DONCASTER seen has a rise in the number of its council tenants facing rent arrears.
The problem was outlined to members of Doncaster Council’s regeneration and environment overview and scrutiny panel.
The number of serious cases amounting to over £1,500 each rose from 44 in December 2011 to the present total of 81, says St Leger Homes which manages the borough’s council housing stock.
A report stated: “Compared with the same time last year, we have seen a fairly significant increase in arrears.
“The reasons behind the increase are a combination of factors. However, the primary cause given by tenants in arrears is the additional difficulty in juggling priority payments, when inflation on essentials such as utilities and food is higher than the increase in household income.
“It is worthy to note that other authorities in the area are experiencing the same difficulties. A recent study undertaken by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation in Bradford highlighted the impact of the recession on low income families and the problems created by rising fuel costs, food prices, job losses and reduced working hours.”
Council officers say the payment of rent is often not being seen as the highest priority, because the penalty for non-payment can be more extreme and immediate if they fail to pay other debts, despite the fact that they could eventually get evicted and lose their home.
The housing company has also seen more evictions due to rent arrears than its target figure.
There were no evictions in December 2012, but there were six in November 2012. The cumulative figure for the year was 26, against a year-end target of no more than 25. Housing officials are holding meetings to review the future of serious arrears cases.
A spokesman said officers had done everything they could to recover the arrears, but were left with no option but court action. A high number of the evictions were single people.