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Carmarthenshire Politics West Wales

Council house rent arrears falling in Carmarthenshire despite rent increases

Carmarthenshire County Council

COUNCIL house rent arrears are falling in Carmarthenshire after peaking at more than £2.5 million last November. But tenants’ rent is going up again soon.

The authority has around 9,300 council houses and flats, plus 1,400 garages, and receives rental income of more than £49 million per year from them.

Like all landlords it has to factor in a certain level of arrears, and it is forecasting £1.5 million to £1.6 million of unpaid rent at the end of this financial year on March 31.

Jonathan Morgan, the council’s head of housing and public protection, said he expected the figure to be £100,000 less than at the same point 12 months ago.

Addressing the council’s governance and audit committee, Mr Morgan said rent arrears had risen in recent years due to reasons including higher living costs and the phased roll-out of the system of welfare payments called Universal Credit.

“It’s really hard out there, particularly for some council house tenants,” he said. But Mr Morgan drew a distinction between tenants who wanted to pay their rent but couldn’t, and those who could but didn’t.  And he thanked housing officers, saying what they did was “not an easy job”.

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A report before the committee said around 4,500 council house tenants had the equivalent of one month’s worth of arrears, while around 3,500 tenants paid some or all their rent in advance.

There have been no financial hardship evictions since the start of the Covid pandemic in 2020, but 419 council tenants are “under notice” for not paying rent where affordability was not the primary cause. Fourteen of these individuals face court action.

Mr Morgan said the council focused on supporting tenants, for example by ensuring they claimed all the benefits to which they were entitled. To date in 2023-24 it has helped 1,035 tenants claim £595,260.

Around half of Wales’s 22 local authorities have retained council housing stock, and Carmarthenshire’s arrears were said to be lower than the average. Its annual rent increases hovered at around 2% before increasing to 5.36% in April last year. A further rise of 6.39% kicks in next month.

Cllr Giles Morgan said the housing department deserved credit for keeping arrears “down to the figures we see” – a view shared by Cllr Kim Broom. “This shows a really positive outcome from working with tenants to claim as much as they are able to,” she said.

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