A big push for Doncaster council house tenants to pay their rent over the phone during the Christmas period saved the local authority over £20,000 of lost revenue.
But Universal Credit is also being blamed as a reason for debt as over 77 per cent of Doncaster claimants have rent arrears due to delayed payments and problems transferring over from the old system.
A switch from the old housing benefit system to the controversial Universal Credit system means housing bosses have to collect the rent themselves rather than being paid directly from the Department for Work and Pensions.
Council bosses said Christmas is usually a time when rent debt increases but a big push through sending 4,500 letters, texts and emails to tenants who did not make a payment at the same period the year before resulted in an increase of transactions.
Tenants were able to make debit-card payments over the phone whilst offices were closed over the Christmas period for the first time.
This resulted in an additional 97 transactions, worth £22,000 that may otherwise have been delayed.
Figures show the St Leger Homes is owed around £2.3 million from tenants – up from £1.9 million from the same point in the previous year.
Stephen Thorlby-Coy, head of business excellence at St. Leger Homes, said: “The rate of transfer onto Universal Credit (UC) has been greater than the forecast provided by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), meaning the amount of rent we had to collect, rather than being paid directly via housing benefit, is higher at this stage than originally anticipated.
“To place this in context, as a result of UC being paid direct to tenants, this financial year we will have to collect £9 million more than last year.
“We now have a total of 2,926 UC cases and 77.5 per cent of these are in arrears. This is an increase of 576 since Q2 and over 1,000 in the last six months.
“Work continues with tenants and DWP to provide intensive support including applying for Alternative Payment Arrangement (APA) where appropriate for those on UC.”