News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales

Evictions rise by more than a third among Flintshire council tenants

The number of council tenants in Flintshire who have been evicted from their homes has risen by more than a third in the last year, according to new figures.

Flintshire Council has been working to try and reduce the amount of rent it is owed after the backlog reached £2.14 million in February.

The amount has now been brought down by around £260,000 and in some instances, the authority said cases had been escalated to court.

It means a total of 30 people have been kicked out of their homes for failing to keep up to date with payments in the last 12 months, which has increased from 22 the previous year.

A senior council officer has insisted that it works to try and prevent evictions from happening where possible.

However, Neal Cockerton added that it was sometimes necessary when all other options have been exhausted.

In a report set to go before councillors this week, Flintshire’s chief officer for housing and assets said: “Put into context, the number of evictions is small in comparison with the total number of tenancies, but notwithstanding this, there is a 36.4 per cent increase in the number of evictions compared to the previous financial year.

“The recovery of unpaid rent brings a requirement to strike the right balance between supporting tenants to stay in their homes and ensuring tenants keep to the terms of their tenancy agreements.

“Each case that leads to eviction has its own history and complexities but typically rent arrears build up over a period of time and tenants are always provided with extensive opportunities which will have been provided prior to the legal process.

“Even when the legal process is taken through the courts, the judicial process is lengthy and it always provides further safeguards and ample opportunity for tenants to pay or engage, even at a late stage, to prevent the eviction from being carried out.”

The authority has taken on four additional members of staff, consisting of two rent income officers and two support officers, to manage the increasing number of people in arrears.

They are tasked with recovering unpaid rent as quickly as possible to address the outstanding amounts, which the council has partly attributed to the rise in tenants receiving Universal Credit.

The new benefit system is said to have caused issues for tenants as they are now paid the housing element in arrears, leading to budgeting difficulties.

Mr Cockerton added: “The year-end position for 2018/19 is reflective of yet another difficult year for the collection of rent but the early intervention measures and investment in additional resources that were implemented in mid 2018/19 are now helping to stabilise collections.

“The increased migration from Housing Benefit to Universal Credit (UC) will inevitably always create cash flow problems as the council struggles to play ‘catch up’ with those tenants who wait for their first UC payment and ensuring rent is paid on time thereafter.”

The council has sought to mitigate some of the problems by applying for payments directly from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP).

The latest statistics show that around 486 tenants have managed payments set up for housing costs to be deducted from their benefits and given straight to the authority.

It means the council now receives £193,000 per month from the DWP to pay both current rent and outstanding arrears.

The report is set to be considered by members of the community and enterprise scrutiny committee on Wednesday.

By Liam Randall – Local Democracy Reporter (more here).

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