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Agenda item

Draft Rent Arrears Policy

Summary:

 

To consider a revised draft Rent Arrears Policy to replace the previous version. The draft Policy takes account of various updates because of the introduction of Universal Credit; the provisions in the Pre-Action Protocol for Possession Claims by Social Landlords; and the changes to the possession proceedings’ process during the coronavirus pandemic

 

Recommendations:

 

1.    That the draft Rent Arrears Policy, attached at Appendix A to the report, be approved;  and

 

2.    That the Strategic Director (External Services) be granted delegated authority to make in-year amendments to the approved draft Rent Arrears Policy, as necessitated by changes in legislation or Government guidance.

Minutes:

The Strategic Director (External Services) introduced a report which presented a revised draft Rent Arrears Policy to replace the previous version, which had last been updated in 2013. Since that time a number of measures had required the Council to adapt its approach to managing rent arrears, in particular, focussing more intensively on prevention work with the aim of avoiding possession proceedings. The revised policy outlined the Council’s approach to preventing and managing rent arrears in Council managed tenancies and the revised draft policy took account of various updates due to the introduction of Universal Credit, the provisions of the Pre-Action Protocol for Possession Claims by Social Landlords and also changes to the possession proceedings process during the coronavirus pandemic. The report also outlined the advice and support available to tenants and the consultation undertaken on the revised policy. It was intended that the policy would be kept under continuous review and updated as appropriate, and the policy would be refreshed every three years.

 

The Chairman noted the comments made by the Cabinet Advisory Panel which had focused upon technical questions about the way that the Council collected rents and dealt with arrears, all of which had been explained to the Panel by the Head of Housing. The Chairman reminded the Cabinet that the Council was a benign housing authority, which was ‘people orientated,’ worked closely with its tenants and leaseholders and sought to be a good social landlord. However there was a balance to be struck and demand letters did have to be sent out when tenants fell into arrears, for the legal reasons that the Head of Housing had explained to the Advisory Panel and also as an opportunity to offer support by signposting places where help could be provided. He also noted the extensive support that the Council provided to tenants, including having a dedicated Housing Inclusion Officer to assist tenants with their financial arrangements and entitlements.   

 

The Cabinet Portfolio Holder for Finance commented on the levels of rent arrears and that the Council was operating sympathetically towards people who were experiencing difficulties with paying rent in the current circumstances. He noted the weighting within the policy towards helping people with practical support and advice rather than enforcement action, and the very small instances of eviction. However it was important to remember that rents paid for the Council’s landlord services and whilst it was right to help those people who could not pay it was also important to take action against the small number of people who simply would not pay.

 

Members noted that whilst the revised policy updated the previous policy introduced in 2013, there had been some significant changes since that time, most notably the introduction of universal credit, Pre-Action Protocol for Possession Claims and arrangements put in place during the pandemic which were reflected in the policy.

 

            RESOLVED:

 

1.    That the draft Rent Arrears Policy, attached at Appendix A to the report, be approved; and

 

2.    That the Strategic Director (External Services) be granted delegated authority to make in-year amendments to the approved Rent Arrears Policy, as necessitated by changes in legislation or Government guidance.

                                                                                                                     

                                                                                                                     

Supporting documents: