Dozens of Doncaster council tenants to have rent arrears written off

Dozens of tenants have had debts totalling thousands of pounds written off by Doncaster council housing bosses

Wednesday, 9th May 2018, 11:58 am
Updated Wednesday, 9th May 2018, 12:01 pm
Tenants have had rent arrears written off by Doncaster Council finance officers. Picture: Marie Caley/Doncaster Free Press

Local authority housing chiefs are writing off over £238,000 owed to them from 70 different tenants - a handful are liable to pay over £5,000 stretching all the way back to 2010.

In total, documents show over £1.3 million is owed to the local authority from 1,344 different accounts.

Despite planning to write off the six-figure sum, housing bosses added they were 'actively pursuing' the remaining money owed and if these tenants re-applied for a property again, the debt would become active again.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

New figures reveal that 60 tenants were evicted from their homes for not paying their rent.

Three cases totalling £8,800 were referred back to St Leger Homes from Doncaster Council's legal team after court action failed.

Two tenants serving prison sentences owe around £5,600 between them. One was evicted for anti-social behaviour while another was kicked out for not paying rent.

One tenant who claimed they were 'unhappy with the area' owes housing bosses £2,500.

Another tenant who owes over £4,000 is in 'long-term' hospital care' - the sum is also being written off.

Debts totalling around £15,000 from three tenants on 'Gypsy & Traveller' sites who have since died are to be cancelled as well.

The 70 cases, all of them owing £2,500 or more, has to be signed off by Doncaster Council's chief financial officer, Steve Mawson.

In a published report, Susan Cook, a finance and performance officer at St Leger Homes, said: "Letters are sent to former tenants in line with the procedure along with telephone calls and text messages.

"If the account remains unpaid, dependent on the nature of the arrears, it is either sent to DMBC Legal Services for legal action to commence, referred to a debt collection agency who chase the debt on our behalf, or held for further information to be gathered, such as a forwarding address, next of kin or details of the tenants estate in the event of a death.

"The accounts are put forward for write off when all collection methods have been exhausted."

All the cases referenced in the report are no longer St Leger Homes tenants.

A St Leger Homes spokesman said: "We have a workforce to manage, support and enforce current tenancies across the borough.

"Our Support to Sustain model ensures that we do everything possible to support tenants and help them remain in their tenancies. Inevitably sometimes enforcement is required but always as a last resort.

"We carry out a very low number of evictions, however, sometimes tenants choose to abandon their tenancies, sometimes with rent arrears, causing these to become former tenant arrears.

"Accounts can be reinstated at any time. If a former tenant makes contact with St Leger Homes to apply to bid on any of our properties, the account will be reinstated and recovery action will commence again.