North Lanarkshire Council has written off £3.2m in rent arrears it has been unable to collect in the past year.
Universal Credit and the coronavirus pandemic were blamed for reducing collection rates to around 98% but the arrears position was stabilised thanks to work by the housing rents team in securing more direct Universal Credit payments, pursuing other non-Universal Credit tenant debt and the ongoing benefits of the Universal Credit Assistant Fund.
Main factors that cause a housing debt to be deemed unrecoverable include abandonment of the property (293 cases), death (519 cases), eviction of the tenant (224 cases), liquidation of financial assets (79 cases), or the tenant moving without a forwarding address (302 cases).
Additionally, there were 1726 instances where all means of recovery were exhausted, making a total of 3341 debts written off in the past year.
Welfare reforms were said to have caused a noteworthy increase in total rent arrears since April 2018 – totalling around £10m in lost rent – but an income maximization service is offered to all tenants to try and mitigate the impact of welfare reform on them.
The write-off was approved by the council’s housing and regeneration committee and a report on the matter will be forwarded to the finance committee.