Rent arrears spiral as cost of living crisis impacts tenants
Rory Sheehan, local democracy reporter
The cost-of-living crisis is having an increasing impact on Flintshire Council tenants’ ability to pay rent, a report says.
The council’s Community and Housing scrutiny committee meets next week and will receive an update on rent arrears, which are up to £2.9m, an increase on £2.7m at the same point last year.
A report by the authority’s Chief Officer for Housing and Communities says that “the ongoing costs-of-living crisis is having a detrimental impact on collections with some tenants struggling to meet the increasing living costs”.
The report details the impact that welfare reforms continue to have on residents along with other pressures they are facing. It also provides an update on the work happening to cope with these challenges and to support these households through the cost-of-living crisis.
“Collection of rent continues to remain challenging with the rise in costs-of-living and the impacts on some tenant’s ability to pay”, the report states.
“Social tenants typically are less likely to have sufficient disposable income to cope with inflationary cost-of-living increases and this is having a direct impact on their ability to pay rent on time.
“The Rent Income service has experienced increased workloads with the risk-based software reporting a 1.2 per cent increase in cases where we need to contact tenants.
“Some tenants are paying what they can afford but this is not always covering full rent and is causing a delay in payment. We are continuing to signpost tenants with referrals to specialist teams across the Council, including the Supporting People and Welfare Response teams.”
According to statistics included in the report to the committee, the number of Flintshire tenants in rent arrears rose from 1,915 from April to June 2022, to 2,194 in the period from July to September 2022. A total of 36 tenants owe the council £5,000 or more in rent.
The report outlines how the council is working with tenants struggling to pay to explore all their options, with court proceedings leading to eviction seen as a last resort.
Evictions are down on previous years, but the pandemic has had an impact having caused a backlog in court proceedings.
The report adds: “The housing service continue to work collaboratively to discuss and support some of the more complex cases.
“Officers hold fortnightly panel meetings to discuss these tenants and work together through engagement and support to attempt to get positive outcomes.
“As a result of this work there have been many positive outcomes both for the tenants and the Council with many tenants paying their arrears and now having the support, they need to maintain their ongoing rent payments.
“In appropriate cases, when all other attempts of recovery and support have been taken, it is necessary to instigate court proceedings for non-payment of rent.
“There are still significant delays in the court following the pandemic and despite these delays there has been one eviction carried out to date (in 2022-23).”
The council’s Community and Housing scrutiny committee will meet on Wednesday (January 11) to discuss the report.
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