Angus Housing Association bucks trend with record low rent arrears performance
The performance bucks the trend for most Scottish landlords as rent arrears have generally been on the increase since Universal Credit (UC) and other welfare reforms have been introduced.
The Association had made provision last financial year for a possible increase in rent arrears debt of £200,000 in 2016/17 in anticipation of the impact of welfare reform. As it turned out, the level of rent arrears went down significantly from 1.44% on March 31 2016 to 1.01% on March 31 this year.
This equates to a debt of just over £78,000 of arrears from an annual rental charge of £7.7 million. Of the Association’s 1,800 tenants, the number owing more than £750 has also reduced from 24 in 2016 to only 14 in 2017.
Speaking after the figures were reported to the Association’s service delivery sub-committee, Angus Housing Association director, Bruce Forbes, said: “Obviously, we are delighted with these results. Like most things in life, the main reason for this success is hard work and commitment. Our staff have done a fantastic job over the last year.
“We have also been taking a different approach ahead of the full roll out of Universal Credit. We are engaging with tenants as early as possible. As soon as we see the symptoms of someone struggling with their finances by missing payments or paying erratically, we quickly involve specialist staff to give them benefits and other advice. If tenants start dealing with debts while they still feel they are manageable, there is much more chance of success in getting them back on track. Early intervention is the key.
“Another factor has been encouraging tenants to think ahead about what they might have to deal with if they go on to UC. We know that our tenants who have already moved over to UC can wait nearly two months before they get any help with their rent payments. We are asking all tenants to plan for this possibility by paying a little extra every month to at least have their rent account clear by the due date on the first of each month.
“Most tenants are buying into this approach. I think this is because people now realise that the current Government’s policies on welfare are no longer designed to provide a dignified safety net. Our tenants can see that the reality is that if you need benefits, the system is now pretty brutal with increasing reliance on services such as foodbanks.
“Regardless of the financial struggles they may face today, most tenants are willing to plan for the possibility of a future rainy day. I also think we are helped in this by having staff and services available face to face from locally based offices. Online and faceless call centre services are definitely not a model designed to help the most vulnerable in our society when they will be facing the even tougher times ahead with the Local Housing Allowance cap and the full roll out of UC.
“We also achieved this record low rent arrears performance without having to evict a single tenant in 2016/17 which is the most important statistic of all.”