Council considers writing off £436,000 of historical rent arrears

West_Dunbartonshire_CouncilCouncillors in West Dunbartonshire will be asked to consider writing off historical debts from former council tenants at a meeting next week.

Members of West Dunbartonshire Council’s housing and communities committee will decide on Wednesday 3 February whether to agree the removal of arrears totalling £436,000 from the council’s housing debtors lists.

The money relates to the Housing Revenue Account and debts outstanding for rent arrears, which is separate from the main council budget supported by Council Tax and government funding.

Officers say that writing off these debts, some of which are from almost 20 years ago, would allow the council to more effectively monitor and pursue the remaining arrears.

There are four main reasons that the council has been unable to collect the rents for 258 former tenants. These include when a tenant dies and leaves no estate, when it becomes unreasonable to pursue the debt following a number of attempts being made, when tenants have abandoned their property and left no forwarding address, and where a debt cannot be legally enforced after five years from the date it was due.

Richard Cairns, executive director of infrastructure and regeneration, said: “Some of these debts date back to 1997, so we are now seeking the approval of councillors to write them off. We have been attempting to pursue these debts for some time; however it is now recognised that these debts are unlikely to be recovered. As such we are seeking the approval of councillors to write them off from the council’s books.

“It is important to make the point that even if they took that decision, if new information came to light, such as the whereabouts of a former tenant, there would be nothing to stop the council from still pursuing this money in the future.

“In addition, I’d like to reassure existing tenants that we are fully focused on ensuring we effectively collect current rents. The rental income allows us to continue to improve local housing across West Dunbartonshire. It is now up to committee to decide.”

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