150 tenants evicted for not paying rent

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HOUSING chiefs have evicted more than 150 tenants for failing to pay their rent in the past year, it emerged today, as Edinburgh City Council prepares to write off hundreds of thousands of pounds in lost takings.

A shortfall of £587,000 was run up in unpaid rent, with much of that expected to be lost.

Bailiffs evicted 104 families with rent arrears of more than £1000, altogether totalling £202,200 in 2011/12.

A further 48 households were made to leave for the failure or unwillingness to pay small debts of under £1000.

Financial records also showed 174 tenants simply abandoned their property and vanished without paying, which landed taxpayers with a bill of £137,500.

Around £32,000 was lost when council tenants died without paying their rent. Tenants ending their tenancy in arrears fell by 13 per cent, falling from 965 cases in 2010/11 to 842 cases in 2011/12.

Council officials have now asked councillors on the housing committee for a write-off of some of the cash. It budgets for losses each year and had set aside £650,000 in anticipation of losses.

Mark Turley, director of the communities department at the council, said: “Former tenants’ arrears management and recovery activities continue to show improvements in cash collection and the management of write-off.

“The percentage of cash 
collected and written off has seen an improvement of five per cent, [from 57 per cent to 62 per cent] compared to 2010/11.

“An action plan is in place for 2011/12 and it is expected that the trend of performance improvement will continue.

“All rent arrears will continue to be pursued and collected where possible following debt write-off.”

The year before last the city council lost £606,384, and while a team set up to reclaim debts collected a total of £222,217, much of the rest was never recovered.

In 2009/10, former tenants owed the council just over £627,000, while the year before it was £660,000.

Senior Tory Jason Rust said: “Clearly the council needs to be pursuing those who are wilfully not paying their rent.

“This money is owed to council accounts and given the overall budgetary constraints it seems the council needs to be doing something more – these are large sums simply to write off.

“And this is obviously difficult to fathom for tenants who do pay their rent on time and are meeting their obligations under the tenancy agreement while others are not.

“In some cases it will be a case of people not being willing to pay, but in others it may be they are struggling and are not be getting the appropriate advice, which may be something that needs to be looked at.”

rory.reynolds@edinburghnews.com