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Council introducing policy to support housing tenants to pay their rent

Cannock Chase Council is introducing a policy to support its housing tenants to pay their rent.

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Cannock Chase District Council

The authority owns and manages more than 5,000 properties, including sheltered housing, and rental income pays for maintenance and improvements of the stock.

It is currently considered “one of the top performing organisations for rent recovery within the Income Best Practice (Midlands and beyond) group”, a report to the latest cabinet meeting said. As of the end of July rent arrears were £301,192 – 1.38 per cent of collectable rent – and for the last financial year it had a collection rate of 99.79 per cent, collecting £20,540,515 from both current and former tenants.

The Rent and Income Collection policy, which was backed by cabinet members at their latest meeting, reflects changes to social housing rent and collection methods. It covers current rent collection, former tenancy arrears, leasehold collection of charges and garage arrears.

The policy stated: “We aim to ensure that services are accessible to all current tenants, former tenants, garage licence holders and leaseholders by being customer focused. We aim to provide tenancy sustainment assistance for those who can’t pay and act against those who won’t pay.

“We will ensure that all tenants/ leaseholders receive full and accurate information on the level and composition of rent or charges at the beginning of their tenancy or the start of their lease and at each rent and management charge review. We will ensure that every tenant and leaseholder is given good quality information about agencies that may be able to help, for example, through the provision of welfare benefit advice and debt counselling services.

“Tenants and leaseholders will be reminded of their obligation and that rent is paid in advance and not in arrears. When tenants or leaseholders raise the issue of financial hardship, we will use a variety of support mechanisms, including signposting to a debt management agency, promotion of basic bank accounts and access to digital services, including the provision of training on digital skills (and) debt advice and referrals to Citizens Advice.

“We believe that early contact is critical, and staff are aware of the requirement to contact customers at the earliest opportunity to alert them to any arrears and discuss the reason for this. We will use an affordability tool to assess tenants’ circumstances and, if the tenant/leaseholder is unable to clear their arrears in full, agree an affordable and realistic repayment plan over a set period.”

Cannock Chase Council is also creating a new Resident Engagement and Insight Officer role in its housing team to improve interaction with tenants. The report to Thursday’s cabinet meeting said: “This post will ensure compliance with the Social Housing Regulator’s consumer standards by focusing on improving the council’s resident engagement offer.

“The Social Housing Regulator sets out standards for registered providers of social housing to meet. Currently tenant engagement activities are covered by the Tenant Involvement and Empowerment Standard.

“To maintain and further develop the activities required it is essential to recruit to a new Resident Engagement and Insight Officer position so that a new focus on engagement can be achieved. The new post holder will ensure that services and teams benefit from using a wider range of tenant engagement methods and a greater intelligence on customers to ensure housing services are centred around the needs and wants of tenants, leaseholders and other residents.”

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