Council counting cost of tenant debts

TENANTS who moved out of mid Suffolk without settling their housing bill have left taxpayers £136,000 out of pocket, it was revealed today.Debts from former council house residents in the district – stretching back more than two years – have left a hole in Mid Suffolk district council's books.

TENANTS who moved out of mid Suffolk without settling their housing bill have left taxpayers £136,000 out of pocket, it was revealed today.

Debts from former council house residents in the district - stretching back more than two years - have left a hole in Mid Suffolk district council's books.

The council is now considering selling the debts for a fraction of their value so it can concentrate on collecting current bills, rather than chasing old ones.

Martin King, housing manager for public housing, said: "The less time officers spend chasing former tenants' debts, the more chance they have of preventing and collecting current tenants' debts.

"Collection rates are such that officer's time is of more value to the council than fruitless debt chasing. Many of the debts are more than two years old.

"The council makes every effort to ensure tenants pay their rent on time and in full whether they are in paid employment or they are eligible for assistance in the form of housing benefit.

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"It is unfortunate but inevitable there will be tenants who simply fail to pay or claim the benefit to which they are entitled."

Residents who get evicted or abandon their homes before the tenancy agreements are settled also add to the debt.

Evictions have left the council with £9,413 owed in arrears in the past year while abandonment is responsible for £3,371.

Proposals set to be put forward to the council include sending one chasing letter after a tenancy ends, then selling the debt to a debt collection agency.

The sale will create a small fee and the council will receive just 35 per cent of monies collected thereafter.

It is also suggested any debts over £1,500 are written off where recovery action has already failed.

Councillors will discuss the issues at a Social Policy Panel Committee meeting on Wednesday.

What do you think? Should the council force people to pay up? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or send us an e-mail to eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

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