the property factor will follow. This procedure must be consistently and reasonably applied. This procedure must clearly set out how the property factor will deal with disputed debts and how, and at what stage, debts will be charged to other homeowners in the group if they are jointly liable for such costs.
4.5 When dealing with customers in default or in arrears difficulties, a property factor should treat its customers fairly, with forbearance and due consideration to provide reasonable time for them to comply. The debt recovery procedure should include, at an appropriate point, advising the customer that free and impartial debt advice, support and information on debt solutions is available from not-for-profit debt advice bodies.
4.6 A property factor must have systems in place to ensure the monitoring of payments due from homeowners and that payment information held on these systems is updated and maintained on a regular basis. A property factor must also issue timely written reminders to inform a homeowner of any amounts they owe.
4.7 If an application against a property factor relating to a disputed debt is accepted by the First-tier Tribunal for consideration, a property factor must not continue to apply any interest, late payment charges or pursue any separate legal action in respect of the disputed part of the debt during the period from when the property factor is notified in writing by the First-tier Tribunal that the application is being considered and until such time as they are notified in writing of the final decision by the First-tier Tribunal or the Upper Tribunal for Scotland (if appeal proceedings are raised).
4.8 On request, a property factor must provide homeowners with a statement of how service delivery and charges will be affected if one or more homeowners does not pay their bills.
4.9 A property factor must take reasonable steps to keep homeowners informed in writing of outstanding debts that they may be liable to contribute to, or any debt recovery action against other homeowners which could have implications for them, while ensuring compliance with data protection legislation.
4.10 A property factor must be able to demonstrate it has taken reasonable steps to recover unpaid charges from any homeowner who has not paid their share of the costs prior to charging other homeowners (if they are jointly liable for such costs). This may include providing homeowners with information on options for accessing finance e.g. for major repairs. Any supporting documentation must be made available if requested by a homeowner (subject to data protection legislation).
4.11 A property factor must not take legal action against a homeowner without taking reasonable steps to resolve the matter and without giving notice to the homeowner of its intention to raise legal action (see also section 4.7).