£2m in unpaid rents: Flintshire Councillor calls for court action
Flintshire Council is owed more than £2m in rent and one councillor has suggested more non-paying tenants should be taken to court.
The council is currently owed the money in rent arrears with 40 tenants currently owing the authority £5,000 or more. Another 157 tenants owe the council between £2,500 and £5,000 in rent.
Members received an update from revenues manager David Barnes at a meeting of the authority’s housing and community scrutiny committee.
Chairing the meeting, Hawarden Aston Cllr Helen Brown (Ind) expressed concerns about the growing number of tenants in large rent arrears.
“I appreciate not everyone can (pay on time) but the big numbers, we’re looking at over £1m aren’t we?”, she said.
“That could be significant investment within our stock.”
Mr Barnes offered to provide more context on the next meeting about those in £5,000 plus arrears.
But Connah’s Quay Central Cllr Bernie Attridge (Ind), a former cabinet member for housing, said the authority needed to get tougher with those in long-term arrears who choose not to pay.
“We’re doing more as a council on the early doors issues of people in rent arrears but with the greatest of respect, the rest of it is out of control in my eyes”, he said.
“This is our tenants’ money. How much help could we give to people with their heating in our sheltered housing accommodation?
“The majority of our tenants pay their rent week in, week out, not an issue. Some of them are struggling themselves but their priority is to pay the rent and keep a roof over their heads.
“We have tools to pay rent direct to us as a council after six weeks, for the ones that choose to use the rent for other things and don’t care about keeping a roof over their heads. It just seems to be we’re going to have this month after month.
“If people are owing us that much money we should be taking people to court.
“There are safety nets for people that can prove they can’t pay us and we’ll help them the best we can but believe me there’s some people who just don’t care and we need to be taking them to court.
“Why protect them, let them get away with it and get to over £5,000. There could be court orders where they pay us back at £2 a week.”
Cllr Attridge also asked about recharges outstanding for tenants who damage their properties.
Mr Barnes disagreed that the situation was “out of control” but acknowledged there are challenges.
He provided assurances to the committee that invoices for recharges are chased up. He added that tenants who have been evicted are chased up for rent arrears, but the council also has a duty to re-home people who have been evicted.
Northop Cllr Marion Bateman (Ind) felt the council should be able to evict non-paying tenants given the length of the housing waiting list.
But Mr Barnes said: “It’s a balance between our responsibility as a social landlord not to evict into homelessness but trying to maximise collections at the same time.
“Trying to balance the two is incredibly difficult, there’s no getting away from that.
“We can evict a tenant one day and they can come through that door back into housing on the same day, there is still that responsibility to pick up those tenants as a result of homelessness. It’s a challenge.”
Councillors noted the update.
By Rory Sheehan – Local Democracy Reporter (more here). Spotted something? Got a story? Send a Facebook Message | A direct message on Twitter | Email: News@Deeside.com