Just 15% of council house tenants owe more than third of rent arrears in South Tyneside

Just 15% of council tenants account for more than a third of all rent arrears, according to housing bosses.

Thursday, 25th July 2019, 12:04 pm
Updated Thursday, 25th July 2019, 12:07 pm
The rent arrears was discussed at a meeting at South Shields Town Hall.

Families living in South Tyneside Homes properties who are claiming Universal Credit are more likely to have fallen behind on payments, say bosses.

But managers at the service also accept those who have been moved to the controversial benefit are also likely to have ‘more problems than the other tenants face’.

“Although we have Universal Credit claimants, the arrears aren’t increasing as much as in other authorities and I think that’s to do with some of the good work taking place,” said Brian Scott, South Tyneside Homes’s director of resources.

“A lot of councils had Universal Credit before South Tyneside, so we could learn quickly and the Government did make some changes which helped, but then there’s the fact they [the tenants] have the cash.

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“The pressures on some tenants, especially tenants with families, you have to make sure they pay the rent where the temptation might be for them to use the money to buy something else.”

Mr Scott was speaking at the meeting of South Tyneside Council’s Housing Performance Panel on Wednesday, July 24.

The total figure for the amount of rent owed to South Tyneside Homes was not revealed, but in February it was reported arrears for tenants on Universal Credit have jumped to more than £800,000 since they were moved on to the controversial benefit.

At the time, figures showed almost 300 people claiming the payment owed their landlord arrears worth more than £1,000.

Measures such as ‘direct payments’ are available to ensure landlords are paid rent and a proportion of any backlog every month, but Mr Scott says he prefers solutions such as direct debits and better advice offered to claimants and tenants.

He added: “It’s difficult enough for these families, without having to take money off for past arrears too, so it’s important for us to keep them on track and in the house where they’re living.”

A report for councillors also showed the rate of arrears for ex-South Tyneside Homes tenants stood at 2.7% against a target of 2.34%.

 

James Harrison