A crackdown on the amount of rent owed by council tenants in Flintshire has achieved a reduction of around £80,000, it has been revealed.
Rent enforcement officers are being used by Flintshire Council to contact residents who fall into arrears, even for relatively small sums.
A total of 27 tenants have also been evicted for failing to pay and not engaging with support services in the current financial year.
It follows concerns being raised by politicians regarding the outstanding £2.22 million which was owed in the county at the time of a meeting in November.
The rollout of Universal Credit was partly blamed for causing hardship to people in the area, but a report shows the shortfall has now been reduced to £2.14m.
Neal Cockerton, chief officer for housing and assets, said: “Universal Credit remains a significant risk to the council as many tenants, especially those tenants considered to be vulnerable, simply cannot cope with the budgeting obligations of paying rent on time.
“In many cases, tenants with complex needs fall into arrears.
“To mitigate the financial challenges for the council, the work of the housing intervention teams continues and additional resources are being deployed to ensure tenants who fall into arrears receive help and support at an early stage through a ‘fast tracked’ approach.
“Rent enforcement officers are also working intensively to contact by telephone those tenants who fall into arrears, even for relatively small sums.
“This approach is important to instil the ‘rent first’ philosophy and to recognise that payment of rent on time is critical to the council.”
To ensure assistance is targeted at those who need it most, a further initiative is being introduced to improve the software used by enforcement officers.
The authority has undertaken a feasibility work on a system called ‘Rent Sense’ which analyses payment patterns and highlights those at risk.
A text messaging service will also be introduced to send rent reminders to specific tenants.
In his report, Mr Cockerton said any decisions to evict a resident was not taken lightly.
He said: “Despite the unprecedented additional work generated by Universal Credit full service rollout, the rent income service is now stemming the increase in rent arrears and the rate with which rent arrears were increasing is slowing down significantly.
“Eviction for non-payment of rent is always used as a last resort and latest statistics show that the rent enforcement team have undertaken twenty seven evictions up to the of January 2019 for those tenants who will not pay or engage.”
The latest figures show there are 562 council tenants in Flintshire in receipt of Universal Credit.
Together they have collective arrears of almost £673,000, which equates to £1,197 per person.
It compares to an average of just £214 for residents on the old housing benefit system.
The report will be discussed by members of the community and enterprise scrutiny committee next Monday.
By Liam Randall – Local Democracy Reporter (more here).