Record rent arrears forecast as tenants face average £4.52 weekly rise from North Lincolnshire Homes
TENANTS of North Lincolnshire Homes who face an average weekly rent rise of £4.76 from April are expected to chalk up a record amount of arrears.
The increase will see the rent increase from £83.46 a week to £88.22 a week over a 49-week period for the 3,977 families living in three-bedroom houses.
And at the same time as the rent hike, around seven out of every 10 of the 9,600 tenants will take direct control of the housing benefits they either claim in full or in part.
Worried North Lincolnshire Homes (NLH) bosses have set up a special team of trouble-shooters to help stem the anticipated debt load.
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At present, around 6,400 NLH tenants rely on the state to pay their rent either in full or partially – more than double the regional average.
Housing associations across the Yorkshire and Humber region fear the rise in rent arrears could be as high as 62 per cent following the introduction of the new Universal Credit which will also bring in a bedroom tax for many tenants.
Steve Hepworth, NLH's director of operations, said: "We recognise the move to paying housing benefits to the tenant instead of to us is likely to lead to an increase in rent arrears. The demonstration projects confirm this.
"We know many tenants may not be aware of how the changes will affect them.
"We have established a special team to give advice and assistance to our tenants. We urge tenants to contact us to discuss their situation.
"It is really important that anyone worried they may be affected by these changes gets in touch with us as soon as possible."
The six-year-old housing association insists that despite the £4.76 rise, NLH remains one of the lowest cost housing providers in the country.
Chief executive Andy Orrey said with more than 8,000 families on the local housing waiting list and less than 1,000 homes to offer every year, the association remained committed to the long-term provision of affordable housing for future generations.
Mr Orrey said: "With that in mind, we have decided to set aside 2.9 per cent of the rent we receive from April in order to invest in the development of essential housing."