Issue - meetings
Housing Rent Income
(a) That the Committee notes the £1.87m year-end position for rent arrears in 2018-19 which shows collection of rent is starting to stabilise; and
(b) That the Committee endorses the ongoing measures being taken to improve rent collection during 2019-20.
The Chief Officer (Housing & Assets) introduced the quarterly update on rent collection including the latest position for the current financial year, following the last update report in February 2019.
The Revenues Manager advised that rent arrears were £1.88m at year end 2018/19 which was a reduction of £0.26m since February. This reflected a position where rent arrears were starting to stabilise and demonstrated the impact of early intervention by the team to engage with tenants experiencing difficulties. A breakdown of rent arrears bandings which was circulated showed the majority of cases owed lower amounts of arrears. Analysis of the figures indicated that Welfare Reform was a key factor for tenants falling into arrears and most of the households in receipt of Universal Credit were being fast-tracked onto managed payments to avoid escalation. The increased migration from Housing Benefit to Universal Credit inevitably created cashflow problems as managed payments were paid to the Council in arrears by the Department of Work & Pensions (DWP). Due to the timing of those payments, it was more likely that rent arrears were around £1.69m which was broadly the same position as the year before.
The Chief Officer said that whilst rent arrears were stabilising, the impact of cashflow and delayed payments would inevitably influence the final figure.
Councillor Dave Hughes shared his disappointment about the outcome of a recent court case involving the recovery of unpaid rent over a lengthy period.
On the banded arrears, Councillor Brown said that the information was not too concerning as some of the lower levels involved monthly direct debit payments which were not technically in arrears. She supported the additional resources to manage increased caseloads and on risk management, she suggested that a tenant loyalty incentive scheme could be explored further to reduce rent arrears and protect the Council’s housing investment. The Chief Officer said that this was under consideration. On resources, he provided a brief update on senior management vacancies and the restructuring of the team. In response to a further question, the Revenues Manager agreed to provide information on the total loss of rent income from the 30 evictions for non-payment of rent during 2018/19.
In praising the efforts of the team, Councillor Shotton welcomed the introduction of housing software which would help to monitor payment patterns and identify potential risk cases.
Councillor Dolphin referred to managed payments in arrears and suggested that new tenants could be asked to pay at least half the amount owing as an initial contribution. It was noted that some landlords refused managed payments and that households needed to prioritise other bills.
Councillor Lloyd asked about the average rent paid by the Council’s tenants in comparison with others, and whether the banded rent arrear information applied to new or existing tenants. The Revenues Manager said that it was a combination of both and that the Housing Intervention Team mainly focussed on low level arrears through early engagement with tenants.
The recommendations were moved by Councillor Shotton and seconded by Councillor Dolphin.
RESOLVED ... view the full minutes text for item 7