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Angus rent arrears show only slight increase to climb to £1.8m during pandemic

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Angus housing chiefs have aired cautious optimism rent arrears can be kept in check after they stabilised during the pandemic.

The year-end snapshot taken at March 31 this year showed a total rent arrears figure of £1.839 million.

As the coronavirus crisis took hold in March 2020, the figure due to the authority was £1.796m.

However, the 2021 level remains a significant increase on the £1.467m due at the same point in 2019.

As a percentage of rent due at week 52, the figure was 9.76%.

It represents just a 0.04% rise on the figure of March 2020.

Evictions suspended

Court action to pursue arrears has been put on hold by the authority during the pandemic and the council has not undertaken any evictions because of the Covid situation.

At the council’s latest communities committee, the overall picture was described as “reassuring” in the circumstances.

But housing bosses want to continue to bring the seven-figure debt level down.

They also say some tenants are not making use of all the help which could be available to help them out of financial strife.

Housing service manager John Morrow said: “It’s reassuring the level of arrears is broadly the same as it was.

“That’s not to say we don’t want all arrears to go down.

“In terms of other providers across Scotland we are broadly in the middle.

“The good news is we have stabilised rent arrears. The bad news is that people are still in arrears.”

Support

Mr Morrow said research had shown that those most likely to fall into arrears during the coronavirus crisis were working-age single tenants.

He added: “The majority of people want to work with us on this.

“Some perhaps haven’t sought the support that has been available during the pandemic and we’re continuing to engage with those people to help them manage the situation.

“It is a slow process. We try to look on things positively, sympathetically and sensitively.

“The alternative is a much more aggressive approach, which is not our approach at present.”

The total number of arrears cases has dropped to 2,958 from 3,117 last year, but Mr Morrow admitted that remained too high a statistic.

“It is a large number, and that has tended to reduce.”

Fewer tenants in arrears also means the level of rent they are still due is higher.

He continued: “This is a snapshot in time and depends on how many tenants are picked up in that statistic.

“Some were in arrears before the pandemic came along, but some have accrued over the last year or so – it’s a mixed picture.

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