Ashfield Council evicts one house a week as families struggle to pay rent

Ashfield District Council
Ashfield District Council

Ashfield District Council evicts one household each week from social and council homes, new figures reveal.

The Local Government Association has warned that households on Universal Credit are having increasing problems paying rent.

The latest Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government data shows that between April 2017 and March 2018, 40 households were evicted from council homes, ten more than the previous year.

The figure only includes properties recovered with a warrant from court bailiffs.

In Ashfield, nearly all evictions were due to rent arrears.

Ashfield District Council has a stock of 6,747 social homes. That means there was an eviction in six out of every 1,000 council owned homes.

Judith Blake, housing spokeswoman for the LGA, said that eviction is the last resort for councils.

She said: "The evidence indicates that arrears increase significantly for households on Universal Credit.

"The Government was right to have announced measures in the budget to partly address this, but it is vital that they work closely with councils.

"The ability of councils to provide extra support to people to keep arrears down is becoming increasingly limited and we also remain concerned about the significant reductions in housing benefit, which can leave households struggling to pay their rent."

The average social rent in Ashfield is £67.31 per week, lower than the average for England, which is £86.40.

By March 2018, tenants owed the council £295,242, excluding council taxes and water or heating bills.

Outstanding debts from former tenants who no longer live in council properties was £143,713.

Ashfield District Council took an average of 19 days to re-let homes following eviction, two fewer days than the previous year.

Nationally, in the 12 months to March, there were 5,482 evictions from council homes, 6% fewer than the previous year.

Eight out of 10 evictions were due to rent arrears, while 7% were caused by anti-social behaviour.

The authority said that Universal Credit has proved a real challenge for both customers to pay their rent and for the authority to collect the rent.

The council is extremely proactive in ensuring tenants understand the implications of universal credit and have a dedicated team of money and tenancy advisors to help support tenants to meet their rent payments if they start to fall in to difficulty.

It also offers a pre-tenancy affordability to check to housing applicants before they take on the commitment of a housing tenancy with rent to pay each week.

The council also works closely with the DWP and other organisations such as the CAB to ensure consistent help and advice is available across the district.

Coun John Wilmott, cabinet member for housing, said: “The governments botched Universal Credit scheme has been a total shambles and caused misery for millions. It has not been thought out properly and caused many many issues. Our council has put in place an innovative and proactive approach that has been independently verified as one of the top performing social housing providers in the county when it comes to both rent collection and property re-let times.

“As a last resort, if tenants do not engage with the advice process or simply refuse to meet their rent liabilities then legal action will be taken against them which can ultimately lead to eviction.”