Issue - meetings

Rent performance - 2016

Meeting: 09/11/2016 - Housing Panel (Panel of the Scrutiny Committee) (Item 77)

77 Rent performance pdf icon PDF 178 KB

 

Background Information

 

The Panel has asked to monitor the Council’s rents performance including current and former tenant arrears.

 

Why is it on the agenda?

 

For the Panel to monitor and scrutinise rents performance.  The Panel is asked to note and comment on the report and may also wish to agree one or more recommendations to put to the City Executive Board (via the Scrutiny Committee).

 

Who has been invited to comment?

·         Councillor Susan Brown, Board Member for Customer and Corporate Services

·         Tanya Bandekar, Revenues and Benefits Service Manager

·         Neil Markham, Incomes Team Leader

 

Minutes:

The Board Member for Customer and Corporate Services said the performance was very good.  The Council was tackling arrears at an early stage but the roll out of Universal Credit and the Lowering of the Benefit cap created difficulties.  The Head of Financial Services added that performance was above target and the age of the debt had come down, which was very positive.  The Incomes Team Leader said that technical arrears showed total arrears on any given day in the year but did not take account of the phasing of direct debit payments or the fact that some months were longer than others; things that would balance out at year end.  Genuine arrears did account for these factors.

 

The Panel questioned why the number of evictions was up, noting that this was still below the benchmark figure for similar authorities, and what happened to people when they were evicted.  The Panel heard that the Council was being more pro-active tackling higher end debt but that the Incomes Team considered evictions to be a failure.  Eviction had significant costs to the Council.  Evictees were considered to have made themselves intentionally homeless and some had already abandoned the properties by the time an eviction was served.  Emergency housing was provided for thirty days and any children would be housed by social services.  The Board Member added that evictions were very regrettable but the Council had to take this action as a last resort on behalf of all the tenants who do pay their rent. 

 

The Panel noted that arrears amongst former tenants were up and asked about the use of debt collection agencies.  The Incomes Team Leader advised that recovering arrears from this group was a long process with the least returns.  Officers had been impressed with the fair and ethical practices of both agencies employed by the Council.

 

The Panel questioned why the number of genuine arrears cases with debts ranging from to £0-£100 had increased from 492 in March 2016 to 811 in September 2016.  The Panel heard that the Incomes Team had just implemented a new system that would generate automated letters to tenants with smaller debts and was one of the first district councils to do so.  400 letters had been sent out the previous week and a further 300 would be sent in the coming days.  Staff members would personally contact tenants when their debts became more serious.  The Panel asked to have sight of these letters and suggested they should state that the Council’s contact centre is closed for an hour at 11am every Thursday for staff training to avoid any distress.  The Board Member advised that the letters were sent out on Wednesdays and that this would be changed to Thursdays to avoid people receiving letter calling when the Contact Centre was closed.